Mar 5, 2021
Keeping our 10 years celebration stories going, we’d like to introduce Melissa V. Her lead trainer, Annie, says that Melissa’s sassy, competitive attitude has helped push her to do her best each and every day. “She may not always love the exercises we suggest, but she is willing to try everything once,” says Annie. It is that willingness to try anything once that led Melissa to where she is today in her recovery.
Melissa worked in the equestrian field as an instructor, trainer, and rider until a fall from a horse in July 2015 left her with broken vertebrae T3 and T4 and a subluxated spinal column. In this small world that we live in, some of Melissa’s contacts in the horse world knew Matt Davies and his wife Melodie, the founders of CORE. In an even greater coincidence, one of the EMTs that arrived on scene after Melissa’s fall was married to CORE’s director at the time.
While completing inpatient rehabilitation, Melissa’s family took a tour of CORE. Some time passed and she moved on to outpatient therapy. It was during those six months of outpatient therapy that Melissa says she allowed the self-pity to kick in. “I decided the best way to get out of the funk was to take the focus off of me, which is difficult when life does a 180,” she says. Instead of wallowing, she began looking for ways to get more familiar with the spinal cord injury community in Orlando, and was reminded of CORE. She took a tour for herself and decided this was something that she needed to do.
“Although I took each day as it came, I found I had a lot more anxiety than before the fall,” she says. Melissa had always been independent and physically active, and found her new situation quite frustrating. She said her biggest fear was during hurricanes. She questioned whether or not she could quickly escape danger, if she should go to a shelter, and if she did go to a shelter, how would she handle an environment not set up for her specific needs? More anxiety set in when a medical professional told Melissa that paralyzed muscles could not be reactivated or engaged. The information was disheartening and led to a six month period of hopelessness. That was the point where she knew she needed to get moving. “If I didn’t try, it was a sure thing the muscles wouldn’t improve.”
It’s been five and half years since Melissa’s injury, and she’s taken a lot of time to get involved and get to know others in the spinal cord injury community. “Seeing how they overcome or adapt to their level of ability and watching people progress at CORE is what motivates me,” she says. “The body and mind are incredible creations, and are capable of so much more than we realize.”
Melissa has found her calling and purpose in doing what she can to help others in similar situations. She got involved with a spinal cord injury group and is now on the board of the Greater Orlando Spinal Cord Injury Network. Her injury also awakened her faith, which provides her with a sense of comfort and strength.
Melissa’s time at CORE made much more of an impact on her mental health than she thought it would. “Physical exercise obviously contributes to that,” she explained, “but the supportive atmosphere that the CORE team creates: the opportunity to try different things, the events, activities, programs…the team is always pushing for better ways to succeed.” Melissa has woven herself into what she calls a “familial atmosphere” as a member of CORE FIT, always being present at events and different fitness challenges.
“I have not made quick progress, but I have made steady progress. There are many things I don’t want to do, or am resistant to doing. I try to keep the whining to a minimum and just do my best. I am convinced that exercise is just as important, if not more so, to a person with a spinal cord injury as to an able-bodied person. So my advice is to take it slow, do it to your ability at the present moment, do it consistently, most importantly keep moving!”