11/26/09 — For Lisa Mozingo, life is now about new dreams, faith

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For Lisa Mozingo, life is now about new dreams, faith

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 26, 2009 7:01 AM

Lisa Mozingo

After the May 19 car accident that left Lisa Mozingo paralyzed and in a wheelchair, the Spring Creek High School (then senior and now graduate) wasn't sure what her future would hold.

But now, Lisa said, although some doors have closed, others are opening.

"It's kind of like Sarah Palin is saying in her book -- God did not cause this problem, but he is making me, as well as my family, stronger through this," she said. "My wreck was just a small piece of the big puzzle, and I know in the end, that puzzle will be a beautiful picture."

For the past three weeks, Lisa and her mom, Pam Mozingo, were in Atlanta, where Lisa participated in the day program at Shepherd Center Spinal Cord Rehab.

While there, she was virtually relearning everything, she said.

But beyond building physical strength and capabilities, her time at the center also became a lesson in independence and inner fortitude.

"I have learned that self-acceptance and poise are possible and important while standing, but in a chair, also," Lisa said.

A community-wide benefit in August raised more than $50,000. The Mozingos had hoped at the outset to use the money to get a specialized vehicle for Lisa and to make their house handicapped-accessible.

Instead, Mrs. Mozingo said, much of the money went for medical expenses.

"She was put on Medicaid so she could get more medical equipment," her mother said. "But Medicaid would not pay out of state. So we were self-pay."

They are not complaining, however. The Shepherd Center has a reputation for being the best spinal cord injury rehab in the U.S.

"It's just a wonderful place," Mrs. Mozingo said. "It's been a real good thing. We're very blessed to have been able to come. And the only reason that we got to come was the benefit that was held."

Although Lisa has been released from the program, her progress will continue to be monitored by the center. Much of her treatment now, however, will be done at Pitt Memorial Hospital in Greenville.

She also came away from the recent experience in rehab with several unanticipated goals.

"One of the main things she got there was resources, a tremendous amount of resources," Mrs. Mozingo said, including the Paralympics, similar to the Olympics.

"I have met a few paralympians, and I myself am looking forward to possibly participating in the 2012 Paralympics in London," Lisa said. "Of course, school and independence will be my No. 1 priority."

Lisa hopes to be on the shooting team, a familiar arena for her as dad, Phil, is a hunter safety instructor and often took FFA students from Spring Creek to tournaments.

There is also the prospect of competing in a future Miss Wheelchair N.C. Pageant, taking driving lessons over the Christmas holidays and starting classes at Mount Olive College in January -- where twin brother, John, is already a student.

Lisa even had a speaking opportunity mid-November in Fayetteville, where she gave her testimony before more than 6,000 youths at a Methodist conference.

In the meantime, she and her mother are glad to be reunited with the rest of their family, which also includes younger brother Tyler, 16, a sophomore at Spring Creek.

Thanksgiving will be a small family affair, with everyone at the Mozingo house, just the way Lisa wanted it.

"Since the children have been up in age to know what's going on, everybody comes to our house on Thanksgiving and Christmas. That's what she's looking forward to," Mrs. Mozingo said.

And while the prognosis might have seemed grim six months ago, the faith that sustained the family remains steadfast.

"We're tremendously thankful," Mrs. Mozingo said. "Just thankful that she's alive, that she's progressing as well as she is. She's made tremendous progress here in the last three weeks with her physical therapies (and) her spirits remain good."

They have much to be thankful for, she added, including their surrounding community.

"We have a small biological family, but a huge family of friends and community, and we're just so thankful for all that," she said.

The cards, prayers, thoughts and support have meant much to Lisa, too.

"There is no way I could possibly thank everyone as much as I should," she said. "Without such kindness, I would not be where I am today. Of course times still get tough, but I rely on my faith to get me through it."

It's a faith that will not be limited, her mother said.

"We still believe in miracles," she said. "Even though her spinal cord is completely severed, (we're believing) that it can be restored and she will be walking again."

On her Facebook page, where she also shared her testimony, Lisa wrote, "I believe that I will walk again on this earth but if I don't, I will walk again on the streets of gold.

"You can't walk around and think about yesterday. You have to be thankful for today."