Most of you know me but here's a little background: I grew up in Hawaii and water has been my refuge since I was a 5th grader. It remains my refuge but not just for sport any longer. After a 20 year career in EMS, I woke up after a terrible accident to find teeth missing, my face practically cut in half and unable to move my legs. I pressed the call button and insisted that the nurse get a doctor to tell me how he was going to fix this – take care of this, we have to fix this only to gradually understand that was not going to happen. During my rehab, I was placed in the pool and immediately felt that same communion with the water that I had always felt since I was a kid. It became my most important coping mechanism allowing me to regain my strength and independence as well as my desire to rebuild my life. I realized I could ride in a truck as an EMS anymore so I went to nursing school. Nothing came easy as I was turned down at University of Hawaii – they said they couldn’t make an exception for a paraplegic in the program but I didn’t want to be an exception, I just wanted a chance. I applied to Hawaii Pacific University where I was fitted with an electric stand up chair to help me complete my pediatrics rounds “you have to be able to work with the infants in the incubators; you have to be able to hold babies”. I graduated with a Persistence Award as one of the few, if not the first, paraplegic nurses in the country.
Today, I’m an Advice Nurse at the SF VA Medical Center – I love my job and I still love to race. I was fitted with a one of a kind canoe with a special chair, strapping system and balancing mechanism fashioned from a small surf board attached to the outrigger canoe I race. I train and coach with the Benicia Outrigger Canoe Club racing with and against both disabled and able bodied competitors. I placed 3rd in the 2012 Nationals, 1st in the 2013 100 Relay, a two man, 100 mile race down the Sacramento River as the only disabled athlete. I placed 1st in the Angel Island 2 man canoe race, again as the only disabled athlete. I took 1st place in 2014 Lake Placid trials allowing me to represent the United States in the 2014 ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Moscow and thanks to all of YOU, I got there last year.
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