Spinal Cord Injury Won’t Stop Pediatric Nurse from Pursuing Her Dreams

January 30, 2024 | by Jodi McCaffrey
Spinal Cord Injury Won’t Stop Pediatric Nurse from Pursuing Her Dreams

obf_65aafa4e14580Nurses inspire patients each day with their compassion, resilience and knowledge. For Meagan Prehn, BSN, R.N., inspiring a certain patient is a “full-circle” moment she won’t soon forget.

“I was reviewing the discharge plan with the parents of a patient in a wheelchair,” remembered Meagan, a pediatric neurology nurse at Pediatrix Specialty Care of Austin. “The patient had the biggest smile on his face as I entered the room. I asked if they had any questions, and they said, ‘No questions, but we’re so impressed to see a nurse in a wheelchair. Our son wants to go to medical school, but we haven’t gotten a positive response from other people.’ It was a neat experience that one of my patients got to see someone like him working in the medical field, and meeting me seemed to lift a weight off his parents’ shoulders because they realized their child’s dream was actually possible.”

When she was 11 years old, Meagan, her mother and uncle were involved in a head-on car collision. The impact injured Meagan’s spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair-bound. She spent months in the hospital away from her family. The healing process was physically and psychologically challenging, but her faith and positive attitude helped her get through it.

“My ICU nurses became like my family and really helped me through a lot,” Meagan said. “That’s what inspired me to become a nurse. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life and give back to the field that had been such a huge part of my life.”

Giving Back to the Medical Fieldobf_65aafa38205cf

After Meagan earned a bachelor of science degree in health, she decided to pursue nursing school. Several people in her life questioned if she could handle the physical requirements of nursing, but she registered for the 11-month accelerated program and didn’t look back.

“In general, nursing is not designed to accommodate people in wheelchairs, but it can be done,” she explained. “For most of nursing school, I was assigned to the neonatal intensive care unit for clinicals because the administrators thought it would be easier for me to maneuver around and care for babies. However, all of our bookwork was focused on adult care and I knew I could succeed on the adult floors. I knew my physical capabilities and pushed for my clinicals to be on an adult floor with the rest of my peers. It was a challenge, but I proved that I could do just as much as the next nurse, I just might do it a little differently. It was a learning process for everyone involved.”

Now, Meagan is the clinic nurse paired with pediatric neurologist Michael Reardon, M.D., at Pediatrix Specialty Care of Austin. The practice offers comprehensive pediatric neurology and rheumatology services to infants, children, adolescents and young adults with brain- or nervous system-related conditions and those with rheumatic diseases and various autoimmune disorders. Together, Meagan and Dr. Reardon see about 15 patients a day. Meagan reviews each patient’s plan of care, including medications, imaging studies and discharge orders. She also answers the phone and fields questions from patients and parents.

“We’re pretty busy, but I really enjoy what I do and I love working with Dr Reardon,” she said. “I get to provide patient care but still have my nights, weekends and holidays free.”

Continuing to Inspire Othersobf_65aafadd50da8

Meagan continues to find ways to astonish doctors and push her body physically.

“Doctors told me that I would never walk again,” Meagan shared. “In November, after intensive physical therapy and lots of stretching exercises and practice, I walked down the aisle at my wedding.”

Her advice for patients with spinal cord injuries or other potentially limiting circumstances is simple: “Don’t give up. It only takes one person to believe in you, and that’s yourself. People will question your abilities and may not have the most positive things to say, but words are just words. I’m a nurse who gets to take care of and inspire people. I’m living the dream.”