ATLANTA - It doesn't take much to get Briana Lawson to dance. So, the Macon 8-year old couldn't resist busting a move to her favorite song at her graduation from Children's Healthcare of Atlanta's day rehab program, where she's spent months.
"It feels good,” says her mother Carolyn Lawson. “I never gave up on her. I know Briana is a fighter. I have a big family supporting her. I knew she was going to come around, through the Grace of God."
We first introduced you to Briana back in February in a story about music therapy.
Her family had been involved in a devastating Christmas Day accident that killed her older sister. Briana suffered a severe brain injury, and was just emerging from a coma.
As a team of in-patient rehabilitation therapists evaluated Briana, her mother mentioned music therapist Kori Snyder that Briana's favorite song was Silento's “Watch Me (Whip/ Nae-Nae).”
So, Snyder learned the song and began to play it, hoping to get Briana to open her eyes.
It worked! Soon, the second grader was not only opening her eyes, she was lifting her arm, like she was trying to dance.
"And her sister and mom knew what that move was, they'd seen her do it a thousand times,” says Snyder. "She has prior or past experiences with that song, with friends, with family, with positive emotions and chemicals in her brain."
It was the beginning on a long road back. When Briana was transferred to Children’s day rehab program, physical therapist Caitlyn Jones says could take only a few steps before fatiguing.
"Her balance was very impaired,” says Jones. “Her coordination was impaired. But I saw the spark in her that, I knew, she would make huge progress."
Then, a big surprise. The young rapper Silento, who'd seen our story, dropped by Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, not just to see Briana, but to dance with her - to his song.
A few weeks later, she’s wearing a tiny graduation cap, at her graduation from the day program.
"She's come a long way, a long way,” says Cynthia Lawson."
Briana Lawson is going home, hoping to soon rejoin her second grade class.
"Getting back to school is really going to motivate her, being with her peers,” says physical therapist Heather Petersen. “That's really going to motivate her."
Watching Briana, Caitlyn Jones says it’s hard not to be moved by this little girl, and how far she’s come.
"It is so special,” she says. “And that is exactly why I do this job. To see her improvement and how far she's come and to know that you've been a part of such a special story and this little girl returning to life, and a whole new world opening for her again.”