“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope has everything.” ~Thomas Carlyle
I grew up in a small town, Maysville, Kentucky, where I led the perfect, sheltered life. After graduating from high school, I pursued higher education at a local community college, and from there transferred to The University of Kentucky in Lexington.
I had an interest in art, music, and media, pursuing a double major in journalism and communications. I dreamed about either working behind the scenes of a television studio, or becoming a certified systems engineer and working for my father’s employer.
Then a week and one day after graduating from college, fate stepped in.
Back home in Maysville, my loving parents thought it would be wise for me to live with my father, who lived in Cincinnati during the week, and work with his company in Information Technology. With my education I could quickly rise up the ranks to management.
Driving back to Lexington, I felt a certain peace come over me, feeling happy with my decision. After my journey, I decided to nap on my couch to relax and prepare for my interviews and this next big adventure.
I started to get a headache that was like none other I’d had before. The pain became excruciating, like an intense sinus headache, but in the back of my head. I got up and ran to the bathroom, got sick, and passed out. My brother who shared the apartment with me came home, found me, and called 911.
An ambulance rushed to my apartment, picked me up, and drove me to the hospital. I was in a coma for three days.
What happened was something called an Arterio-Venous Malformation. In laymen terms, a blood vessel ruptured in my brain, destroying the life I once knew.
Doctors predicted that I would never be able to drive or be independent, and that I would probably never be able to walk again. I was in for the biggest challenge of my life.
What happens after a storm? It’s time to rebuild. I had to rebuild my life.
Three months after my accident, I was released to try to live a normal life. I couldn’t really talk. I didn’t have a job. Doctors recommended that I not pursue work in the field that I chose in college, Broadcast Journalism, to keep my stress levels down.
There was a lot I couldn’t do, but I could focus on my fitness.
With the help of the therapists I began to exercise, slowly but patiently, and over time I got in much better shape. Walking was very strenuous. When I fell down, I’d get frustrated with myself. It felt like my life was over, but I knew I could not give up.
I began walking at a local YMCA and around my local neighborhood. Thirteen years later after my initial trials and tribulations, I am happy to say that I have completed five marathons!
The effect that exercise has on the body is a miracle to behold. Everything that I give to health and fitness returns back to me 100 percent! The endorphins increase my confidence level and make me feel like I can do anything. With the added nutrition which helps my body to heal, we have a win/win situation.
Exercise helps ground me in the present moment, and I see the payoff every time I hit the gym or run on the track. I am alert and conscious of my actions, knowing that doing this exercise will help make me better than I was yesterday. Fitness helps me to appreciate life and never taking anything for granted.
Rehabilitation for me is an ongoing process, a journey. I have found three key ideas that are universal in helping me become the best that I can be.
First is vision.
You must realize where you are going. Nothing starts without a dream. Write down your goals, and then imagine the satisfaction of fulfilling your dreams. I dreamed of living in Southern California. I did just that for two of the best years of my new life.
Living in San Diego was a fun and exciting time. Years before I moved, I imagined smelling the Pacific Ocean breeze and meditating on the beach. I saved up my money to do this by myself and proved that I can do anything!
Second, you must have an innate belief in yourself.
Believe in yourself and mountains will begin to move. I know it can be hard to find strength to stay on track. However, I see the hypertrophy take shape during and after exercise, and I take pride in myself and my success, whether great or small. I know that I accomplished this alone.
Realize you’ve accomplished amazing things, and you can do it again. Never forget that you’re more powerful than you think.
Finally, don’t give up!
Babe Ruth once said, “It is hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Keep striving and keep moving forward.
Shortly after my injury I couldn’t walk. I had to force myself out of bed and try to get my legs moving. With the help of my therapists, slowly but surely, I learned how to walk again. I would never have imagined then that I’d be running marathons now, but I am! I am so happy for my injury because it’s helped me to learn and appreciate life.
This fall I will be attending a community college taking Anatomy/Physiology in hopes of becoming a Physical Therapy Assistant. It’s not what I originally planned, and yet this still feels like the best life I could live.
Life is an exciting roller coaster ride of thrills and spills. We only get this one chance—and regardless of our challenges, we can decide we have everything we need to take care of ourselves and follow our dreams!
Photo by Ed Yourdon