Never say ‘I can’t’: A life-altering car accident has led to a lifelong mission to help others
Everyone in the car was drowsy that afternoon.
The year was 1995 and Molly Hale had just completed a week long summer martial arts training in San Rafael, where she studied Aikido. Her 16-year-old daughter, Kyrie, was also in the car along with two of her friends. As they made their way down the peninsula, the teens nodded off while Molly fought to stay awake on the freeway.
But by the time she heard her daughter say, “Mom! You’re going off the road!” — it was too late. The car veered across all lanes and hit an embankment next to the fast lane. It flipped — end over end— three and a half times before coming to rest upside down.
Infused with adrenaline, the teens quickly wriggled out of their seat belts and crawled out the windows, dazed and amazed that they had survived such a violent crash and grateful that no other cars were involved.
“It took them a few moments to realize that I hadn’t gotten out,” said Molly. “The roof had collapsed in my side of the car. The only thing that saved me was the headrest. I was suspended for two hours upside down until the rescue crew was able to get me out using the jaws of life.”
As crews worked feverishly around her, Molly never lost consciousness. She attributed much of her flexibility and her remarkable ability to stay calm and breathe to her 11 years of martial arts training.
“It was almost as though I had been practicing for this my whole life,” she said. “I’m convinced that my breath practice kept me alive.”
Doctors told Molly she’d never again move intentionally below her shoulders. She was just shy of her 46th birthday and refused to accept the prognosis.
“I told the doctors, ‘Thanks for the info, but I know more than you do,’” she said. “Through my martial arts training I knew about people who were paralyzed and learned to crawl — this allowed me to dismiss the doctors’ prognosis. And hey — I grew up with salamanders — they can regenerate a tail. Today, some 23 years later, doctors now know about plasticity — the adaptability of an organism to changes in its environment.”
While Molly recuperated in the hospital, she sought the care of a chiropractor she respected. The treatment had to be done in secret, without the knowledge of the on-site medical team. The practitioner would come at night and her husband, Jeramy, would guard the door while the chiropractor carefully removed her halo and clam shell in order to move and adjust her.
“As soon as he did, all this juice started to flow — I could feel my vitality,” said Molly. “At that time, most physicians had tunnel vision — they were only focused on my broken neck. It was a statistical model. They’d tell you you’re paralyzed for life and send you on your way. In Europe they have a very different way of dealing with spinal cord injuries, a model that really helped me.”
Six years after her accident, Molly passed her third degree Aikido black belt test, adapting movements to her chair. In 2002 she was given the honor of carrying the Olympic torch toward Salt Lake City. The following year, she and Jeramy were featured in a documentary, “Moment to Moment: The Healing Journey of Molly Hale.”
In 2004, the husband-wife team founded a nonprofit, Ability Production, which provides services, resources, mentorship and community to those impacted by a spinal cord injury. Today, they support individuals and groups interested in improving their health, well-being and rehabilitation, as well as provide consultations for making modifications to the home that “create accessibility, visitability and ease of use.”
An architectural designer by trade, Molly found that helping others with injuries to modify their homes to be a rewarding venture. She continues to work closely with Jeramy, her partner in life and business, who is now retired from the music production business.
“We are uniquely qualified to support individuals and groups through our own life experience with spinal cord injury. We live it every moment of every day,” reads the message on their website. “Molly Hale is a statistical ‘outlier.’ She has successfully used available rehabilitation techniques and healing modalities that are rarely suggested for maximizing one’s potential after a spinal cord injury incident. We assist and support you in increasing your own possibilities in becoming a statistical outlier!”
In the years since, with Jeramy at her side, Molly has never stopped incorporating a broad range of therapies into her own life, and her progress continues to inspire others. Now living in Penn Valley, Molly regularly uses such modalities as chiropractic manipulation, massage, breath work, adaptive equine therapy, and near-daily warm water therapy. She now has fairly fluid upper body movement and can walk in water and alongside others, but tends to venture out in the world in her state-of-the-art wheelchair.
In May of this year, Molly and Jeramy were surprised to learn that they were given the Humanitarian of the Year Award by The Small Business Council of America, a national nonprofit organization that represents the interests of more than 100,000 organizations on federal tax, employee benefit and health care issues.
The award was presented at the 35th Small Business Council of America Annual Congressional Awards reception in Washington, D.C. The couple was recognized for their work in designing and consulting as co-owners of Ability Production, LLC.
“After Molly was seriously injured in a car accident, she and Jeramy not only found ways to overcome their own adversity but are helping others learn from their experience and supporting those with traumatic injuries during some of the most trying times of their lives” said Small Business Council of America Director Neil Carrey. “Being a successful small business owner is great, but also being a humanitarian is the best.”
“All the stuff I’ve learned in my own treatment is learnable — I Skype with people in Greece, Poland and the Philippines,” said Molly. “If you decide your condition is hopeless, that’s where you’ll stay. Today the field of spinal cord treatment has opened up a lot, but much of it is still outside the traditional medical model. I say keep an open mind. Some are threatened — worried that I could create false hope. But I say hope is hope.”
Jeramy said he and Molly were stunned when they learned they’d won an award.
“When it comes to the accident, our loss turned out to be a huge gain,” he said. “Molly is such an inspiration to others. Not once has she ever said, ‘I can’t.’”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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