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After Accident, Sisters Pursue Same Goal in Speech Pathology

In the middle of her undergraduate career, UC student Miranda Boston survived a terrifying ATV accident that left her relearning how to walk and speak. With the support of her family, her twin Megan and the professors and peers in her new program, she graduates this spring with new plans for graduate school. 

Date: 4/18/2013
By: Katy Cosse Photos By: Provided
Sisters and fraternal twins Miranda and Megan Boston started their college careers at the University of Cincinnati in different fields—Miranda at the College of Allied Health Sciences pursuing a degree in rehabilitation sciences, and Megan studying early childhood education at UC’s College of Education, Criminal Justice and Human Services. 

But after a terrifying accident that almost cost Miranda her life, they will continue at UC on the same path. 
Megan and Miranda Boston
Megan and Miranda Boston

This spring, Miranda will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in communication sciences and disorders. In the fall, she’ll join her sister in UC’s graduate program in speech language pathology, where Megan is already enrolled through distance learning.

In July of 2010, the sisters were spending an afternoon riding ATVs when Miranda’s vehicle rolled over into a ditch, crushing her. The vehicle severed both of her carotid arteries and broke her spine in two places.

UC Health Air Care & Mobile Care flew her to University of Cincinnati Medical Center, where she spent 12 days in the neurointensive care unit. She suffered three strokes in the following days. 

Unwilling to leave her side, the Boston family slept on the hospital floors and the nurses let their mother shower in their quarters.

“Miranda’s physicians said her severed carotids had cut off blood flow to her brain,” recalls Megan. “They didn’t know whether she’d live or not.”

If she did live, the family was told, Miranda could wake up from her coma unable to speak or even recognize her family. To prepare for that outcome, the Bostons plastered Miranda’s room with family photos and wrote their names underneath them. 

“When I work up out of my coma, there were pictures of my family all over the room,” says Miranda. “I just started laughing and asking them, ‘Why are your names on the walls?’ ”

Miranda’s long-term injuries were limited to paralysis on her left side, from her strokes, and weakness in her left hand. She spent two months at UC Health Drake Center undergoing rehabilitation, learning how to sit up, to swallow, to walk and speak again. 

Though her dreams of becoming a physical therapist had ended—“I realized I couldn’t do one-handed PT,” she jokes—Miranda’s inpatient speech therapy gave her a new goal for her future.

She now hopes to become a speech language pathologist, working with adult patients who have survived strokes to regain their speech.

“I know how frustrating it can be,” says Miranda. “I hope I can motivate them with my personal experience. Not many speech language pathologists have actually been in their shoes.” 

When she returned to UC, Miranda worked with undergraduate program director and associate professor of clinical communication sciences and disorders Carney Sotto, PhD, to switch her major to communication sciences and disorders. She will graduate with her bachelor’s degree this spring. 

“The doctors at Drake told her to take a whole year off school but she just took the quarter off,” recalls Megan. “She’s very determined—she’s the strongest one in our family. I don’t know how she does it.”

Miranda’s new schedule included class, occupational therapy, physical therapy and returning to her job at an insurance company. But she says she was most nervous about going back to class while recovering.

“But everyone’s been so nice,” she says. “The students and the professors have been wonderful. Dr. Pete took me under his wing and really helped me.”

Dr. Pete, or assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders Pete Scheifele, PhD, says Miranda is a “wonder student.”

“In the face of adversity she attended her classes, worked with me off-line to ensure that she got all of her material and was instrumental in labs,” says Scheifele. “Miranda is a ‘doer.’ She makes no excuses and no complaints. She is committed to her work and carries out her mission even to the point of helping others.”

Megan also was relieved to see how her sister fit into the communication sciences and disorders department: “They care about Miranda, and they go out of their way to help her, but they don’t pity her,” she says. “They don’t underestimate her because she’s had a stroke. Everyone realizes that, even though she’s had these challenges, she’s still capable, which is important for me.” 

Miranda’s experience has inspired Megan to enter the speech pathology field as well. She hopes to use her undergraduate degree in early childhood education from UC to prepare her to work with pediatric patients.

“The more I watched Miranda’s therapy, the more I realized how much we take for granted, being able to talk and eat and swallow,” says Megan. “I realized I could work with kids and make a big difference helping them.”