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Erica Dueger: Redefining Strong

June 01, 2015

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Erica Dueger has always met every challenge with vigor. The accomplished epidemiologist and veteran triathlete was living her dream, working for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the Philippines, while also preparing for her next triathlon. She was riding in bike-friendly zone in Nuvali, closed to regular vehicle traffic, when a security vehicle hit her. She sustained injuries to her spinal cord and brain.

When Erica first spoke, it was not in her first language, English, but in her husband Jose’s native tongue Spanish. She began to regain her memory 8 weeks after the accident and had to relearn how to do everything from talking to eating, to taking care of her basic needs.

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“She’s just been amazing, and even through this process she has kept me alive this whole time,” said Jose.

While at Craig Hospital Erica’s therapists focused on her goals of regaining balance and public speaking.

“My short term goals are to get my balance back and get my voice so it’s speaking in a way that I am comfortable with being able to speak,” she said.

As part of her speech and language therapy and in preparation for returning to work, Erica presented on Ebola to Craig Hospital clinicians.

During Therapeutic Recreation, Erica worked on balance and returning to biking. Her first time on a recumbent bike she rode 70 miles.

Erica started work again in Manila in January 2015. She hopes to start training for triathlons again soon. But she said, she is learning to be more patient, slow down and appreciate, “the people that I’m around which I probably didn’t appreciate enough before.”

Erica’s husband Jose was by her side throughout rehab. He said that Craig became a second home for them. “We were there for so many months that they really made me feel at home. I think they have an awesome team and I’m so grateful because they have done an incredible job with Erica. We like coming here and seeing everyone just smile and have such a good attitude not just us but all the other patients that are here, some with even worse injuries. It has been a great experience.”

Things just go a lot slower, but in a good way, because it’s making me slow down and appreciate the leaves and the people that I’m around which I probably didn’t appreciate enough before.

Erica Dueger