Click Here For Quick Facts
LIVES IN Greensboro, North Carolina
CURRENTLY WORKING AS Community Outreach Manager, also serving as Chairman of Committee Review Board for Dralla Foundation non-profit organization
DEVELOPED FOOT DROP AS A RESULT OF “Perfect storm” of birth defects (Spondylolythesis, Spina Bifida Occulta, Pars Interarticularis defect and Conjoined Nerve Roots) which caused ruptured discs and crushed Peroneal nerve
CURRENTLY WEARS Ypsilon®FLOW ½ for everyday use, ToeOFF® FLOW 2 ½ with GliderKIT™ for light athletic activities, ToeOFF™ 2.0 with ComfortKIT™ for running.
ADVICE I WOULD PASS ALONG: “We all grow up hearing that we are responsible for our actions, but we are equally responsible for our inactions. It is up to us to challenge ourselves to live our best life and not give in to perceived obstacles or negativity.”
FUN FACTS: I love to decorate cookies, I set all my clocks ahead and I once took a year out of college to backpack across the US, Canada and Mexico.
Since childhood I was involved in many sports, including swimming, gymnastics, tennis, and soccer. After college I focused on distance running and ran my first marathon in Chicago of 2001. I qualified for and ran the Boston Marathon. I fell in love with endurance sports, from marathons to triathlons.
Throughout my life I had suffered back pain. I thought this was normal, but one spring evening, in 2004, the pain intensified, and I collapsed on my kitchen floor. Later, the neurosurgeon who operated on me described “a perfect storm” of birth defects, including spina bifida occulta, spondylolisthesis, conjoined nerve roots, and ruptured L3-L4/L4-L5 discs. The neurosurgeon implanted Ray cages, rods, and screws and fused the vertebrae in my lower back in an 8-hour surgery.
Post-surgery I could barely feel nor move my left leg. Doctors said I now had foot drop but said “it may resolve over the next year”. I was fitted with a plastic Ankle Foot Orthosis to keep me from tripping. After 18 months with no improvement, a sad reality began to set in: I was never going to regain the function of my shin, ankle or toes. My orthotists said there was nothing more they could do for me, I would have to wear that “ski boot” (my plastic AFO) for the rest of my life and never run again. The world I knew, the events I loved, seemed wildly unrecognizable. I tried to focus on all the great things around me: my family, career and friends. I told myself, “I should be able to get over this.”
A turning point came one day in Baltimore. I was walking to my sister’s house when I saw two runners heading towards me. I gave a friendly wave. They just stared at me and kept running. They didn’t recognize me as ‘one of them’, I was just someone with an odd gait and clunky brace. When I saw my sister I broke down sobbing; I felt lost and didn’t know how to find myself again. The breakthrough came when she began to cry too, she told me how sad she was for me. That’s the moment I resolved to get my life back. It took many more months but finally I found the Allard ToeOFF® brace—total game changer! Six months after getting that brace, I was standing at the starting line of the Chicago marathon. I broke down in tears and the runner next to me asked if I was okay but I was only able to say, “It’s a long story.”
I’ve now run many races since receiving my Allard brace—including 6 more “Boston’s”—but there’s a new focus for me now. I dedicate my time to helping others find their own quality of life. No one should have to lose their identity because of a disability or be told they can no longer do what they love: there are so many ways to Get Back UP.