In the last weekend of summer before my sophomore year of high school, I went to Lake Gaston, Virginia, with 3 of my friends. We had a lot of fun driving 2 jet skis across the lake, until a collision caused the second jet ski to land on top of me and my partner, Mark. We were rushed to the hospital and Mark was declared dead on arrival.
I was not far behind him. They were certain that I sustained a traumatic brain injury and a spinal injury. They were also certain I wouldn’t survive. When I did, they told my parents I would never breathe independently, talk, swallow, I would be a vegetable, and a long list of possibilities.
Alongside physical challenges, I endured the emotional burden of a new paralyzed body. Socially, I struggled to fit in with my peers during an already difficult time of being a teenager. My faith was tested more than I would have ever wished it to be.
I knew and loved God before my accident, but I also had had an easy and trouble-free life. After the accident, my faith became real. Because of our immaturity and the intensity of my accident, I lost a lot of friends during my initial recovery. I had to really dig deep in myself to find a motivation for survival and a meaning for my story.
When they told me I won’t walk again, I started the long journey to prove them wrong. I’ve traveled the country for rehab and have never given up since then. I’ve regained a relatively long list of movement in my legs and feet, and some feelings are still returning to me. I never have and never will give up on my dream of independently walking.
In the meantime, I’m making the best of my time in paralysis. I have completed 7 marathons (#8's in November), tried every adaptive sport available to me, and am a Team USA hopeful for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics for Wheelchair Fencing. (Picture is from USA Paralympic Training Camp in Colorado. Prayers please!)
I’m deeply involved in the RVA (Richmond, Virginia) community, and I have published 2 books with a 3rd on the way. (Excerpt on my website!) I was able to graduate from high school and college on time, and I’ve gotten a job.