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Michaela Bushey

AUSABLE FORKS -- The community has rallied around an AuSable Forks native being treated in Atlanta for spinal-cord injuries.

This Saturday, a benefit will be held for Michaela Bushey at the AuSable Forks American Legion Post 504.

Michaela, 19, was swimming July 4 at her boyfriend's house, when she hit her head during a dive.

Her father, Mike Bushey, said she was conscious until being sedated at Burlington's Fletcher Allen Health Care for surgery the next day.

After she was released from Intensive Care, she was flown to a model center for spinal-cord injury in Shepherd Center, Atlanta.

Mike said Michaela can feel sensations throughout her body but movement is limited. She does, however, have some movement in her right arm, which her father said is promising.

Michaela was known in the community as a smart and talented young woman.

She graduated salutatorian from AuSable Valley Central School at age 16 and continued her education at Ithaca College, where she is a senior this fall, double majoring in vocal performance and music education.

A diligent student, she has been on the dean's list every semester of her college career.

In addition to singing and playing piano at Brooktondale Baptist Church outside Ithaca and Independent Baptist Church in Keeseville, she also played the lead role in the high-school production of "Peter Pan" and starred as Maria in "West Side Story."

MOTIVATED

Mike and his wife, Angela, said the community's support has exceeded their expectations and has been as important as the physical treatment their daughter is receiving.

"It has been tremendously uplifting to Michaela and to my wife and I, as well."

Fortunately, Michaela is highly motivated and desires to get better, he said.

"We have no idea what the outcome is going to be."

Michaela recently has been without ventilator support.

"She is definitely on the road to general physical recovery, as far as her health is concerned," Mike said.

BENEFIT

Jessica Douglass, organizer for Saturday's benefit, said support from the community has come not only from AuSable Forks but the rest of the North Country. In the wake of the accident, she said, those who knew Michaela felt compelled to help.

"We had to do something."

A $6 dinner, which includes two michigans and cookies, will be served from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Live music will be performed by Chris Wilkins.

Susan Richards, who has performed with Michaela in the past, will be singing a special song for her preceding an auction led by Ed McAllister.

Douglass said she was surprised by the number of donations that have poured in for the event. Prizes include stays at resorts, including Whiteface Lodge; gift certificates from restaurants throughout the North Country; many handmade items, such as Adirondack furniture and mirrors; and passes to golf courses.

Dr. John Homer has donated a week's stay in his Boynton Beach, Fla., vacation home.

"We have over 200 items being auctioned off," Douglass said.

For those who are unable to attend the benefit, monetary donations are being accepted.

PRAYERS

"You never think it's going to happen to you. No matter how careful you are," Mike said.

"It really could happen to anyone. When it does, it's absolutely devastating."

The support and prayers from people all over the North Country have provided an important element in her much-needed recovery, the Busheys said.

"To have the community rally around Michaela as they have has been a tremendous encouragement," Mike said. "We're asking all the churches and the community to please keep praying for Michaela."

Angela said she was "touched deeply and humbled by the community response to my daughter."

Compassion and generosity are part of the fabric of our community, she said.

"I'm not really surprised," she said of North Country residents' tremendous support.

"That makes us who we are."

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