Every traumatic spinal cord injury survivor has a story that began one day when their lives took a tragic turn and led them down a path they never wanted to be on. New CORE client Melissa W.’s story unfolded on August 11, 2008 when she was rendered a quadriplegic in a drunk driving accident at the age of 18. She was the driver.
Fast forward to April 13, 2012 in Heath, Texas where there is a crowd of over 1,200 high school students, parents, school administrators and city officials gathered in a three story auditorium. She wheels out on stage in her power chair and quietly says, “Hey, I’m Melissa.” And, she begins to tell that story. The one of a normal teenage girl, living a normal teenage life and making normal teenage choices. The auditorium is silent as it all sinks in.
For two days they’ve been involved with “Shattered Dreams,” a program developed to deter high school students from drinking and driving. It takes eight months of preparation and includes a mock car accident complete with ambulances, helicopters, police officers, etc… and captures everything from the drunk driver being led away in handcuffs to emergency professionals extracting passengers from the wreckage to mock funerals being held for the victims.
But, Melissa’s story is real. She talks to them openly and with brutal honesty. She is spunky and engaging and they can relate to her because she is just like them. As hard as it is for her at times she keeps going. Because, for Melissa, if she can save one life by sharing her story then she has done what she came all the way from Florida to do. She takes responsibility for her choice that night, and challenges others to alter theirs if they’re ever faced with the dilemma “Do I drink and drive?”
In her speech, Melissa says, “I used to be fearless…” The dictionary defines fearless as “without fear, bold, or brave.” Her seemingly simple statement resonated so deeply with me because in my eyes Melissa is the definition of fearless. She could’ve let the consequences from one night be the end of her story… But, she definitely is not the type to give up with so much life left to live. She’s enrolled in college, participates in countless of hours of grueling physical therapy each week and uses her story as a platform to educate and change the lives of others. That. Is. FEARLESS.
To check out Melissa’s presentation at Shattered Dreams, click here. Believe me, it’s worth it.