From the Saint Cloud TimesStephanie Smith of Cold Spring was a 20-year-old dance instructor when she contracted E. coli after eating a hamburger at a family barbecue in 2007. She also developed HUS and spent nine months in the hospital, including two months in a medically induced coma to prevent seizures.

Smith returned home to Cold Spring in June. Her recovery has been much slower than the 21-year-old would like. During physical therapy sessions at CentraCare Health Plaza in Sartell, Smith works at building strength and balance by sitting on a special seat that records her movement.

With a belt strapped around her waist, she leans from side to side, watching an electronic screen that resembles a video game. She tries to maneuver a figure on the screen into a little box. Later, she lies on her back with her knees bent and tries to lift each leg into the air. "Kick that muscle. Hold it up there," urges her physical therapist, Lisa Barker. She helps by lifting Smith’s foot, clad in a stylish plaid sneaker. "Come on, kick, kick, kick."

When asked how she feels she’s doing, Smith answers softly, "Crappy."

She wants to be able to walk again, Barker says. But so far, she doesn’t have the muscle strength required to lift her legs forward. "We haven’t really been able to attack that like we’d like," Barker said.

Still, Smith has regained balance and is better able to transfer herself from her wheelchair to a bed or chair, Barker said. She can stand at home for an hour using a supportive frame and even stands on her own for short periods.

"It’s a long battle," Barker said.

Smith’s mother, Sharon, says she feels ill when she hears about the victims of the salmonella outbreak. "I feel so bad in my heart, because I know what they’re going to go through," she said. Sharon Smith has been juggling taking care of her daughter and getting her to physical therapy appointments while still holding on to job as a Dairy Queen manager. But she isn’t complaining, and said she’s extremely grateful for the prayers and financial support people have offered throughout the ordeal.

"Every day I wake up and say, ‘Thank you, God,’ " she said. "I don’t care how difficult it is."