Retired Captain Karen Atkinson, US Army
Karen joined the Army Reserves while still in High School at age 17, anxious to start saving money for college and see the world. What she found was a wonderful career that took her through college and law school, providing rewarding service first as a hospital administrator, then after completing law school as a J.A.G. officer. Her key role was assisting other National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers preparing to deploy; the many legal aspects of handling their lives while leaving to serve abroad. At times she was deployed, such as during Desert Storm, working in a hospital providing care to soldiers, then later to assist deployed military personnel handle legal issues back home.
After retiring from the military, she was in a car accident that changed her life. A driver swerved into her lane, causing her to move into the shoulder trying to avoid a collision. She hit a patch of gravel and lost control. The vehicle rolled, causing her injuries; an incomplete spinal cord injury at her T-12 vertebrae. Recovery has been a long and drawn-out effort. However, she is not deterred and is thrilled she still sees improvement years after her injury. She can stand and transfer to her car, chairs, etc. however she does not have the ability to walk. She relies on a wheelchair for mobility.
She wanted to continue working after her injury, however the pain was quite life-altering, and fighting through the winters in Iowa with her changed mobility made for challenging travel. Her mother convinced her to move to Florida for better access to health care and fairer weather.
Since her accident, the water has been her main source of joy and therapy, and she continues to gain strength and muscle tone. After moving to Florida, she found Warrior Sailing, and has enjoyed getting more outdoors, meeting new peopleand finding new ways to be active. Now she is ready to take on scuba diving, with her son ready and willing to be her adaptive dive buddy.