TRAVELLING over 4,000 miles from her home town in Northern Ireland to Project Walk in Longwood, Orlando, bubbly Jennifer Smyth is on an epic journey, not to accumulate the rich life experiences of adventurous travel, but rather to regain her legs – the use of which she lost in a catastrophic gymnastic accident almost three years ago.
She explained: “Ever since I was a little girl I have been consumed by gymnastics and have devoted myself to the discipline of athletes, always pushing myself to be the best I can be. I don’t know any other way to live. The accident happened on a Tuesday evening after school, I was on my last vault before moving to the next event, and when I landed I just couldn’t move.
“That was it, no fanfare, no bright lights, just the beginning of this chapter of my life. I broke my neck. From that point on, the NHS took over and I began a series of operations to stabilise and rebuild me.
“But even though my doctors said I was quadriplegic, I have never considered giving up hope. I am totally focussed on walking again, and have already made amazing progress towards that goal.
“To attend Project Walk has been my dream, since I first heard about it. But this is not just about me. My whole community in Northern Ireland have a stake in sending me here, as they have worked tirelessly to fundraise to ensure we could afford to make the journey. Now that I am here, every step I take is for them, to say thanks for getting me to this point, thanks for this opportunity to regain my legs.”
Jennifer’s mum, Pamela Smyth added: “We’ve been here for two weeks, and already Jennifer is making progress. She is a wonderful daughter, and has an amazing attitude to whatever life throws at her. She was hoping to come to Project Walk last summer, but due to major abdominal surgery in London as a consequence of her accident, was not well enough to travel.
“But now she is here she is embracing this opportunity and surprising everyone with her sheer guts and determination to succeed in her aim.
“Everyone is delighted with her progress, and she keeps the tightknit community in Northern Ireland and further afield updated through social media, publishing a video blog of her achievements.
“She has not let the accident stop her in pursuing her ambitions, and following this trip is going to university in Birmingham, England to study for three years for a degree in 3D design.”
But, even though Jennifer is surrounded by friends and family, there is someone missing. Jennifer’s father David has been a stalwart in Jennifer’s fight back to full health. He has been there for her throughout, and most poignantly was a key fundraiser towards the trip and was really looking forward to Orlando, to support Jennifer in her journey.
However on Easter Sunday this year, David (51) suffered a devastating cardiac arrest and passed away suddenly. The family are still in shock, but are determined to help Jennifer achieve her goal in memory of her daddy.
You can view Jennifer’s social media accounts here:
About Project Walk Orlando
Project Walk Orlando is a nonprofit organization established to help those suffering with a spinal cord injury (SCI) improve their daily living – by regaining function and perhaps, even walking again. Their program is modeled after the highly successful Project Walk® in Carlsbad, California, using Project Walk’s® specialized, aggressive and comprehensive exercise-based program. This is a proven methodology for SCI recovery and extends the program’s reach and affordability to the southeastern United States, Florida residents and beyond.