HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Author Tricia Downing delivered an inspiring presentation at Wallace State Community College recently as she was welcomed to campus in conjunction with the annual Common Read initiative.
Downing was an avid cyclist, competing in prestigious events across the U.S., when her life was altered in 2000. She was hit by a motorist as she was riding her bicycle in Colorado, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
In the years since, Downing has made sure that accident didn’t define her. She authored “Cycle of Hope: A Journey from Paralysis to Possibility,” which is serving as Wallace State’s Common Read during the 2017-2018 academic year. For the third year in a row, Wallace State had the privilege of hosting the Common Read author as Downing spoke in front of students, employees and community members at the Betty Leeth Haynes Theatre.
“The truth of it is when you get hit by a car and become paralyzed, everything changes. People look at you differently because you have a disability. It can make you feel not as valuable as a person,” Downing said. “I’ve learned that when things change, you have to change the way you deal with them. Things are always going to change in your life and you never know what’s going to happen at each turn. As a result of my injury and disability, I started to see my life differently and challenges differently, and I pushed myself harder than I had ever done.”
While overcoming the accident, Downing said one of the most advantageous aspects for her was having a strong support system, including those who served as mentors, coaches, cheerleaders and challenges.
“Some of the best coaches I had were the physical therapists or the occupational therapists I encountered at the hospital to teach me different things as I prepared for this change in my life,” Downing said. “Cheerleaders are those people you can turn to as friends as you go through changes and challenges at Wallace State. Your challengers aren’t your adversaries. They are here to help you strive to be a better person.
“Having a support system is important and one of the things that helped me get through this accident.”
Many of the students in attendance were from Wallace State’s Health Division programs and interested about the professionals who helped Downing during her recovery.
“No matter what part of the medical field you are in, remember you are dealing with a person and their life has just been turned upside down. You are there to diagnose and you can also provide hope. If you can do that as a medical professional, I think that’s the greatest gift you can give a patient,” Downing said.
Downing also stressed the importance of having discipline as one pursues goals and dreams. Her components of discipline include working hard every day, staying patient and not giving up. Downing believes another attribute that helped after her accident was a tough mental edge she had previously developed as an athlete.
Downing hasn’t stopped competing. She’s successfully participated in recent Ironman triathlons, marathons and duathlons and competed last summer at the Rio Paralympic Games. She’s also tours the county as a motivational speaker and is in the process of wrapping up two more books.
“There’s always more than one way to achieve your goals and you can still live your life as a best-selling novel, even if bad things happen. Through the good times and the bad, keep moving forward, believe in yourself, push past your comfort zone and you’ll ultimately succeed,” Downing said.
Time was allotted for Downing to answer questions from the audience and she signed copies of her book for those interested. The event was sponsored by the Common Read Committee and Wallace State Learning Community classes.
“It felt the event was a great success. Tricia is such a great person, and I could tell the students were engaged with her presentation and really enjoyed hearing about her life and the accomplishments that she has made since her accident. She had great advice to give them on overcoming adversity,” said Wallace State’s Hallie Christensen, chair of the Common Read Committee and the college’s library assistant and English adjunct instructor. “Afterwards, I saw many students lined up for autographs and overheard some tell her what an inspiration she was to them and then give her a big hug. It was wonderful! We had many health program students in attendance and they had questions for her on patient care and her experiences in the hospital. Her book definitely reached out to many of our students and health programs that we have at Wallace and we were blessed by her visit to campus.”
For more information about Wallace State, visit www.wallacestate.edu.
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