SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — An Altamonte Springs rehabilitation center is working to help people with paralysis take steps toward gaining more mobility, but like so many places these days, the coronavirus pandemic is causing disruptions and delays.

One administrator at the facility, though, isn’t letting all of the challenges she’s facing hold her back.

What You Need To Know

  •  Amanda Perla was seriously injured in a car accident 14 years ago

  •  Since then, she has worked hard and regained the use of her arms and upper body

  • She helps run NextStep Orlando, a rehabilitation facility opened by her mother

Every single day brings another harsh reminder of the physical things Amanda Perla can’t do.

“You can really start to dwell and think about all the what ifs,” she said.

Perla spends most of her days doing what she can do, and working on what's still possible.

“Every year I get a little more comfortable with my body, a little more comfortable with my injury and my abilities to adapt,” she said.

Since a car crash 14 years ago, Perla has regained the use of her arms and upper body.

But she's not just working on herself, she's also helping run NextStep Orlando, a rehabilitation facility her mother opened several years ago after she struggled to find adequate, affordable care for her daughter. And her mother noticed other people with spinal cord injuries struggling with the same problem.

“She just saw this was her only option she had open for me and for the others,” said Perla.

Perla was especially busy this summer when her mother and some of the staff at the facility tested positive for COVID-19 and were out for a few days. Some of the facility’s clients need daily strength conditioning to keep their progress going. But Perla isn’t letting this busy time set her back in her own progress as she continues to work to get more mobility.

“Any little bit of progress is a big step for us,” she said. “Really strengthen my back, because that's one thing that I have trouble with is picking up my little nieces.”

Since Perla was paralyzed she feared she wouldn't be able to have her own children. For the last year she and her husband Matt had been trying to make that happen.

“He’s such a supporter for the past 11 years of our relationship that I can't imagine living this life without him now,” said Perla.

Their fertility treatments were a success and they just found a surrogate mother.

“Just really, really excited to finally start a family,” said Matt Jereczek, Perla’s husband.

Perla may still have a long way to go physically, but with her fertility treatment results as proof —  she's realized she can live a full life. She just wishes she could tell her younger self that.

“Trust yourself, believe in yourself, because there is life and happiness after a spinal cord injury, and you're gonna go find it,” said Perla.