Southeastern Chapter member Twila Adams wanted to join the Army, travel, live abroad, and complete college. So she served in the Army from 1980 to 1991, where she was involved in Desert Shield and Desert Storm operations in Kuwait and Iraq. She ended her career as a sergeant, and returned to her hometown of Charlotte, NC, where she started a business providing mobile manicures, pedicures, and Reiki to the sick, elderly, and disabled who were unable to get out.
But three years after she returned home, another driver ran a red light and caused an accident that left Twila a quadriplegic. Initially she was only able to move her mouth and eyes, and her doctors told her she would never walk or care for herself again. She remained determined that she would improve, despite her prognosis.
“My parents raised me to believe the impossible, and that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. Being told that I couldn’t do something made me more determined to at least try. I knew the hard work was really going to be on me.”
She drew upon her inner strength, her faith, and a supportive circle of friends and family, and put in the hard work necessary to improve. She was skeptical when a recreational therapist introduced her to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in 2002, but it changed her life. Twila witnessed a wide range of sports available to her, which encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone. She was immediately excited.
“I saw about 600 athletes from all over doing things that I never imagined could be part of my life. I used to say that my accident happened to me; but after getting introduced to the Wheelchair Games, I say it happened for me. It changed my life.”
She was so grateful to find the Wheelchair Games, she became an advocate for PVA and eventually served on the board of the Southeastern PVA in 2008 and 2010.
“When I hear ‘Paralyzed Veterans of America’ I think of I think of progress. Of course I think of the Wheelchair Games, but I also think of policies, advocacy, and legislation. PVA reaches a lot of people and helps them understand that life can be really good regardless of the circumstances they’re living with.”
Twila has attended the Games for years, competing in sports like billiards, trap shooting, field events, bowling, boccia, power lifting, and tennis. In 2002, she was the first woman to win the Sportsmanship Award at the PVA National Trap Shoot Competition. In 2019, she won the prestigious Spirit of the Games Award, given to the athlete who exemplifies the heart and soul of the Games through leadership, encouragement, and a never-give-up attitude.
Today, she can walk briefly by kind of wobbling and dragging her foot. She says she can’t feel a lot, but she has chronic pain from the neck down, as well as intense burning and pain in her hands, legs, and feet. And even with the right attitude, some days are difficult; but she makes the choice to stay in the right frame of mind.
She wants to impact others as a Paralyzed Veterans advocate by sharing hope with those who feel hopeless. She also wants to stay active not only for herself, but so she can inspire others the same way she was inspired at that very first Wheelchair Games. She says that exercise and competing improves her emotions, allowing her to connect with people who know what she is going through and giving them opportunities to support each other.
“I’m reminded that I’m not doing this for me; I’m doing this for someone else. When others see me in my chair, they’ve going back to tell their loved ones about what I can do. If I can inspire the novices and share a little bit of hope, then my injury is not in vain.”