Unstoppable: Paralyzed Woman Pursuing Master’s Degree While in Veteran’s Hospital

August 1, 2023

Ashley Williams is a retired US Air Force veteran whose life took an unexpected turn after a spinal cord injury resulted in quadriplegia. Despite the challenges she faces, Ashley’s passion for learning has propelled her towards remarkable achievements. 

Ashley Williams

From an early age, Ashley displayed an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Her mother, Dr. Kathy Bass, fondly remembers how as a toddler, Ashley was drawn to books and sought out educational materials instead of conventional toys. This inherent love for learning continued to blossom throughout her life.

While serving in the Air Force overseas, she was hit by a car, resulting in a traumatic spinal cord injury that would change the course of her life forever. The incident marked the beginning of a challenging road to recovery, requiring ongoing care and management at James A. Haley V.A. in Tampa, FL where she had continued to live for the last three years. Ashley uses a power wheelchair, and a series of sip-and-puff adaptive mouth straws for steering and typing. 

Despite the difficulties she faces, Ashley’s love of learning has risen to the surface again. During her time at the VA hospital, she continues to pursue her academic ambitions. Not even the medical complications that have paralyzed her voice could stop her from continuing her educational goals.

Ashley’s drive and willpower became evident as she pursued higher education. She managed to work towards not one, but two degrees: a bachelor’s in nursing and a master’s in teaching. Her aunt, Debra Coleman, praised her for focusing on her abilities rather than her disability.

Ashley’s optimistic outlook on life played a pivotal role in her success. Throughout her struggles, she adopted a “never-give-up” mentality and firmly believes she could not be deterred by setbacks. Her mantra, “Never let anyone tell you what you cannot do and believe, and to keep trying because — you always miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” serves as a beacon of inspiration for anyone facing adversity.

As Ashley prepares to graduate with her master’s degree in teaching, she continues to defy expectations. Her ambitious plans include inspiring the next generation of students while working toward becoming a doctor. Her own doctors commend her for keeping her head held high, overcoming every hurdle with sheer determination and focus.

Ashley Williams’ remarkable story from a driven child with a love for learning — to a resilient veteran battling a spinal cord injury highlights the strengths of the human spirit. Her determination to achieve her dreams despite all odds offers hope for those facing their own challenges. As she graduates with her master’s degree, Ashley’s story reminds us that there’s no limit to what we can accomplish when we put our minds to it.

Click here to watch and read more about Ashley Williams

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