I am native Texan, born and raised in Houston. I come from a line of Army war veterans, my grandfather was a World War II veteran and my father was a Vietnam veteran.
I have always been a giver and thought what better way to give, but through service to my country. In May 1994, after 4 years of college I dropped out of the ROTC program at the University of Houston to enlist in U.S. Army. I had hopes of being a drill sergeant like my father, but later planned to complete the AMEDD program to receive my commission as an officer in the Army and become a Physical Therapist.
During my 7 1/2 years of active duty I served in three units as a member of the Adjutants General Corp (Moto:”Defend and Serve”). I worked as a Personnel Administration Specialist in the S1 (Personnel Administration Center). I served with the 2nd Infantry Division (Moto:”Second to None”) at Camp Casey in Korea, The 2nd Armored Division (Moto:”Hell on Wheels”) in the Aviation Brigade before they deactivated and became the 4th Infantry Division (Moto:”Steadfast and Loyal”) at Fort Hood. My military career ended suddenly 19 years ago today on Dec 5, 1999 in Germany, as a member of the (Moto:”Big Red One”), 1st Infantry. I sustained a TBI and Spinal cord injury which left me traumatized and paralyzed. I took 32 pills a day for a few years to deal with the pain. Doctors told me, I would never walk again, but I was convinced that I would walk a marathon ( 26.2 miles). 19 years ago today, I met my life long friend Denese. She came to the hospital although she didn’t particularly care for me. She said I had too much energy in the mornings, when I dropped my son off at daycare.
That day I died, that day I was given life back, and that day I was given a new life. A life I didn’t want. A life I begged God to replace with my old one; the life I begged him to take on more than one occasion. I was initially ungrateful for being spared. I couldn’t, walk, talk, control my own bodily functions. I knew I had a son and for him I chose to live my best life. I was totally consumed with taking care and raising him.He was 2 at the time of the accident.
Three years later I was medically retired and divorced my spouse secondary to years of domestic abuse. In adition to my physical challenges, I am a military sexual trauma survivor and was diagnosed with PTSD and depression.
With my TBI and learning to read again, I completed two bachelor’s degrees in Communication Disorders and Psychology from the University of Houston. A few years later I graduated from Nova Southeastern Univerity with a Masters of Science in Speech Language Pathology where I maintained a 4.0 and was named graduate student of the year.
Continuing in the spirit of serving I worked at the University of Houston as the Veterans Service Coordinator until I was offered a job as a Speech Therapist Assistant. After years of being an assistant I went back to get my Masters so that I could work as Speech Language Pathologist and an Assistive Technology Specialist for children in Public Schools. I have worked in the clinic settings and home health. I have also worked with TBI, Dementia and Stroke patients in Assisted Living Facilities. Side note: I feel most at home with them. I love helping people to communicate. Without that accident I would not have become the therapist I am today. My journey lead me to help others and I am pleased that it did.
While attempting to get back to what I thought normal, still searching for my old life, I found my bucket list. It was the day I returned from Las Vegas. The item after Vegas on my bucket found was to walk a marathon. I joined Fort Bend Fit and Black Girls Run in 2014. I found running and it changed something in me. Through different activities I was reminded of my limitations and I am still learning to accept and share them with others.
Physical fitness is very important and critical to my livelihood. Without it I loose mental clarity and fall back into the old me, the stinking thinking.
In 2016 I began my 50 states journey to tell my testimony to one person in every state. Then I lost sight of that journey. I started running from my life. My son grew up and I had nothing, no one to come home to and take care of. I worked to help others, I ran for God, but what about me? I began adding races to my schedule that were unplanned for me. I found acceptance in the run community. I hid amongst the other runners. One day as I talked amongst other runners I said, I need to find a group of people I can identify with. There has got to be a group of people with disabilities. One person in particular laughed in my face and said. Why you aren’t disabled? At that moment I was empowered I no longer wanted to hide. I said yes I am. I found myself telling things I never wanted to share to prove I had a disability. The disability I tried so hard to hide for years (I did an amazing job of holding my own, let me tell you) I learned to embrace.
After being featured in a Runner’s World podcast. I was introduced to Achilles international and found refuge with the Freedom Team. I later joined the Paralyzed Veterans of America, Dare2Tri and Catapult.
Although I pray often I have moments when I am sucked down into negativity. Those days when the pain sets in, I’m just evil. I try hard not to show that side and try to keep an upbeat disposition.
It is then, I’m reminded of God’s love and reminded to be patient and grateful. I am reminded to not immerse myself running away from my life.
When I began to over do it I was faced by the fear of ending my distance running career. I quickly overcame my fears of open water to participate in triathlons. I figured a 5k is great distance to run.
Now I’m am faced with the fear of no longer cycling on an upright bike. Distance running is becoming a thing of the past. For weeks I have had minimal physical activity, which is my life line. It is easy for people to say take it easy, but not easy when that is all you think you have. The combination or releasing endorphins and socialization at the races keeps me afloat.
As much as I look put together I am still broken, but I am functional. I don’t enjoy wearing my hearing aids, I don’t enjoy my memory lapses, can’t get a grip on my mood swings and heat surges. I don’t enjoy dysphagia, but I do realize now it is not just a part of my injury, but also a part of aging. You gotta deal with it. Not only deal, but live your best life. No one or nothing is perfect. Love your accomplishments along with your shortcomings. Everyone has those whether you have a disability or not.
Today I got up for my all day appointment and my only prayer is that they find out what is wrong with me.
After weeks of tests to find the cause of my headaches and vertigo we may have found an answer. I was in tears telling the Psychaitrist, the Phsyical Therspist and Intern my challenges and mindset without physical activity. I was wanting some way to make activity easier. I explained to them that sitting around over the past few weeks and cancelling races and lounging drove me nuts.
Weeks ago my left eye was inflamed, which was what I was lead to believed caused my headaches. The dizziness I was told was to was vertigo. My eye inflammation and pain has gotten better although my vision in that eye does crazy things at times.
When I explained my symptoms to my spinal cord Dr., who took one look at me. She stood up, walked over to me and placed her cold hands on my shoulders. She began to apply deep pressure; then gave me a massage on my traps and pressed into my scapula. I shuttered from the pain in my head. Although, I have a history of chronic miagraines, this pain seemed far worse. She said your shoulders are almost up to your ears; they are so tight. That’s the problem, muscle tension. Partly from your injury, stress, overuse plus the need for massage and stretching. She showed me how to use the Theracane and sent me off. She said if you want to do marathons walk them, lol. Go get a massage, change your diet and loose some weight unless you want me to give you meds. You got 3 months to get it cracking.
I was relieved, I couldn’t help but think, Oh Happy Accidentversary to me! I thought back in my mind to the many years I became a recluse around the Anniversary of my life changing event. I never thought about how strong I had become until recently. This year is the 4th year that I didn’t feel sorry for myself or want my life back the way it was. I am happy with who I have become, and a lot of my happiness is from the people God has placed in my life. This is my journey, I go wherever He leads me. This journey is one that I must take, much like the journey to finding onesself.