Laura Nimz Hero Story

Past PVA President Randy Pleva with Laura Nimz
Laura Nimz with former Paralyzed Veterans President Randy Pleva
Laura Nimz suffered a spinal cord injury (SCI) during a severe storm in 1993. Her car was lifted off the road and slammed into a power pole resulting in a T-12 injury and leaving her paralyzed from the knees down. “One minute I was worrying about aging, and the next I was worrying about surviving, living,” she says. Laura was 29 years old at the time of the accident and had a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter. One of her first thoughts after her injury was, “how am I going to be a mother in a wheelchair? No one taught me how to do that.”

With no VA spinal cord injury (SCI) center in Florida, Laura spent 40 days at Halifax Hospital in Daytona before being transferred to St. Louis. She was expected to undergo six months of rehabilitation therapy, but she finished her rehab in 90 days. “I had to go home to my daughter, I had to get better, and I had to keep pushing.”

While in the St. Louis SCI center, Laura was introduced to the Paralyzed Veterans of America. “I was sitting in my wheelchair when a fellow member of Paralyzed Veterans asked me if I knew about the organization; I said no,” she recalls. “He told me all about Paralyzed Veterans and what they do for veterans; so I joined the Central Florida Chapter.”

Laura immediately became involved with the inner workings of the organization. “I went from being an invited guest, to a volunteer, a board member, a vice president, president and, finally, national director.” While serving as the first female president of a chapter, she advocated heavily for an SCI center at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center in Tampa and for an 18-bed SCI long-term-care unit at the VA nursing home in Orlando.

“Paralyzed Veterans is a tremendous asset, especially for someone with a new injury,” she says. “It helps them out, get them involved. We let them know they can network with people who are in the same boat, who know what they’re going through—and who can show them what is possible after injury.”

At this time, Laura is taking a break from her duties at the chapter and is preparing for stem cell replacement therapy. By the summer of 2010, she will have traveled to Lima, Peru to participate in a stem cell program. “I hope to provide some data for the doctors to help with research; hopefully, it will work.”

Laura enlisted in the U.S. Air Force upon graduating high school in 1982.  She was assigned as an F-15/16 jet mechanic with the “Thunderbirds” aerial stunt team. “I was excited to be a jet engine mechanic and overjoyed about the idea of going overseas.” She attained the rank of tech sergeant before leaving the service.

Following her injury, she earned associate of science degree from Daytona Beach Community College in 1997.

A volunteer with the local Pop Warner football league, Laura has instructed more than 50 girls in cheerleading. In addition, she was selected Ms. Florida Wheelchair in 2000.

Laura resides in Ormand Beach, FL.

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