Karli Moore shines as beacon of hope, encouragement through trying surgery, rehabilitation

Fifth-year assistant coach hopes to return to sidelines this season after spinal surgery


STEPHENVILLE – Tarleton assistant basketball coach Karli Moore was enjoying what can only be described as a “great” summer vacation.

After helping Tarleton reach the NCAA regional tournament for the third straight year and bringing in a slew of new talent as a part of the next generation of the women’s basketball program, Moore took some time to visit Hawaii with her family. Shortly after her return, Moore started to experience unexplained back pain.

After multiple failed attempts at relief, Moore’s friend and former teammate Raven McGrath, who is currently in physical therapy school, suggested an MRI – little did either know that this suggestion would be a life-changing one.

The MRI on her back revealed a lipoma, or fatty tumor, on her thoracic spine from T1-T5. While most lipomas are considered more of a nuisance than serious, this one brought serious concern because the location indicated it could be attached to her spinal column.  After a few visits to the neurosurgeon and eight more MRIs it was confirmed that Moore would have to have spinal surgery.

“Going into surgery, I thought I would be in the hospital for two or three days then be off of work for a couple of weeks and be right back to work. That’s kind of what everyone expected,” said Moore. “The doctor said there was a possibility of complications because it looked like there was a part on the spinal cord but she wouldn’t know for sure until the surgery. All we knew was that it needed to be removed because it was putting a lot of pressure on my spinal cord, causing pain, and could create more complications, like paralysis if it wasn’t removed.”

Moore went in for surgery on September 17.

Come surgery day, the doctors discovered the tumor was much bigger than initially expected.
The lipoma actually expanded and wrapped around the spinal cord which pushed the spinal cord to the left. Moore’s doctors believe the lipoma had been there since birth and that her spinal cord had adapted with the slow growth which kept the back pain in check until now.

During surgery, a biopsy of the tumor was sent to pathology and tested for cancer, which came back benign.

“This was another answer to many prayers throughout this process,” Moore said.

The doctors kept track of Moore’s motor functions during the surgery, but about three hours into surgery Moore’s left leg started to lose function. This forced them to stop the surgery and leave part of the lipoma that was actually growing on the spinal cord.

“It is a little scary to have some of it still on my spine but I am really glad they stopped when they did. The doctors will continue to watch the growth of it with MRIs and yearly appointments,” said Moore.

Immediately following surgery Moore was only able to wiggle her toes on her left foot but was unable to move the rest of her left leg and her right leg was weakened. After the procedure, Moore was moved to the Texas Rehabilitation Hospital in Fort Worth, which is where she is currently regaining the use of her lower extremities.

“The Texas Rehabilitation Hospital has been absolutely amazing,” said Moore. “I have 24-hour nursing care and have three hours of therapy a day. Everyone is very confident that I will regain full function over time, and I am too.

“It is a slow process but I have made so much progress since I have been here,” she continued. “After surgery, I couldn’t move my left leg and needed help with everything. Now, I can stand up by myself, have gained more strength and balance and can take a few steps with the walker. There are challenges with my proprioception so we are trying to retrain and create new pathways for my neurons from my brain to my feet and legs.”

Moore, who is in her fifth season as an assistant coach for Tarleton, has been a part of the women’s basketball program since arriving as a freshman student-athlete in 2011. During her time as a competitor and coach, Moore has maintained an active lifestyle and is eager to get back to that lifestyle.

With the fear of potential paralysis lingering, Moore never deterred from her commitment to Texan Basketball.  Through all the progress Moore has made, her best day came on a surprise visit from the Texans.

“The team came to visit me and it was one of my happiest days since I’ve been here,” said Moore. “I was talking about it all week to the other patients, to my doctors and nurses. Everyone was so excited for me and asked all about it the next day. Coach Wilson rented a van and our staff and team made the trip to come visit me here. That meant a lot to me and has really helped in my healing. They are a big part of my motivation.”

Moore will be released from Texas Rehabilitation Hospital today and stay with her family in Fort Worth. Despite the progress so far, Moore will be in a wheelchair for the time being and start the next chapter of therapy at the Out-Patient Day Neuro-Physical Therapy facility. She will rehab five days a week for over five hours a day. The timeline for recovery is uncertain. Therapy can last from two to 16 weeks, depending on progress and Moore’s individual response.

“I trust God with the situation and I know that with him and the support I have in all of my family, friends, our team, and Tarleton I will get there. I am hoping it is sooner rather than later,” said Moore. “I really do have the best support system and that is what keeps me going.”

Though she is currently in Fort Worth, Moore has been keeping up with the team in Stephenville and continues to work with the team in hopes of returning to the sidelines this season.

“I absolutely love this team. It is really important to me to stay involved and while I wish I could be at all the practices, I have the opportunity to talk to Coach Wilson every morning and every night to hear how things are going. I also keep up with Bailey (Wipff), Lindsey (Washington) and our players weekly to see how they are doing and to catch up.” said Moore. “I love the character of this team and how the girls are so close on and off the court. We have a lot of new faces and I believe with the relationships they have built the returners will really be able to help lead the new players. We have smart players who are interested in the success of the team and are willing to do whatever it takes to make the team better. We have a team that will represent Tarleton, our community, and our women’s basketball program very well and that makes me really proud and excited for this season.”

“I don’t know when I will be back, but what I do know is that I cannot wait! I miss being there and will continue to work as hard as I can to regain the strength to be able to come back to Stephenville,” she said. “I plan to come to as many events as therapy will allow me to and will be doing everything I can to stay involved. I am so thankful for Coach Wilson, the athletic staff and the university for working so well with me through this difficult time. I will be back as soon as possible and until then will continue to tell all my doctors, nurses and therapists just how great Tarleton State University is while wearing my purple.”

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