Twila Adams always had a desire to join the Army and have the ability to travel, live abroad and eventually complete college. While her military career took her to Korea, Turkey, and the Middle East, it wasn’t until after she left the military that Adams was able to earn her degree.
After a decorated military career and serving in the Gulf War in Operation Desert Shield/ Desert Storm, Twila Adams retired from the Army and returned home to Charlotte, North Carolina. With a background in transportation Adams began working at CSX Railroad. Shortly after working at the railroad, Adams was involved in an automobile accident that left her with a broken neck.
“Being told that I couldn’t do something made me more determined to at least try.”
With only the ability to move her eyes and mouth, Adams’ doctors told her that she would never walk or care for herself again. Says Adams, “The doctors were only sharing with me what they saw medically and that I was paralyzed from the neck down and they could do some surgery, and it might work. But the possibilities were very rare.”
“I knew that the hard work was really going to be on me.” Determined to regain the use of her arms and legs, Adams drew upon her inner strength, her faith and a supportive circle of friends and family. “I’m a spiritual soul; I had to listen to God, listen to me, my intuition and challenge myself each day to do something new.”
It was through the National Veterans Wheelchair Games that Adams discovered the Paralyzed Veterans of America. At her first spinal cord injury exam, Adams’ Recreational Therapist asked if she was interested in attending the Games. Initially, Adams scoffed, as she was less independent at the time, but she eventually made her way to the games.
“I went to the games, and I saw about 600 athletes from all over doing things that I never imagined could be part of my life at this time. I saw people in chairs shooting and competing in archery, and air rifles, bowling and the adaptive equipment that was available.
There’s a comradery there that passes all lines. You can relax, you know that the person behind you’s got your back. You see someone having a challenge; someone’s going to go and assist them. It’s just that family unit and that place of protection that the Games have brought to my life. And it encouraged me to step out little by little...I used to say that my accident and breaking my neck happened to me. But after getting introduced to the Games, I say it happened for me.
From decorated soldier to decorated athlete
Twila Adams has won medals in all colors, but never considered herself an athlete until years into playing adaptive sports. However, success in tennis didn’t happen overnight for Adams, “It took me a year, almost two years just to learn how to get the ball over the net.”
Of her initial forays on the courts, Adams says, “I didn’t worry about keeping score or all that technical background stuff...I just wanted to learn to push that chair and go fast and chase that little yellow ball.” In fact, Adams kept her tennis wheelchair in her car everywhere she went; she says, “just in case I saw a smooth sidewalk that I might get a chance to push on.”
Fellowship and beyond
On a personal level, Adams hopes to impact others as a Paralyzed Veterans advocate by sharing “a little hope with those who feel hopeless.” Adams also looks forward to the opportunity to “share with the corporate world how they have the opportunity to individually change the life of a veteran...to let them see just what they do will actually impact a life in a way that they cannot imagine and be able to see the results of that assistance.”