Meet Nia

An ear, nose and throat doctor initially thought Nia Dawson may have been suffering from low blood sugar in May 2011. An endocrinologist worried Nia might have pancreatic carcinoma. A neurologist told Nia and her family that the symptoms could be imagined.

It wasn’t until Nia, 16, saw a cardiologist in November 2011 that she was diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, which causes an increased heart rate when going from sitting to standing. It can be severely debilitating.

“My legs were getting heavier by the minute,” Nia said. “My legs would be numb. I couldn’t feel them at all.”

By end of November, Nia had to use a wheelchair to get around. Members of her family had to pick her up or drag her to the bathroom. Nia was admitted to the Children’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Program at the beginning of February.

Several days later, Nia’s parents had her first team meeting with the inpatient rehabilitation staff. Representatives from each discipline were there to explain what they would do and how they could help.

“While I was a bit stunned, my husband was amazed at all the people lining the walls in that tiny conference room, all there to get Nia to walk again,” Iris said.

The Children’s team set a discharge date of Feb. 16 for Nia, which her family thought would not be enough time to get her back on her feet. But they put their trust in the Children’s staff.

Along with Nia’s physical therapy, Children’s music therapist Cori Snyder, M.M., M.T.-B.C., incorporated her love of singing, like having her sing while standing and feeling the vibrations of a piano.

“The two were supposed to be separate, but Cori came up with ways to put them together,” Iris said. “That blew us away.”

By Feb. 13, just 10 days after arriving in inpatient rehabilitation, Nia was able to walk again. After leaving on her assigned discharge date, she began a two-week stay at the Children’s Day Rehabilitation Program.

Before leaving inpatient rehabilitation, Nia was invited to sing and be interviewed at The VOICE, the Children’s onsite radio station. At day rehab, Cori arranged time in a music studio for Nia. She recorded a song she wrote with sound engineer Mark “Exit” Goodchild, who has worked with artists like Usher and Toni Braxton.

When she left Children’s and went back to Savannah, Nia arrived home with the ability to walk, lifelong friendships and some powerful memories.

She came back to Atlanta to sing at the Blue Star Connection Fundraiser, where she was awarded with an acoustic guitar of her own. She named it “Cori Blue.”

“Her spirit lives with music,” Iris said. “Children’s woke up her spirit again.”