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Injured in 2011 accident at Oklahoma rodeo, North Carolina teen likes helping others

Kelly Blanton, of Taylorsville, N.C., injured in the practice arena at the 2011 International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma, plans to attend college in the fall.
by Bryan Painter Published: July 7, 2013

Blanton is easy to talk to as well. That's why she agreed to visit two junior highs in Georgia to talk to students about how they need to think before they act. For example, the time will come when they will be allowed to drive. And if they choose to text while driving, that decision could leave them or someone else with spinal cord or brain injuries or worse, she said.

“You really don't hear a lot about spinal cord injuries,” Blanton said. “I think if I had, I would have thought differently about some of the choices I made.”

She's not saying she would change her choice to rodeo. She loved it and loves horses.

“I just want them to think about what could happen and to be safe in whatever they do,” she said.

She's made adjustments

A year ago, she returned to Shawnee to see friends and countless supporters from Oklahoma, who continue to be close to Blanton.

At that point, she could move her right arm and the fingers on that side with the exception of her index finger. Although unable to drive her chair with her right hand, her arm was getting strong. She could move her right leg some. And her goal was weaning off the ventilator.

In February, she was off the ventilator during the day. Then she took it off her chair at Easter and since April, she has been off it day and night.

She has a diaphragmatic pacing system that helps her breathe.

Still, the big improvements don't come as often as they did the first year.

So she's adjusted. She's set her mind on dealing with Monday on Monday, Tuesday on Tuesday and so on.

Her mother, Geri Blanton said, “She's buckling down to the realization, ‘I've got to use what I've got right now and if something comes back it comes back.'”

Kelly Blanton added, “I do take it day by day, because some things happen during the day that makes them bad days. You just kind of have to handle it as the day goes by.”

The mother and daughter share a friendship and faith. Rather than asking to be delivered from the storm, they're learning to live in it.

“You can tell she does appreciate being able to talk to people, being able to help somebody,” Geri said. “She's had several people tell her ‘You may have an avenue where you could be in a big hospital and be a counselor.'

“People listen to her. Like that little guy at the junior high in Georgia.”

by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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