Children's Hospital Hero: Tessa Brandt - KMSP-TV

Children's Hospital Hero: Tessa Brandt

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

At 25 years old, Jenni Taylor is studying hard to earn her public relations degree. But Jenni does her work a little different than most.

Every assignment and every note is taken by using her voice – a necessary tool after being paralyzed from the neck down 10 years ago.

"It's like trying to learn a sport," she said. "You have to get use to being paralyzed in a wheelchair."

It was at Gillette Children's Hospital where Jenni would be taught how live with her disability. One of those who cared for Jenni is inpatient rehab coordinator Tessa Brandt, whose main job is to teach kids how to relearn the basics.

"It's hard to prepare people for the outside world," Brandt said. "Our goal is to get them ready for the community the best we can."

Brandt came to Gillette 15 years ago. After doing an internship, she knew exactly what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. While she inspires the kids to keep going, Brandt says it's the kids that drive her.

"The kids' endless energy -- they find good in things we don't see and they just keep going, they don't give up," she said.

Even though Brandt no longer cares for Jenni Taylor, the two often get together when Jenni returns to Gillette to see her doctors.

"Without her helping me I don't know how far I would be," Jenni said. "She encouraged me to stay positive to go on and live my life and do the things I want to do."

"It feels fantastic to know you made a difference in somebody's life," Brandt said. "It really feels fantastic."

Tessa Brandt says she doesn't see herself doing anything else in her life. While the children may not leave Gillette the same person, she feels in her heart they leave here better people.

"It means a lot that the work you put in and the thing you love to do makes a difference in somebody's life," she said. "It means that something I did touched them deep enough or helped them in life enough to remember me and it's amazing."

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