Desiree GrazianoWe are pleased to announce the winner for our 2018 Regis L. Mullen Accident & Injury Scholarship: Desiree Graziano. Below is her story.

It was March 1st, 2002 and I was patiently waiting for my current boyfriend to come home to go out to dinner with our friends.  It was getting late, so I proceeded to go to his house to look for him.  At around 8:25 I was driving on County Rt 26A when apparently a deer ran out in front of my car. I swerved so I didn’t hit the deer, but struck a telephone pole, rolled my car and was ejected out the back window.  I don’t remember any of this, this is what I am told happened. I awoke in Albany Medical hospital on March 19th after being in a medically induced coma and in ICU this entire time, to find out that I had been in a horrible car accident and almost died.

My parents by my side when I woke, I remember saying can you scratch my left arm it itches, and my mother started to cry, right then I knew something was wrong. I turned to her and said it’s not there is it, she let out a big cry and said no its not they had to amputate it or else you were going to die. As the result my left arm had to be amputated because of “necrotizing fasciitis” otherwise known as the flesh-eating bacteria disease. I was in utter shock how did this happen?? I was a 22-year-old nurse with everything going for me, I have my whole life ahead and now my dreams are over I thought to myself.

I was discharged from the hospital to home and all I thought about was my nursing career and what would I do now?  I have a four-year-old son to take care of, how am I going to support us?  Will I still be able to be a nurse?  These were just some if the thought that’s were running through my head.  I spoke with my employer and they were willing to keep me employed.  So, I worked as a nurse for 7 years.  I was terminated from my job in 2009 when a new company was taking the business I worked for over.  I tried to find work, but was unsuccessful with my disability.  I had no other choice but to file for social security disability benefits.  This didn’t stop me from continuing to look for work, the last thing I want to be doing is sitting at home doing nothing and feeling worthless.

The amputation was and still is a very big obstacle in my life.  I have lots of pain in the left side where my arm should be, this is what the doctors say is phantom pain and it’s the nerves that make it hurt.  I used to have a very tough time sleeping and getting comfortable.  My physical ability is limited in ways which one can’t imagine unless in my shoes. There are a lot of things that I can’t do because of needing two arms to do them in life.  This obstacle has affected my life in so many ways from the physical to emotional aspects.  I’ve had good support from my family and friends to help me try and overcome this massive obstacle, but there are some things that I can’t get past because I have a daily reminder.

I decided in October of 2014 that I was going to go back to college and do something productive and useful with my life, this was one way in which I was trying to overcome what I was dealt.  That is just what I have accomplished, I should be receiving my diploma any day now from SUNY Columbia-Greene Community College.  I’ve been able to receive my Associate’s degree in Business.  I made the Dean’s list 4 semesters and the President’s list 1semester.  My GPA is 3.52.

I am going to continue for my Bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management/Public Health at SUNY Canton.  I’m currently on the Board of Directors and a volunteer with the Columbia Pathways to Recovery, this is an organization dedicated to helping people in need of rehab, recovery and support of their addictions.  My hope is to continue with this and further my education pertaining to the large opioid epidemic that is plaguing our country and taking so many young lives.  I want to be able to still help people in need and right now this seems to be the biggest need and obstacle the country needs to overcome.

I am in financial need because as you can imagine social security disability benefits are not a lot, and the grants that I receive for college are just covering the tuition.  There are no funds left this semester for my books and other expenses.  I also plan on continuing my education for my Master’s degree and that will definitely not be easy to pay for on my own.

I would be so grateful if I were to receive this scholarship and take some of the financial burden off of me, to where I can just focus on my studies.