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Teen making comeback from brain injury

Updated: Thursday, May 22 2014, 06:49 AM EDT

Rochester, N.Y. -- Dionna Zupparo recalls the day she suffered a stroke.

She was only 14 years old, at a swim meet.

She remembered what she felt during the experience.

"On the ground, lying there, numb," she said. "Everything is numb."

Because of her stroke, she had to have a part of her skull removed.

She now needs a device to help her walk.

She could not speak and had to learn to read and write all over again.

"It was an absolute shock," her mom, Roxanne, said. "It probably took us two to three months to wrap our minds around what happened."

It's a condition that's not uncommon.

"Especially in this day and age, more and more younger individuals and younger females are having strokes," said Suzanne Johnston, a clinical assistant professor and manager of the Brain Injury Clinic at Nazareth College.

Johnston said that's changing the faces of the kinds of patients they treat.

"We provide services to about 80 or so adults a week," Johnston said. "We provide those services to individuals who have either have exhausted their medical insurance coverage or are unable to afford services elsewhere."

In what may be one of Rochester's best kept secrets, the clinic uses a combination of traditional therapy and new technology.

The computer software helps patients work to develop their speech.

"I think the broader benefit of using an iPad or a tech device, an iPhone, a droid for those programs is really the accessibility of those programs," said Johnston.

That technology combined with old-fashioned practice with her family has helped Dionna grow by leaps and bounds.

She spends time with her friends and is getting ready for her prom. All in all, she's looking ahead to her future.

"She will be talking near normal in the next two years," Roxanne said. "It's coming."

Teen making comeback from brain injury

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