In 2007, Amanda Perla was involved in a motor vehicle accident, when her friend fell asleep at the wheel. Amanda broke her neck and almost completely severed her spinal cord. The crash left Amanda paralysed from the chest down; doctors diagnosed her as a C6 incomplete quadriplegic. Amanda, who was a month away from graduating highschool and only months away from starting college, spent the next six months learning how to use a wheelchair in a rehabilitation hospital.
After going through in-patient rehabilitation and outpatient physical therapy, Doctors told Amanda that she would never be able to walk or live an independent life again. They also suggested to her mom, Liza, that Amanda be placed in a nursing home, which was incomprehensible. After hearing this news Liza quit her job and focused her time on finding a more aggressive recovery program to help Amanda with her paralysis. Liza quickly found Project Walk, an intense exercise-based recovery center, located in California. Amanda and Liza made several trips to Project Walk for therapy and they were so impressed with their experience. However, it was getting expensive and time-consuming to spend so much time across the country. So, they arranged to meet with the owners of Project Walk Los Angeles and explored the idea of starting an Orlando location. Before long, that vision was becoming a reality. In 2009, NextStep Orlando opened its doors to the public to provide hope and recovery for people living with paralysis. It is a state- of- the-art recovery center that is dedicated to meeting the needs of all individuals. NextStep Orlando, is an affiliate of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network and is now one of four NextStep locations.
Today, Amanda is currently the speaker representative, the social media adviser, and head of client services at NextStep Orlando. Amanda continues her recovery journey and is the new Brand Ambassador for Myolyn, an apparatus that uses functional electrical stimulation to achieve therapeutic exercise and functional outcomes. In her spare time, Amanda enjoys surfing, skiing, and any other adaptive sport that piques her interest. Amanda and her husband, Matt Jereczek, are also members of “The7line,” a New York Mets fan club, that travels the country going to different ballparks and watching the Mets play.
Interviewed by our founder and president, Alexandra Nicholas, Amanda shares her personal journey of adversity, the significant strides she has made since the accident, and her continued focus on her own physical therapy. Through her work at NextStep Orlando, Amanda has defied expectations and is speaking out to inspire others. She states, “Being able to restore hope to other people in their recovery and their future after they’ve been told there is none makes it all worth it to me.”