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Oct 9, 2012 11:09 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

With Some Help, Doris Quigley Takes A Couple Of Steps

Oct 9, 2012 4:23 PM

Theresa and Tom Quigley got an unexpected gift just in time for their 27th anniversary last Friday. And like a lot of things these days, it was captured in an iPhone video.

Only a few seconds long, the video shows their 17-year-old daughter, Doris Quigley, taking a few steps with the help of a walker and some medical staff at Rusk Rehabilitation Center in New York City. The breakthrough comes six and a half weeks after a swimming accident in the ocean left the teenager paralyzed from the shoulders down.

“It was good to stand up after six weeks,” Doris said from her room at Rusk on Monday evening.

On the afternoon of August 22, Doris, an East Hampton Town lifeguard, sustained an incomplete break to her C6 vertebrae after she dove into the surf at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett and hit a sandbar. She was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and underwent an intensive, two-hour surgery for a broken neck.

Since then, she’s been making steps to recovery. Following the surgery, she had only limited motor skills in her arms, and no motor skills in either of her legs, according to her mother, who is also an East Hampton Town councilwoman.

Now, after going through therapy, Doris has been able to move her right leg, eat and write with her right arm and wiggle her left pinky toe. She’s also able to move her left tricep and flex her abs on the right side. She can also use her hands with her wheelchair.

The amount of movement she’s gained back is “miraculous,” said Ms. Quigley.

“For me, the breakthrough was, is, that five weeks ago when she tried to sit up, her heart stopped,” said Ms. Quigley. “And in the first few weeks here, when they put her on a table and get her into a 60 degree angle, her pressure would drop down to 60 over 35, which is hugely low, and she would have to be instantly lowered.”

Both Quigleys are optimistic about the progress that has been made, but with a realistic perspective. They acknowledged that there’s still much more to be done. Ms. Quigley admitted that it’s “overwhelming” thinking about how much further Doris has to go. And while Doris is happy to have taken a few steps, she pointed out that it wasn’t without some help.

“I was just, I don’t know,” said Doris. “I guess it was good to be at that point so quickly you know, because, I mean, one woman visited me and she wiggled her toe after two months. So, I mean, I’m definitely at a much better place, but at the same time one of my legs was in a full cast.”

She later added, “It was a little, not disheartening, but it wasn’t as great as it could have been, because it was not like I was completely walking.”

Life is still going on for both Quigley women. Ms. Quigley has essentially been living with her daughter in the hospital room, spending only a night or two a week at her East Hampton home. She’s been working at the New York City office of Farrell Fritz, where she’s a lawyer, instead of working from her Bridgehampton office. She commutes back for East Hampton Town Board work sessions and meetings.

Ms. Quigley’s emotions have “run the gamut” over the past few weeks, but she’s happy that, though the trauma from the accident was great, Doris hasn’t changed.

“There’s times where I am, overall I am exceedingly grateful to have Doris,” she said. “I don’t just mean that I still have Doris, because she indeed … we might not be in that position, because of the fact that she was lying upside down in the water and paralyzed. She is completely herself. She hasn’t lost any of herself. She hasn’t lost any of her personality.

“Occasionally, I get a little overwhelmed by the losses she’s suffered, but I try not to focus on that because it’s overwhelming, and there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to keep adapting and pushing forward,” she said.

Doris has been busy doing schoolwork, reading books and studying for the SATs. Test day is on November 3. She said she envisions herself going to a 
small liberal arts college and possibly majoring in humanities, but she hasn’t made up her mind yet.

Both have been touched by the community’s outpouring of support for Doris at a fundraiser at the East Hampton High School last month. The event raised somewhere between $30,000 and $40,000 for Doris’s medical expenses. The East Hampton High School girls varsity swim team is planning a fundraiser for Doris at its last home meet on October 22. They will be selling T-shirts that read “Swim For Doris,” and will have a bake sale.

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Beautiful! Continued success in your recovery.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Oct 9, 12 12:11 PM
I sincerely hope this young woman makes a full recovery. It seems as though she has a tremendous support system and lots of people pulling for her. These factors, and a great attitude bode well for her success. Good Luck Doris!
By Arnold Timer (286), Sag Harbor on Oct 9, 12 2:31 PM
Wishing Doris a full and complete recovery!
By Robert I Ross (227), Hampton Bays on Oct 9, 12 9:55 PM
So happy to read this. I hope her recovery continues to progress!
By Rich Morey (322), Brooklyn on Oct 10, 12 9:57 AM
Westhampton Garden Club, Hamptons