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Meet Nicole | Horseback rider and scuba enthusiast

April 03, 2014

Weeks before her 21st birthday, Nicole and her friends were driving to an Eric Clapton concert in Salt Lake City when the unthinkable happened… the car drove off of the road and a metal post was driven through the car. Surviving a spinal cord injury, Nicole took “flight for life” to Salt Lake City. She was only able to breathe with the aid of a ventilator. She had lost almost all of her sensation and movement below her neck.

Nicole and Saddleresized

Nicole grew up working on her family’s farm outside of Casper, WY. She learned about tools, drove at 8 years old, fed animals, and bailed hay—there was always work to be done. She showed pigs and cows in 4H and rode her family’s horses. Her uncle always said that her “dad raised girls who would never need a man” which was a high compliment to her father. She was a small town farm girl.

After the accident, Nicole rehabilitated at Craig Hospital. Self-admittedly, she had a bad attitude while at Craig. She celebrated her 21st birthday in the hospital and lay in her hospital bed for Christmas. She wanted her old life back. She wanted her old body back.

More than anything, Nicole wanted to feel like she did before her accident. For her, that meant that she wanted to go horseback riding. Her horse was her “sanctuary” growing up. To her, there was something very special about being about to communicate, love, and lead a horse. It was something she had control over and a lifestyle she loved. On her last day at Craig Hospital, the Therapeutic Recreation Department took Nicole to a horse ranch to ride for the first time since her accident.

Nicole Horse 2Nicole Horse 1With the help of her Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Claire Cahow, she mounted the horse. Nicole felt like she was getting back to her roots, to who she was before her accident. Having a therapist accompany her was a good way to bridge the gap between treatment and going home.

Nicole’s perspective on life has changed dramatically. She decided to “get busy living.” When asked about her injury, Nicole shared that surviving a spinal cord injury paved the way to a different life trajectory than she expected. She’s been very intentional about living. Her spinal cord injury indirectly caused her to face things that she wouldn’t have otherwise and it was a catalyst for growth in her life.

Now Nicole does things that she never thought possible for a small-town farm girl. She has traveled extensively internationally and is an avid SCUBA diver thanks to the Therapeutic Recreation Department at Craig Hospital.


Unfortunately, Therapeutic Recreation is not covered by insurance. It is only made possible through community supporters such as yourself. Please, consider making a donation to the SpeediCath Do What You Love Campaign before April 24th. Your donation will be matched by SpeediCath dollar-for-dollar.