Terry Chase was on her road bike, riding along the white line crossing the Colorado River Bridge on Fifth Street, when she was hit by a black Lincoln Continental.
Her bike went under the car as she flew over the car’s hot hood before she swerved, causing Chase to roll and crash into the curb.
Those were the last moments Chase felt his legs.
“It was like all I could think about was it was really bad,” she said.
And it was. Chase was paralyzed.
But there was also good. Strangers immediately came to her aid that day in 1988. And in the months and years to come, many healthcare workers helped her heal and adjust to life with a spinal injury.
“I was guided by my 32-year-old self,” Chase said as she drove her pickup truck down Interstate 70 on a Tuesday morning, her right hand on the steering wheel and her left on a handbrake throttle. “I’m really grateful to this 32-year-old man.”
“YOU CAN PASS”
Chase, 66, is an associate professor of nursing and mental health at Colorado Mesa University as well as a professional coach, speaker and consultant.
She has a doctorate in nursing, master’s degrees in spiritual psychology and exercise and sports science, and many other references to her name.
She is an avid hand-cyclist, horseback rider, cross-country skier and kayaker and received the Arthur Ashe Award from the Colorado Tennis Association in 2002 for promoting wheelchair tennis, a sport in which she excelled as a what a player.
“I have a low boredom threshold,” Chase said of his long list of academic and extracurricular activities since his spinal cord injury on April 2, 1988.
Towards the end of 2021, Chase added an author to this list with his book “Spoke by Spoke”. It’s a collection of stories about her journey to “unreserved life” with all of her joy and challenges, the anger and pain she felt because of her injury, and the opportunities and new life that accompanied the healing.
She started writing these stories about eight years ago, and “when I started they were just junk,” Chase said. “I had several puffs of vomit.”
With more writing and the help of a writing coach, “I started to really discover my own voice.”
“I never wanted to put anything together that would tell people what to do,” she said.
Instead, she hopes readers find her book encouraging, because everyone faces challenges in life. Some of those struggles for her included being underestimated because she uses a wheelchair and having dark thoughts and doubts about continuing to live without the use of her legs.
“I think it was really important that I had to go through those times. I couldn’t ignore them,” Chase said, pointing to his own life as proof that “you can go into a dark time and come out of it.”
“NOTHING STOPS IT”
As she drove her van through the Grand Valley on a Tuesday morning to check on some of her nursing students at CMU, Chase recounted how she ended up in Grand Junction in 1980.
This was the year she landed a job as a physical education teacher at East Middle School. “I loved this place,” she said. “There’s a lot of heart and soul here for me.”
She loved her middle schoolers, whom she worked hard to reunite with in August 1988.
However, inspired by the care she received after her injury, she decided her life was taking her in a different direction in 1991.
She spent 23 years at the Front Range, many of them at Craig Hospital, where she started the Patient and Family Education Program.
Chase has a way of making situations practical and humanizing for patients, said Sharon Blackburn, who is Chase’s partner and was a physical therapist at Craig Hospital for 40 years.
“There is no stopping her. With her students and her coaching…all she wants is to be able to help people,” Blackburn said. remarkable.”
So when Chase felt called back to the Grand Valley and then started teaching at CMU in 2014, Blackburn stood by her.
“I think she gives a lot of herself to these (CMU nursing) students and she opens a space that they can feel,” Blackburn said.
As of Tuesday morning, some of these nursing students were scattered across the valley at various locations, including the soup kitchen and day center at Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, Ariel Clinical Services, the Health Education Center at Western Colorado Region (AHEC) and Independence Village in Fruita.
The students helped with work at some sites and shadowed at others as part of their mental health clinical training with Chase, “because nurses can’t sit behind computers,” she explained in driving.
Nurses need to know their communities, they need to understand the great diversity of people they will see as patients. In health care, “we deal with everybody,” Chase said.
SHE IS ONE OF THE BEST’
“I just have a ton of respect for Terry,” said AHEC executive director Georgia Hoaglund. “There aren’t many people who could succeed and do what she did. It’s really inspiring.
Hoaglund met Chase about seven years ago when they were both stuck at Denver International Airport with canceled flights. While waiting to see who would get the first hold ticket for the next flight, “we became friends. And then she took the ticket and left me,” Hoaglund said with a laugh.
With Chase, “you know where you’re at,” she said. “There is no fake Terry.”
But before Chase got the waiting ticket, the two women started talking about dogs — Chase and his dog, Shamly, are a therapy team — and careers, and then what they could do together professionally. .
With Chase nursing students rotating through AHEC as part of their clinics, Chase developed a youth mental health program for AHEC. “She’s just amazing with high school students,” Hoaglund said.
Chase has also presented at AHEC’s college health education camps. “The kids really warm up to her,” Hoaglund said.
While Chase’s education, background and skills are vast, there are many in the Grand Valley who likely don’t know her, Hoaglund said.
“She’s one of the best untapped resources we have,” Hoaglund said.
Alongside its impact on CMU nursing students and with entities such as AHEC, Chase runs workshops and one-on-one coaching for professionals, equine-facilitated learning programs, and consultancy work with hospitals, including workshops for nurses.
When it comes to nurses today, “I’m really, really worried,” Chase said.
The pandemic has added further pressure to an already demanding occupation, and “I think what’s happening is they’re getting so far away from themselves that they’re leaving,” she said. . “I’m petrified of what will happen to our healthcare system if we don’t pay attention to the human being.”
‘YOU MUST ACT’
“I’ve been on a 34-year journey on what made me feel better,” Chase said between stops on Tuesday to see students, using an elevator to get up and down as well as his wheelchair. from his van at each location.
She moved inside, asked questions, and offered homework recommendations and reminders before moving on to the next location and other students. With each interaction, she offered some of the knowledge and experience she gained both as a nurse and as a patient.
While at Craig Hospital following her injury, Chase quickly noticed how some health care providers were able to create a supportive and compassionate space that helped her heal, while others did not. were not.
She spent years learning about these health care providers, what worked, and at this point, “I have a big bag of tools,” she said. “If I have to learn something, I will use it very well.”
She’s also willing to share, which is part of why she wrote “Spoke by Spoke” to complement her coaching, speaking and counseling practice.
“I want people to take away hope,” Chase said of her book. “For transformation and change and a better life, you must take action.”
And while her walks in the valley don’t often take her beyond where her life changed in 1988, when they do, “I bless this place. Bless me,” she said. “And I thank God there is now a bike path.”
“There’s more for me to do,” Chase said.