By Master Sgt. Michele Smith
Readiness Management Group
These past two years have been an emotional as well as physical journey for me. In June 2011, I failed my PT Test for the first time in my Air Force career. The next month I was diagnosed with two cerebral aneurysms – one in the middle of my brain and the other on my left side. The one on the left side was too small and not considered in danger of bursting; however, the one in the middle was at a size that the neurologist recommended surgery to repair it before ruptured. I went in for surgery on October 2011. I don’t remember anything after I told my sisters, “I will see you when I wake up,” as they wheeled me into the operating room. The doctors said the surgery went well; however, shortly after being in the recovery room the nurse noticed that I could not talk or move my right side. I was having a stroke. They immediately took me back into surgery and broke up the clot in my brain that was causing the stroke. I truly believe without the prayers of my family, friends and co-workers, I would not be here today. GOD gave me a new lease on life.
Well, after being in intensive care for five days and convalescent leave for close to eight weeks, I returned to work. In January 2012, the doctors cleared me to resume my exercise regimen. So, for the next month and a half I went back to my normal routine and exercised at least three times a week, even though I was still scared that the coils in my brain might come out. At that time, I felt very confident that I would pass. In March, I felt like an utter failure; I failed my PT test again. I felt defeated. I had just overcome a major obstacle in my life, felt like I was back on track, and then experience a setback by failing again.
Both my fitness monitor and my supervisor rallied behind me and kept encouraging me not to give up. I enrolled in a fit-to-fight class on base and a boot camp class in the local community. With help and encouragement, I stayed focused. I watched what I ate and exercised regularly five days a week. It has been a long three months. My age and metabolism were working against me and it felt like an uphill battle. My test date was upon me before I knew it and I was extremely nervous to say the least. The highest that I had ever scored on the test was an 89.50. Well…….I did awesome! I got a 99.30. I maxed out everything, except for my run. I was elated and overjoyed! I felt like I had overcome something that I did not think or feel that I could bounce back from. Without the support of family and friends and sheer determination, I would have given up and failed a third time. It wasn’t an option though.
Although I passed the test and do not have to take it for another year, I have maintained a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly. It feels good to be alive and healthy!
Photo: Master Sgt. Michele Smith, unit training manager for the Readiness Management Group at Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Ga., conducts strength-training with weights in an effort to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Smith was diagnosed with two cerebral aneurysms last year after failing her fitness test. After surgery, Smith changed her fitness regimen and passed her PT test. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Megan Tomkins)