On Oct. 5, 2005, Amy Klene and her friend were on their way home from a beauty supply store, when in a blink of a second, everything changed.
The northwest-area resident was involved in a vehicle rollover accident. She and her friend were ejected from the car, causing her several broken ribs on the right side of her body; a fractured right arm that could not be set due to severe road burn over 30 percent of her body; a fractured pelvis; a fractured collarbone; a lacerated liver; and fractured vertebrae in her neck.
Perhaps most devastating was that her friend died and Klene was left with traumatic brain injury that included damage to the right occipital, left parietal and motor cortex areas of her brain.
She was in a coma and on a respirator for three months.
“Doctors strongly urged us to remove Amy from life support as she would be in either a vegetative state for the rest of her life or be bed-bound with maximum care for the rest of her life,” said Klene’s mother Julie. “We explained to the doctors that as long as Amy was going to fight to live, then we would support her efforts.”
Almost 10 years later, Klene’s life has dramatically improved since that fateful day.
Today the 30-year-old is almost completely independent.
Not only can Klene do regular day-to-day activities, but she also enjoys rock climbing and going to the gym.
She owes a large part of her recovery to the time spent volunteering with the bell choir at the Blind Center of Nevada, 1001 N. Bruce St.
“It is my belief that Amy’s participation with (the choir) has contributed to improvement in esteem, focused attention, balance, body awareness, perception and sensory integration,” said Klene’s physical therapist, Jana Sutter of Integrity Health & Wellness. “It seems the vibration from the bells have enhanced, facilitated and awakened her nervous system, improving her ability to respond to her ever-changing environment.”
Julie said she has noticed her daughter’s speech improve, and the group has helped her heal and become more social.
“The group is really nice. They’re all that I have,” Klene said. “Even though we have different disabilities, we’re all family. We understand each other on a different level.”
Jerry Simon, director of the choir, brought Klene on board five months ago because he needed help to spread the word about his invention called ARBECY, a system that helps the visually impaired read and perform music.
ARBECY works by catching each note and sending a wireless notification to a modified cellphone held by a blind person who is waiting to play the note.
“It’s all about synergy,” Simon said. “No person is greater than the power of the whole group.”
Simon was inspired to design the system in 1977 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Loyola University in New Orleans. He did his post-grad internship at Pinecrest State School in Louisiana and led a group of mentally challenged youths in bell choir by using hand signals.
He met a young girl named Maryann who was blind and struggling with autism. She wanted to join the group but could not due to her inability to see his hand signals.
“She would cry and throw temper tantrums and bang her head on the floor to the point she would draw blood,” Simon said. “She just wanted to play with us so bad. I made a promise to her that one day I would create a system for blind people to play bell choir.”
Almost 40 years later, Simon kept his promise.
With the help of Klene, the group has been able to perform at hockey games, in front of the mayor, at restaurants and at churches across the valley.
Simon said that since Klene took over the group’s YouTube channel, she has more than doubled the viewers from 600 to 1,500.
Members of the bell choir also enjoy having Klene around. They said they enjoy her energy and are inspired by the strength she’s shown.
“No matter what, Amy is always smiling,” said bell choir member Walter Argueta. “I know she’s smiling because you can just see that glow, and that motivates us. She’s taught us that life is never over until God says it’s over.”
For more information about ARBECY, visit arbecy.com.
For more information about the bell choir, visit blindcenter.org.
Contact North View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686. Find her on Twitter: @JournalismSandy.