At 17, Brooke Thabit had a deep love for the ocean, diving and surfing whenever she had the chance. While hanging out with friends on Labor Day in 2012, she dove into what no one realized was shallow water, fracturing her neck. She was left paralyzed, but her infectious spirit was undaunted. She has dedicated herself to her recovery, pushing forward each and every day with full commitment, a positive attitude and unfailing support from her family and friends. Get a glimpse of the hard work she’s putting in in the video below, under her Q&A.
A Wings for Life World Run ambassador since the beginning, Brooke and her mom Alison will celebrate Mother’s Day on May 8 together with people all around the world to help raise funds for spinal cord injury research. Will you be there too?
wflwr.com: You’ve been involved with Wings for Life World Run from the start; what have you experienced at the events?
Brooke: The actual Wings for Life World Run event is one of the most positive, happy, energetic experiences and atmospheres I’ve ever been in. Everyone is happy and laughing, it’s all fun. Everyone has a great time, they run farther than they expected, and they’re making new friends. It feels like one giant family when you’re there.
I can’t imagine going through this whole experience without my mom. She’s really been there for me 100% every single day throughout this entire thing.
We see you doing some pretty involved therapy sessions in the video; how is that going?
It’s really intense every day that I’m in there. I’m not doing it every day just because it costs too much money, but I would if I could. Once you go in there, it’s like you’re not paralyzed for those two hours. You get to stand up and walk around, really push your limits and go beyond what anybody ever told you that you would be able to do.
Is therapy ever a struggle for you?
It can be a struggle sometimes. Sometimes my therapist will say that we’re going to do a certain thing, and I’ll think, “There is no way I could ever do that.” Then I’ll struggle and I’ll fumble and I’ll fall, but he’ll keep telling me to try again.
I’ve been able to do more things than I would have expected. For example, when I first stood up I had to hold onto a bar with three people around me, and he said that one day they’d let go of my hips, and I was like, “No, you’re not. Don’t you know that I’m paralyzed?” Sure enough, that’s what he did, and then he said they would take away the bar. Without the bar I thought I would fall, but sure enough, I was eventually able to do it. So it’s a struggle sometimes, but he really has shown me that if you put your mind to it, you can do it.
Is it similar to any struggles you had when you were learning to surf?
It’s like learning anything new. Learning to walk or stand or surf or run or whatever it is, you have your good days and your bad days, when you feel like you’ve made strides or that you didn’t do as well as you had hoped to.
How has this experience changed you?
I’ve definitely grown and changed a lot since my injury. I don’t necessarily know what kind of person I would have grown into, but it’s definitely changed my life and changed my perspective on pretty much everything. It’s definitely given me an appreciation for the little things in life. And friendship has a whole new meaning to me now. The people that I’m close with I’m really close with, and you find out that the people who love you really love you, more than you would have expected. It’s a greater appreciation for life and friendships.
The World Run is on Mother’s Day this year; will you be celebrating with your mom in Sunrise?
My mom will definitely be there; she’s super excited that the run is on Mother’s Day. It’s a great way to celebrate us being together — my dad and my brother will be there as well.
I can’t imagine going through this whole experience without my mom. She’s really been there for me 100% every single day throughout this entire thing. She slept on a cot for four months with me in the hospital, she didn’t leave my side. She completely gave up everything to be there for me. She supports me in everything I do. I love my mom and I’m super lucky to have her.
You recently started studying interior design at the Savannah College of Art and Design — how did you get interested in design?
I wasn’t always interested in it and I never would have expected myself to go to art school. But after I got injured we had to add a bedroom onto our house, and I got to design the whole thing and make it be the environment I wanted to be in. It had to look the way I wanted it to look but also be functional and wheelchair accessible.
I realized it was something I loved to do, and how much of a need there is for it — so many things that claim to be wheelchair-accessible actually aren’t. There are things you wouldn’t realize if you don’t live in a wheelchair. A little bump somewhere or things that are just out of our reach. I’d like to create accessible, functional and beautiful universal designs.
Join Team Brooke today whether you run in Sunrise, Florida, or Santa Clarita, California — or anywhere in the world via the Selfie Run using the all-new Wings for Life World Run app, available on iOS and Android.