My Story

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Dallas is my hometown. I’m a Texan through and through. My parents, David and Mary Ann Marshall, however, are northern transplants from Ohio. After nine years of marriage, they ecstatically welcomed a perfectly healthy, baby girl on November 1, 1966. My sister, Karin, soon followed in 1968. As a baby, my development was ahead of schedule, and I thrived!

clear_young_karin_laurelAt the age of 2, I started slapping my feet when walking. My parents were concerned so they took me to several different doctors. Although they knew something was wrong, even the best doctors were perplexed. No one doctor could pinpoint the problem, and the overall consensus was a grim diagnosis. “Take her home and enjoy her . . . she will not see the age of 3.”

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This shattering announcement was the only offering the doctors presented to my devastated parents. As horrific as this news was, my parents never let on. They took one day at a time. Even though they were crushed, they never showed it. They held high expectations for me and treated me like everyone else.

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Luckily, the doctors were wrong! I attended Mary Immaculate Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. In grade school, I was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a type of Muscular Dystrophy, at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital which was weakening my muscles, making it difficult to walk. In 7th grade, leg braces assisted me when walking. In 8th grade, I fell, breaking my left hip. This put me in a wheelchair for good. No matter, I went on to graduate from Ursuline Academy in 1985, an all-girls Catholic high school.

As an “adult”, turning 18 meant new doctors, a new hospital, and a new diagnosis. UT Southwestern Medical Center presented a new, yet still unconfirmed, diagnosis of Charcot Marie Tooth (CMT2). As in the past, every visit ended with shrugged shoulders from the doctor. This ritual became almost comical to me. I played along because it was the only way I could obtain prescribed medical equipment (wheelchair) needed in order to maintain my independence.

A driving force throughout my life has been striving for independence. Driving a car, attending college, having a career, and living on my own have allowed me freedoms all young people desire. Yet, independent has not meant alone. I could never get by without friends and family who have always been willing to lend a hand. For this, I am so blessed!

Laurel_and_LizSome of the best years of my life were spent at Texas A&M University where I received a degree in elementary education. It’s also where I met my best friend, Liz, who is the Lucy to my Ethel. She is still near and dear to my heart for over 30 years!

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After leaving Aggieland, Richardson ISD hired me as a 4th grade teacher at Dartmouth Elementary in Richardson, Texas. ​I went into teaching to become rich – rich with knowledge, rich with smiles and hugs, rich with the ability to inspire others, and rich with the hope of making a small difference in the world. I taught 4th grade for 17 years and 3rd grade for three years.

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service_dogsIn 1997, this assistance with independence came in the form of four furry paws. Temecula, a gorgeous, brilliant yellow lab was my first service dog. After Temec’s retirement, Jill, a sweet, yellow lab/golden retriever mix took the helm. Both dogs helped me with tasks, at school and around the house, such as picking up dropped items, getting the mail, or pulling clothes out of the dryer. Their love and loyalty deeply enriched my life!

After 20 years, a pinched nerve caused by an injured SI joint in my  lower back left me no choice but to retire from teaching. My life was altered as well as my 
independence. It was time to focus on my health. 

Incredible pain led to two neurologists who could find nothing wrong. I left their offices more discouraged than before I entered. My nerves were rattled. MD had always played a role in my life, but never took center stage. Was it trying to grab the spotlight? I knew if doctors couldn’t help my plight, I would have to take charge.

 Taking control of my pain meant being open to different forms of treatment. Acupuncture and traditional pain medicine doctors both temporarily worked, but in reality, only masked the problem. Working with a therapist in a warm water therapy pool definitely made a difference, but ended too soon. I needed a trainer to help continue my physical progress. Luckily, Tom Jensen, owner/president of Elect Wellness, a home fitness company, popped up on my radar.

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For 9 years. Elect Wellness owner, Tom,  and my trainer, Bob, have helped me gain muscle mass while losing fat. The immobility causedby my S/I injury plummeted my weight to 95 pounds. The immediate goal of Elect Wellness was to increase my BMI (body/mass index) through a balanced, high protein diet and 1550 calories per day of healthy nutrients, gradually increasing my weight to an uncomfortable 120 pounds. Over 20 inches of healthy size was gained throughout my shoulders and limbs. Furthermore, I reduced my diastolic blood pressure by 17 mm Hg, ensuring heart health.

causedTom, also, introduced me to chiropractor, Dr. Cristina Robinson-Hartley. Dr. Cris immediately diagnosed my back pain. My SI joint (where the pelvis and tailbone meet) had rotated out of place, pinching my nerve. She informed me that it’s one of the worst injuries to have if you’re sitting down. After the first adjustment, the pain was gone! Sweet relief after enduring a full year of pain. What I didn’t realize was that my muscles had gotten so weak that I was lucky if my SI joint held in place for even 24 hours. Mandatory biweekly adjustments reminded that feisty SI joint who’s boss. Thankfully, biweekly progressively transitioned to every 1-2 weeks.

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After 6 years of adjustments and exercise, my SI joint remained precarious and unreliable. I, intuitively, felt my body needed more movement, and that something else needed to be added to my holistic, ritualistic regiment. I googled holistic physical therapy, not even knowing if it existed. Up popped Holistic Health Works owned by Yvonne Brannigan, a physical therapist and massage therapist who specialized in myofascial release. Her simple, yet remarkable technique was the key to loosening my fascia and psoas muscle, allowing my SI to become more stable.

With the help of Tom, Dr. Cris, and Yvonne, I have achieved enough gravity defying strength to initiate standing in a standing frame. Their goal is to, eventually, get me up and walking! Something all other doctors believed impossible. My goal is to  gain enough strength to live independently, once again. With God’s grace and the assistance of loving people, I am moving towards goals never once even thought attainable!

Ideally, my healthiest and most comfortable weight now sits at 110-116 pounds, including a balanced diet of 1600 calories per day and daily exercise.

IMG_4311Please, join me on this exhilarating, unpredictable journey. I have no idea what it holds for me, but I ask that God’s grace may guide me in continued Srides of Faith.