Zaneta Adams had a choice: Continue to sit in her wheelchair, depressed and defeated, or draw on her Army training, accept her situation, harness her potential, and make some positive changes.
She chose the second option, and has not looked back.
As she was mobilizing for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2005, Zaneta fell from a truck, seriously injuring her back. Multiple surgeries followed, and the end result was a paralyzed nerve - a condition known as sciatic nerve bilateral paraparesis. Because she had lost sensation in her right leg, doctors urged Zaneta to be cautious because she could incur an injury and not be aware of the severity. Told by doctors to rest, Zaneta took that advice to the extreme until deciding to make a change for the better.
"I started learning about my injury two years after it happened," Zaneta said. "Once I knew what help was available, and realizing the potential I had to accomplish some pretty great things, I developed the 'I can do this!' attitude. I figured out that the only injury holding you back is the one you mentally create."
Part of her post-injury focus has become advocacy, mentorship, and training. Zaneta works with Challenge America, Challenge Aspen, and Folds of Honor, helping wounded Service Members and veterans learn what programs and services are available to them. Offering that knowledge and advice is one way Zaneta can help others with injuries similar to hers.
"It is definitely better to start learning about your injury early on," she said. "I have realized and accomplished more physical things since I was injured than I ever did before."
Nominated by the Wounded Warrior Project to serve as a Peer Reviewer for the Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Orthopaedic Research Program, Zaneta said she hopes to make a difference in the lives of injured Service Members.
"Serving as a Peer Reviewer for the CDMRP gives me a sense that I am helping with someone's quality of life after their injury," Zaneta said. "Getting assistance is one thing, but being able to live and function with the way you have been 'fixed' is totally different."
In the years ahead, Zaneta said she hopes to build on what she has learned through her Peer Review advocacy experiences, to continue learning about innovative research projects, and to continue helping wounded Service Members find the resources they need to lead fulfilling, productive lives.
"I hope to share my passion for others and knowledge as an injured soldier. My viewpoint may help them develop new products or make some of their ideas better," Zaneta said. "Seeing new and innovative ideas that can enhance and prolong the life of a fellow comrade in arms makes all the reading and reviewing worth it."