Episode 76: Victoria Arlen
Victoria Arlen's life drastically changed in 2006 at the tender age of eleven when she developed two rare conditions known as Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis. This was an incredibly rare scenario and Victoria quickly lost the ability to speak, eat, walk and move. She slipped into a vegetative state in which doctors had written her off as a lost cause. Victoria spent nearly four years “locked” inside her own body completely aware of what was going on just unable to move or communicate. Doctors believed there was little hope of survival and recovery was unlikely. Victoria, however was not ready to give up. In 2010 after almost four years she began the nearly impossible fight back to life. Learning how to speak, eat and move all over again.
Victoria went on to exceedingly defy the odds and not only recovered but has since become an accomplished Motivational Speaker, Television Host and Swimmer. Her swimming resume includes three Silvers and a Gold medal from the London 2012 Paralympic Games as well as multiple World, American and Pan American Records.
In April 2015, Victoria made the transition from professional athlete to sportscaster and joined ESPN as one of the youngest on air talents hired by the company and reports and hosts across all platforms. In the Spring of 2016 Victoria defied yet another odd and after spending nearly a decade in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down was able to learn how take one step after another and eventually not only did she learn how to walk but within a year and a half in the Fall of 2017 she learned to dance as a contestant on Season 25 of Dancing with the Stars. Victoria and her dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy quickly became fan favorites.
Victoria is also carrying out her dream of helping others, serving as the Founder and Co-Chair of Victoria's Victory Foundation, a nonprofit that assists those with mobility challenges to achieve their own personal victory.
Victoria’s book titled Locked In hit stores worldwide in August of 2018. In July of 2019 in addition to her ESPN duties, Victoria was announced as the new host of America Ninja Warrior Jr, Season 2 which launched in February 2020.
In the last year Victoria has branched into more creative spaces in both acting, producing, fashion and hosting with a variety of projects currently in the works.
Victoria has become world famous not only for her story and accomplishments but for her message: “Face It, Embrace It, Defy It, Conquer It.” ™
Karen Ortman 00:37
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to You Matter!, a podcast created to teach, inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion and to identify resources both on and off campus that can help. I am your host, Karen Ortman, Associate Vice President of campus safety operations at the Department of Campus Safety, and a retired law enforcement professional. Today I welcome Victoria Arlen. Victoria is a television personality for ESPN. She's an actress, speaker, model, and former American Paralympian swimmer. Victoria his life drastically changed in 2006 at the age of 11, when she developed two rare conditions, known as transverse myelitis, and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis. This was an incredibly rare scenario. And Victoria quickly lost the ability to speak, eat, walk and move. She slipped into a vegetative state and which doctors had written her off as a lost cause. Victoria spent nearly four years locked inside her own body, completely aware of what was going on, just unable to move or communicate. Doctors believed there was little hope of survival and recovery was unlikely. Victoria, however, was not ready to give up. And in 2010, after almost four years, she began the nearly impossible fight back to life, learning how to speak, eat, move all over again. Victoria, welcome to You Matter.
Thank you for having me.
Karen Ortman 02:13
What a story. I'm so honored that you are willing to come and and share your story with our listeners. It's miraculous. So thank you.
Thank you. I'm very honored to be on your show.
Karen Ortman 02:31
So tell me about your childhood in New Hampshire. Prior to the age of 11.
Yeah, I mean, my childhood was pretty typical. I'm one of four. So I've three brothers. And I really just played every sport imaginable to keep up with the boys and I had no health issues. I mean, I was probably one of the healthiest kids by definition you would ever meet. I think I would go to the doctor once a year for, you know, my annual checkup. And so yeah, I mean, there I was probably the least the least likely to ever, ever even imagine this happening to.
Karen Ortman 03:09
And you are a triplet.
I am a triplet. Yes.
Karen Ortman 03:13
That's pretty cool.
Yeah. Where's your girl? It was buy one get two free at the nursery.
Karen Ortman 03:20
God bless your mother. Let's turn your attention to April of 2006. What What is significant about April 2006.
Um, April 2006, was when my life definitely changed. But I had been I had been having weird symptoms, months and months leading up to this. I feel like April was kind of the catalyst of all of that. But really, it started in the end of 2005, where I just started getting sick every other week, I would get the flu, I got pneumonia, I had asthma, I would have these fainting spells, and no one could figure out what was wrong because I would bounce back so quickly. So I'd be sick as a dog, you know, for five days. And then day six. I'm like, Okay, I'm good. I'm going back to school, and I was fine. But it was like, every, every other week, there was something my mom was like, it's like the stars are misaligning but I was doing well in school. I was doing well in sports. So there wasn't enough, you know, that was holding me back to think that this could all be related to something so my immune system was definitely deteriorating, unbeknownst to all of us and so April, I started we were on a family vacation, and I started having like flu like symptoms, and we were coming home and and I remember just telling my mom like something doesn't feel right. Like I just don't feel I don't feel right, but like I didn't, I wasn't throwing up I didn't have the sniffles, but I just something felt off. And the April 29, I woke up with just debilitating pain on my right side. And that was really kind of the start and things very quickly declined from there.
Karen Ortman 05:03
Up to this point. You said that you had been feeling unwell for months. Did it ever? Did it ever feel like doctors were sort of dismissive? Like you it's all in your head? Or were you taken seriously?
Yeah, I think not before I think before it was just like, Oh, she's got really bad pneumonia. Oh, she has a really she has the flu really badly or she has asthma. You know, or Oh, she's, you know, fainting, and no one no one thought I mean, they I was just ill, I would have like a 104 degree like temperature. And then I'd rake in, I'd be fine. And so I don't think anyone was ever dismissive because like, when I went into the doctor, I was like, so what? When can I go to school and they're like, you have 104 degree temperature, like you're not going to school any time soon. So they weren't dismissive until until I started experiencing the pain on my right side. And then they initially took out my appendix and then all the symptoms that kind of followed, they were kind of dismissing like, okay, maybe you're doing this for attention, or maybe it didn't make sense. So it was it was kind of after one when things were really serious and really bad was when doctors kind of royally messed up.
Karen Ortman 06:14
In in April 2006, you were 11? So you thought you had appendicitis. And really, this is sort of when your health went into a tailspin?
Yeah, yeah. After the surgery, because they thought my appendix looked questionable. So after that, and I presented with all the symptoms, after surgery was when everything declined very quickly. So the surgery was kind of the match that set off the fire.
Karen Ortman 06:43
Sure. And you lost a lot of weight. You lost the use of your legs, you became frail, doctors had no idea what was happening. And instead of sending you to maybe a neurologist, you were sent to psychiatrists.
Yeah, yeah. And that. And what we found out later was that was like the crucial treatment window for the for the two conditions I hadand because instead of sending me into neurologists, they said they kept giving psych evaluations, then they actually missed what could have all been prevented.
Karen Ortman 07:21
How long after the onset of the disease, the combination of the two viruses that attacked you, like a freight train, were they discovered?
So the transverse myelitis, which affected my spine, that was discovered three years in. And so the the two week treatment window was gone. And the encephalomyelitis, the acute disseminated encephalomyelitis was actually not diagnosed until 2013. And that was, no one could tell, they knew there was some encephalitis of sorts, but no one could figure it out. And the problem was back in 2006, both of those conditions, were not well known. We're not talked about I mean, now you present with those symptoms, you're airlifted to a neuro unit, and you're put on high dose steroids, you're put on all these therapies and modalities, but back in 2006, it was the worst possible timing to be diagnosed with these conditions, because they really did not know anything about it. And so we found out later on, when I went to a specialist, that what, what everything was, so for the longest time, we didn't have all the pieces of the puzzle put together. But that's also when we found out that it all could have been prevented by a round of steroids.
Karen Ortman 08:45
And we're gonna get into the all that we're even referring to, because there's a lot that happened from April 2006, forward. At some point, you fall into a vegetative state. Yes. Do you recall that decline,
I remember, kind of every day losing a little bit more, a little bit more, a little bit more. And then my speech was the last to go. So all my fine motor skills went, I was incredibly weak, I had really I had a really hard time even holding my head up. But once my speech started to go, that's when I remember and I remember having this horrible headache, this absolutely horrible headache. And then I kind of, don't remember a period of time after that. And then I kind of wake up and I'm locked in. And I have no idea how much time has passed. I have no idea that people can't hear me because I think I'm talking clear as day in my mind. So I remember it very, very vividly. And then it kind of goes dark for a bit. And then and then I come to but I'm trapped.
Karen Ortman 09:50
You mentioned locked in what is the meaning of locked in.
So locked in is actually a condition in which your body your whole body is completely disconnected. So you can hear, you can think you can see, but people don't know that you can. So at the time, you know, doctors had written me off as a lost cause, told my parents, you know, she's not gonna make it. And if she does make it the Victoria, you knew is not coming back. She's not coming back. And, and so I think the the combination of all the above and then locked in is basically like, you can't tell them that you're in there. And so I was completely aware, like I knew who I was, you know, my name, and I knew everything I'd retained that there was no, there was nothing missing, except the fact that I couldn't move my eyes on demand or move anything or communicate. So literally locked in.
Karen Ortman 10:45
Yeah. So for those who are looking at you, you're in a bed.
Karen Ortman 10:55
Your non responsive, to any communication to touch to any means by which to communicate with you or to listen to to verify that you're in there and aware of what's going on. How much time did you did you lose where you recall nothing. And then became aware that you were locked in?
I think about probably about a year and a half, maybe a year? So I didn't I mean, I thought it was still 2006 it wasn't I think it was 2008. It was the end of 2006 that I slipped into it. And it was about I don't I'm so bad with timelines. But I think it's about it was about a year and a half that I don't really recall it. I kind of call my my darkness period.
Karen Ortman 11:54
What do you recall as your first recollection, of awareness that you were in fact locked in? And there were people around you? Were there conversations you recall? Was there just the presence of loved ones that you recall?
Yeah. I remember trying to call out to my mom and being like, what's going on? Like, why isn't my head hurt? Where am I like, why? And? And I'm like, okay, she's not responding, like, am I not talking loud enough? And I was like, hey, hey, and she didn't respond. And then the doctors kind of came in, and they were talking over me, not to me. And so like, that's weird. And then. And then someone had said the date and I didn't, I didn't realize all that time had gone by and then it just kind of,
Karen Ortman 12:42
Yeah. unraveled. Were you in the hospital this entire two year period?
No, I was in and out of the hospital. When I was stable my parents had a hospital room at our at our house.
Karen Ortman 12:54
Do you recall what the conversations were with respect to your prognosis when doctors were speaking? Not to you but to other medical professionals or to your parents?
Yeah, it was basically that she's not going to make it and if she does make it, she won't, she won't. She will never come back.
Karen Ortman 13:14
Wow. How did you feel when you heard that?
Um, I was like, What are you talking about? I'm right here. And then I just got feisty. And I was like, I'll show you and I really kind of at first I was very confused. So like, but I'm here like, I, I know who you are, I know who I am, like I have. So I think I just started to shift my perspective and realize like, okay, I need to change my mindset here and try to focus on the fact that I'm here I have my brain, you know, they don't know that I'm still in here. And so how do I get out of here?
Karen Ortman 13:50
Were you scared?
Um, a few times? Yeah, a few times. But then I think faith and fear can't be in the same sentence. So I really leaned into my faith and leaned into the fact that okay, maybe things could get better. And maybe there, there is such a thing as a miracle. And so for me, I, I tended to lean towards that, because if I got if I got scared and let that fear creep in, it would really take over.
Karen Ortman 14:20
Tell me about breaking out of being locked in. How did that process happen?
So I got control of my eyes back and basically started blinking and tracking and moving my eyes and my mom realized that I was like, focusing in on her and before my eyes were just fixed and so they weren't, they wouldn't focus at all. And, and she kind of came over to me and she could tell you know, my eyes were locked in on hers. And she was just like, if you can hear me can you blink and I just kept blinking and and then she was like, Oh, you blink twice. Okay, blink one. Blink blink three times. And then it just kind of started started from there. And then very quickly, very quickly, I started kind of a very slow, but steady climb back.
Karen Ortman 15:11
That is just unbelievable.
Karen Ortman 15:15
It is. And let me just mention your your story in detail is in your book called Locked In which, you know, for any listener who wants to really have an understanding of what Victoria went through, and, and the details of her miraculous recovery, really need to check out the book, but I, yeah, I just I'm just really impressed with your, your fight. And your, your, your stamina and your just resilience. There's nothing that people can't accomplish when you hear a story like yours. Let's go back to when you were in the the hospitals, or in a medical setting, whether it was a hospital or maybe rehabilitation center? Not sure, but you said in a previous interview that you wouldn't believe how doctors and nurses treat you when they think that you're gone.
Karen Ortman 16:23
What What does that mean? Can you describe how you were treated?
Yeah, I mean, I'll put it, I'll put it. I'll put it bluntly, like I was terribly physically and emotionally abused at these rehab hospitals. And, and these nurses, I mean, I think they treat animals better than they treated me and other patients there as well, and put on a facade when your family was there. But wow, you know, they left or when they weren't there, you know, it was like, it was a living hell. And so I, you know, I mean, there were some great nurses and doctors, there's a lot of bad ones. And I think, when you're labeled, like labeled this lost cause or whatever label you're given, it really opens up unfortunately, the door to to people, you know, harming harming people who can't fight back, you know, you're completely helpless. And yeah, I mean, I think if you were to, if you if you were to, you know, treat a dog like that you would call it animal abuse. It was it was horrific. And so, yeah, I mean, it was it was awful. And, and, and it's like, so interesting, because, you know, one one hospital in particular, that was horrific. Like when I got out of it, and when I got home, they were like calling and sending, you know, things for donations and things for and I like tore up the paper. And I finally like said, I was like, I was like this place is one of the worst places in the world. Like,
Karen Ortman 17:55
That is so disturbing. Wow.
Yeah, it was horrific.
Karen Ortman 17:59
Did you ever pursue an investigation regarding the abuse?
Yeah, I mean, there was one hospital, which was Crotchet mountain in New Hampshire, I actually went and spoke with them and, and sat down with them. And I was like, it's pretty bad that my first words back to my family where they hurt me, and helped me because of the how horrific their staff was, and, and there was actually a big investigation that was going on, because there was a lot of people that were coming forward with similar stories. And so I think that there was a broader thing, but I went there first to be like, hey, you need to change this. They didn't do anything. They literally didn't do anything. And then a year later, all these families came forward, accusing this hospital of horrific treatment and stuff. And I was like, did they not listen to anything? I said, I gave them an opportunity. I could have had a very, you know, a very, a very intense investigation brought on and and and they and malpractice and abuse and all these things. And I chose to try to take the high road to to try to say like, hey, can you you can make this difference. And, and they didn't, and then all these families with even worse stories than mine, you know, came forward. And so it's like, it was very disheartening to see that they didn't even they even try.
Karen Ortman 19:23
That it's really disturbing. I'm sorry to hear that. So by 2010, you're communicating more with your mom. She recognizes your blinks on demand, which is very cool. And at some point, you progress even further. You start swimming again, and I know you were swimming prior to the onset of the viruses. And in June of 2012, you are participating in the Paralympic US swimming trials.
Karen Ortman 19:59
Very quick turnaround, yeah
Karen Ortman 20:01
How did that happen?
Um, I, you know, I always wanted to be be an Olympian and be on Team USA. I didn't know the journey that would take me there. But in the summer of 2010, as I was like, in the midst of rehab and getting ready to go back to school and kind of coming back into life, my triplet brothers decided that they would they that I should start swimming again. And I was like, No, no, no, I'm terrified of the water, I can barely hold my head up, like I'm not going in the pool. And they grabbed a life jacket, grabbed my arms, grabbed my legs and threw me in the water. And basically, you know, I held on for dear life, and they just kind of slowly but surely everyday would put me in the water. And I kind of got my legs, it's very different when your legs don't work to swim. Yeah, especially how I used to swim. So I really had to be patient with myself. And then I found such a refuge in the water, because it into my legs, I didn't need a wheelchair, I didn't need help, you know, I could just be I could just like be like everyone else for a few minutes. And so then I just started kind of incorporating it into my rehab and getting stronger and stronger. And the Paralympic circuit really didn't get on my mind til a year later, you know, 2011 and I had coach after coach after coach just laugh at this like crazy dream of trying to make the London squad and, and and then I found my coach, John Ogden, who is like, that's great. You want to make the team but if I'm going to train you, our goal isn't just going to be to make the team it's going to be to win a gold medal. And I was like, What? He was like, oh, okay, you're funny. I was like, I was set. I was like, 100th in the world. Like, I wasn't even close. I was like, sure. Whatever you say goes, Hey, if you show up, I'll show up. And I was like, all right. And yeah, I mean, within the first first month and a half of training with him, I broke my first world record. And then we were at trials, I broke a few more and then I made the team. And yeah, then I ended up in in London almost two years, the day of my brothers throwing me in the water.
Karen Ortman 22:06
How did your parents feel about your brother's throwing it throwing you in the water back then?
I mean, they knew I was safe. They knew the boys would do do nothing to hurt me. And I think they, you know, they were like, Alright, we trust them. Like, obviously, like we trust them. But they also wanted I think they were like they saw what they were they were trying to do, which they were trying to show me that, you know, yes, I'm scared. Yes, it's going to be different. Yes, I'm weak, but like, I can still do this. And I think that's one thing about my brothers and my and my parents as well. But but brothers especially like, they just never let me, never let me feel like I couldn't do something. But there that was trying to push my wheelchair again, whether that was going back to school or going in the water, we would go places and they would think nothing to just throw my chair in the back and pick me up and let's go and, and so I never skipped a beat. And so I think with that they they were like, alright, you can do this, like we're gonna throw you in, but we're not gonna let go of you. Like, we're gonna help you through this. And so I think they were my parents were super supportive of that because they knew it was all it was in love. They weren't throwing me to, to be like, alright, let's throw in the water. They were like it was it was like we they knew how much joy it brought me before I got sick, that they wanted me to find that joy again.
Karen Ortman 23:25
And I'm sure they're very honored to have participated in your outcome in the Olympics. I'm sure that they share a part of your gold and your silver. And your silver medals. Yeah, I'm sure in your parents as well. So you were in a wheelchair for a long time? 10 years?
Yeah. 10 years.
Karen Ortman 23:45
And suffice it to say you're no longer. I don't expect any listener would think that you're in a wheelchair today, given everything that you have accomplished in an overcome in, you know, the last 1012 years. But you were in a wheelchair for 10 years. And you are no longer in a wheelchair.
No, it'll be it'll be five years that I've been walking this April.
Karen Ortman 24:13
And and how did that happen?
Um, so I come from a family who does not accept, you know, accept the accepts you know, the prognosis. They accept the diagnosis, but not the prognosis. And so, even throughout this entire ordeal when doctors were like saying, you should put her away in a special care facility, move on, my parents were like, no, we're gonna love her. We're gonna believe in a miracle and we're gonna take care of her like she's our child. And when I came out of it, I was grasping being in a wheelchair and it was very challenging. And kids were not nice at school. You know, it's the new kid in a wheelchair. And I really struggled with that in my family. My parents were like, we promise you we will do everything we can to help you get back everything that was taken away from you every day. Everything. And the last thing really was walking. And we discovered in 2013, this Paralysis Recovery Center, based on activity based therapy out in California. And when we're there, we're like, Okay, this seems like really legit. But obviously, we can't live out here forever, and it's not gonna be an overnight thing. And my mom had, you know, after we were born and stuff was a stay at home mom and my dad traveled a lot for work. And so she was kind of at a point in her life, where we all were new off to college, and kind of doing our things that she wanted, she she was ready for her, you know, for her her time, you know, and, and she's always wanted to help people. And so we were out there, and we were talking to one of the, the folks who kind of was a part of the, the executive group, and we're like, what are like, where, you know, why isn't there not more facilities like that? Why is there why are people just given a wheelchair and sent on their way? And they're like, Well, you know, we're trying to, you know, people need to know about this and stuff. And so my mom just had this epiphany where she was like, Oh, my gosh, like, we should open our own facility. And we should create it, we should create a healing space on the East Coast, because there isn't anything there. And so we but we had prior to that had gone to an expert in my in my condition. And and we asked, you know, just on a Manuel's, like, what are the chances like walk again, he goes, honestly, like very slim, and he goes slim to none unless, you know, years from now, there's breakthroughs in medical, and different medical breakthroughs and stuff. And he's like, honestly, I wouldn't mortgage the house trying to trying to go after this. And so my mom, when she got this epiphany, she calls my dad and she was like, hon, I really feel like we need to do we need to do this, we need to create a space, a wellness space and a space where Victoria could get, you know, this type of treatment, but other people and other families like ours could find hope again, find you know, find a place this could be kind of our, our give back to other people in our situation, because my family was so alone, they were so they had no support. I mean, obviously, our family supported supported us, but like, as far as the medical field, like they pretty much just wrote, The write you off, they give you a wheelchair, they give you a hospital bed. And that's it. And so my parents were looked at as crazy for believing that I could come out of this and that I would make it through. And so my mom continues, she goes, we can, I really think we could do it. If we mortgaged the house. And they literally mortgaged the house and Project Walk Boston opened up in on January 24, 2015. And I was in there, six hours a day, seven days a week, just training, training, training, trying to get anything. At this point, I started working for ESPN. So I was, I was like, half my time working for ESPN and the other half, you know, working on trying to walk again. And we ended up getting a flicker, you know, almost a year in in my right hip flexor. And that's really what was like that blink moment. That kind of was like the first active muscle that fired and then from there, you know, you have to fan that flame. And so we just kind of kept working at it and working at it. And I went from, you know, my wheelchair to crutches and these giant leg braces to my giant leg braces to smaller leg braces to maybe one crutch every now and then. And then I started walking in 2016.
Karen Ortman 28:33
What was the medical reason for your inability to walk?
So transverse myelitis and acute disseminated encephalomyelitis: They are autoimmune conditions that attack your central nervous system. And they can be triggered by all kinds of things. But they're very rare that you get both of them. And so what happens is the acute disseminated encephalomyelitis or ATM, attacks your brain. So it can cause lesions and damage to your brain. And then the transverse myelitis. Or you can call it TM attacks your spine. So it literally causes a spinal cord injury. Breakdown the nerves and the eye, there's a fancy word for it, but basically it a disconnects. And so those two things had caused a brain and spinal cord injury.
Karen Ortman 29:23
And you mentioned earlier that you started working for ESPN. So let's just add that you are the youngest on-air personality ever hired at ESPN? So congratulations on that. That's pretty cool. You started walking. So how long was the the rehab that enabled you to finally walk again? How many years?
Well it had been It was about a three year process but a year straight at our facility with our trainers with a whole new set of modality so I was kind of the guinea pig cluck Boston. The good guinea pigs have worked. But so but I think it was about a year straight there that we really saw the most gains. But that was like six, seven days a week, you know, hours and hours and hours each day.
Karen Ortman 30:16
I'm sure knowing you, you probably knowing you in this very brief period. You probably worked on it seven days a week.
Oh for sure yeah, 24 hours a day and they're like four hours, then go swim for two hours, then come back. And yeah, I was. I was a busy lady.
Karen Ortman 30:32
So you walk you began walking in 2016. And by 2017, you were a semifinalist on Dancing with the Stars.
I was Yes.
Karen Ortman 30:45
How exciting was that?
It was very exciting. It was very intimidating. It definitely brought me out of my comfort zone, for sure. And dancing without feeling your legs is very hard. I did not expect it to be I mean, it was hard I expected it to be hard. But it was it was cool. I mean, it was definitely a crazy turnaround, you know, to go from a year a year, walking on my feet and then dancing a lot. But I was very fortunate I was I was paired with Valentin Chmerkovskiy. And he was very good at teaching me and helping me and kind of being an extra set of legs for me.
Karen Ortman 31:25
That's amazing. What is the process by which someone gets selected for Dancing with the Stars.
They select you know, they they select and they had found out that I was a fan of the show. And they knew my story and ESPN, ABC we're all owned by Disney. So there's a lot of synergy there. Yeah. And so quite a few folks on there and knew I was a fan of the show knew my story and was kind of like, hey, do you think she could do this? And my agent had reached out and the one I think the season prior there were scheduling conflicts and, and then the season after that it was like it the stars really aligned and my agent was like, alright, like, they want you do you want to do this? And I was like, Yeah, sure. And then afterwards, I was like, Oh my gosh, what did I just signed myself up for? Like, I have no idea what to do and
Karen Ortman 32:14
Yeah, I was like, All right, cool.
Karen Ortman 32:19
Do you say no to anything?
Yes. I've actually learned how to say no. More recently, just who I think I'm I'm known to sometimes be a bit of a workaholic, or just go go go or want to constantly give, give, give. And I think I've learned the hard way that I also have to take time and say no, and also protect my peace and, you know, rest and restore as well.
Karen Ortman 32:45
Are you saying you have of people need to do that?
Yeah. Ah, like, do I need to go over like, she's, she's one of my good friends. She's also my nutritionist. And we were talking just like Victoria, like, we like you need to you out of all the people. Like protect that. And then even yesterday, like, my boyfriend was like, you are going to do nothing today. And I was like, What does that even mean? We're doing nothing today. And I was like, I don't know, like, what do I do then? It's like nothing. You do? Nothing. And I was like, after like an hour like is it over yet?
Karen Ortman 33:27
I know someone just like you. Your family's rehab center?
Karen Ortman 33:36
It's how many years?
It's six years now. Yes.
Karen Ortman 33:42
Six years now. Doing well. Certainly a lot of people
Yeah, we're worldwide at this point. We have people coming as far as Israel. We just have become a worldwide leader in process recovery. And there's there's so many facilities that are doing great work. And we're just you were just a piece of the puzzle. But yeah, it's incredible. Honestly, where it's come. I was actually just talking to my mom about this where it's come in the last six years is remarkable. And it's no longer just spinal cord injury. There's brain injury, there's stroke. There's other neuro issues or cerebral palsy that people who are given these, you know, life sentences are getting better. And there's different miracles happening every day. My mom always says, you know, because of your suffering. This person got their life back.
Karen Ortman 34:33
You're all a very special family. The rehab center, tell me the name of it again.
Project Walk Boston.
Karen Ortman 34:42
So it's located in Boston,
Just north of Boston.
Karen Ortman 34:46
Okay. And if somebody were to want to inquire about the services, there's a website,
They can go to project walk Boston calm,
Karen Ortman 34:57
Okay. And Before we close Tell me about Victoria's victory. What is its mission?
Victoria's Victory Foundation is a nonprofit I founded three almost four years ago to help individuals living with different disabilities and mobility challenges find their victory, whether it's nursing care hours, a wheelchair, wheelchair van wheelchair adaptations, adaptive equipment, that's really our main mission is to give people the opportunity to find independence and strength again. And it was crazy when I first was coming out of this, how many people we encounter that didn't have a wheelchair didn't have a proper wheelchair? You know, was basically given the option of a hospital bed or a wheelchair, well, you need both you can't, you know, or didn't have nursing care hours and their their significant other had to take care of them and lose their jobs. And so we saw such a need and then and then really came together and was like, Okay, how can I've been so blessed, like blessed beyond words? How can I become a blessing to others? And how can I help other people in similar situations. And so in the last, you know, four years, it's, it's crazy what we've been able to do and how many lives we've been able to change. And we launched our victory scholarship program, and so folks can, can apply for grants and scholarships. And we've had, you know, we've had so many victories, and it's a really a really beautiful thing. And it's, you know, I get to do a lot of cool stuff, but being able to be a part of that, where people's lives are being saved and changed. And we've gotten so many, you know, letters from folks we've helped who have said, You saved my life, you changed my life, you know, that makes this second chance I've been given totally worth it.
Karen Ortman 36:45
So the information regarding the rehab center and Victoria's Victory Foundation is something that is that everybody needs to know about. And I'm really grateful that we can talk about it here. Is there anything that I haven't asked you that you would like to share at this time?
You did a very good job of asking me all the good questions. Yeah, I'd say you crushed it.
Karen Ortman 37:12
Well, thank you, Miss Victoria. That means a lot coming from you. I appreciate it. Thank you. Thank you again, thanks to my guest, Victoria, and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's episode of you matter if any information presented was triggering or disturbing. Please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212-443-9999 or NYU's Department of Campus Safety and their Victim Services Unit at 212-998-2222. please share, like and subscribe to You Matter! on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Tune In.