Posted April 8, 2014 05:49 pm

'Soul surfer' Bethany Hamilton inspires patients at Jacksonville's Brooks Rehabilitation

Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton, who lost an arm in a shark attach at age 13, and her husband, Adam Dirks, visit with patients during a visit to Brooks Rehabilitation.

More than 800 people gathered Sunday for Brooks Rehabilitation's 22nd Annual Celebrate Independence event, which featured professional surfer Bethany Hamilton as keynote speaker.

Hawaii native Hamilton, born into a family of surfers, was attacked by a 14-foot tiger shark at age 13 while surfing off Kauai's North Shore. She lost an arm, but one month after the attack returned to the water to continue pursuing her goal to become a professional surfer. A year later won a national title, according to a news release.

At the Brooks event, she was one of several "inspiring individuals" on hand who, along with demonstrations and information, showed survivors how to live "life to its fullest," according to the release.

Hamilton followed her talk with a book signing -- her autobiography, Soul Surfer, was published in 2004 -- and a visit with current Brooks patients.

Also at the event, Jordan Martin received Brooks's "Rehab Champion" award. At 16, she was in a car that was struck by a tractor trailer that ran a red light. She had a traumatic brain injury and could not eat, speak or walk after the accident, according to the release.

She spent a week in intensive care and and more than a month at Brooks, followed by 11 months in outpatient therapy. When she recovered, she chose to work in the Brooks cafeteria so she could tell other patients about her experience.

Jordan has since become a college graduate, obtained a physical therapy assistant license and gotten a job at Brooks's Bartram Crossing facility. 

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