Challenges mean different things to different people.
Shauna Shoemake's challenges involve learning how to live all over again.
The challenge for the folks at a Modesto rehab hospital? To help her do more than simply exist in a long-term care bed, receiving no charge for their services.
Here's the background:
One late night 15 months ago, Shoemake set about crossing Oakdale's main drag, F Street, as she headed toward her parents' apartment a block away.
As she stepped into the crosswalk of the four-lane street, a brown pickup stopped to allow her to cross.
According to the police report, Shoemake wore dark clothing and talked on her cell phone as she walked. And the driver of a black Lexus sedan, headed west in the lane alongside the pickup, had only one good eye and told police he was sometimes bothered by the glare of oncoming headlights.
You can easily guess what happened next.
The Lexus driver didn't notice that the pickup had stopped to let her cross. Nor did the driver see her walk directly into his path. The Lexus struck her at 35 to 40 miles an hour, sending her flying through the air.
"She was really torn up," Oakdale police Lt. Mike Nixon recalls. "I thought she was going to die right there at the scene. So did the paramedics. We did everything closed the street off like it was a fatal."
Indeed, it appeared that Shauna would not survive, a horrible ending for a young woman whose choices in life had been anything but impressive. In fact, there is no sugarcoating her existence to that point. Now 30, she had dropped out of school in 10th grade. She has a history of arrests on minor drug charges. She had four children with her boyfriend. All four, including twins, have since been adopted by other families.
Her father, Loil Shoemake, lost his left leg below the knee after being hit by a truck while bicycling to work one day 11 years ago. He wears a prosthetic.
Her mother, Sally, has severe back pain stemming from auto accidents and other physical ailments. She spends most of her time in a wheelchair.
Shauna's accident left her with brain damage, broken legs, one really messed up knee and nerve damage on her left side. Memorial Medical Center ER staff told police not to expect a statement from her.
"It was doubtful she would regain consciousness," the report stated.
She spent a month in a coma, then was transferred to Doctors Medical Center, where she remained until February.
"She was a vegetable," her father said. "She was unable to do anything."
One morning this past week, Lee Brautovich, a physical therapist at Country Villa Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Modesto, asked Shoemake if she was ready to get to work.
"Yeah!" Shauna replied.
She put her arms around Brautovich's shoulders. The therapist helped her out of her wheelchair and onto her feet. She even took a step.
Then, Brautovich eased her down onto a padded bench, where Shauna used her once-useless left arm to steady herself.
Those three things speaking, standing and sitting up are things doctors only a few months ago told Shoemake's parents she would never do again.
Instead, she's defying the odds.
"Our miracle," mom Sally calls her.
Yes, it always seems miraculous when someone hurt so badly and once so close to death rebounds to contradict the experts.
But few such miracles happen without auxiliary blessings. In Shauna's case, her fortunes changed the moment Country Villa's assistant manager, Brandy Houser, came to see her at Doctors. Shauna needed to go to a long-term care facility. When Houser came to assess her, Shoemake was out of the coma but unable to talk, move her left arm, sit up or care for herself in any way.
Houser, though, saw something in Shauna. She went to Country Villa's administrator, David Gram, to pitch an idea.
Medi-Cal would cover Shauna's room charges, but not her rehab. Could the hospital comp the therapy? It represented Shauna's only chance to help herself, or at least to make it easier for others to help her.
"David said it would be a challenge," Houser said. "And he was up for a challenge."
So, since February, Shauna has been working roughly three hours a day with Brautovich and with Uma Singh, the facility's rehabilitation director.
They've pushed her in ways she'd never been pushed. They've demanded a self-discipline she'd never exhibited.
They motivated her, frustrated her, encouraged her and rewarded her.
"We have a love-hate relationship," Brautovich said.
They are teaching her to do the things necessary to move home with her parents, who, because of their disabilities, cannot help her much physically. She needs to be able to dress herself, get from her bed or chair into a wheelchair, and get on a bus. She'll need another surgery on her right knee, though her parents aren't sure when that will happen.
Shauna is nearing the point where the therapy is complete.
"The goals they had, she's reached," Houser said.
Hence, another set of challenges. Her parents need to rent a duplex or home that is wheelchair-friendly, because both mother and daughter use them. Houser is working with local agencies on their behalf to aid in the search.
In the end, a young woman who once seemed content to live from day to day now has a purpose.
Walking? Maybe. Standing? Doable. Regaining more use of her left arm and hand? Certainly. All are driven by a simple objective.
"She dreams of going home," said Sally, proud of her daughter in ways she could never have envisioned.
It's a dream within reach, though only because the folks at Country Villa decided Shauna was worth the challenge.
Jeff Jardine's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays in Local News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @jeffjardine57 on Twitter or at (209) 578-2383.