One of the loudest (in a good way), warm-spirited SCI superstars we’ve ever profiled (watch out for her Southern accent), Carlana Stone Lawson is known for two things – flying planes and being an amazing communicator. Oh, and she hates looks of pity (and has no problem saying so).
The first female paraplegic to fly solo, Carlana has worked as a successful TV reporter and works as a media executive in LA. But when she became paralyzed 25 years ago (after breaking her back at T12-L1 in a car accident, riding in a car with a drunk driver), she was not at all as ready to take life with such ferocity.
She instead, was only focused on one thing: Walking again. “If I just worked hard enough, I could beat this,” she thought, and she traveled to Russia, staying for 2 years (even learning Russian in the process), to undergo stem cell treatments. And then Carlana had a revelation – maybe walking wasn’t her end goal? And that was when her life began to change in amazing ways.
Why she’s fearless
Even though she was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Carlana Stone Lawson high-tailed it to UC Berkeley University where she graduated with a degree in Slavic Languages. After graduating, Carlana cris-crossed the country to Miami, Florida, where she became the city’s first TV reporter in a wheelchair. She worked as the popular WPLG-ABC affiliate TV reporter. She’ll downplay this part of her life, but I think it’s really awesome.
And after getting her fill of reporting news, Carlana wanted to get involved in creating TV shows, and she moved to LA to start a career producing TV shows. She started producing talk shows, and eventually moved on prime-time shows. She even produced A&E’s Intervention.
Carlana has been a guest on several talk shows herself, including Montel (talking about the abusive relationship she had with her first husband), The Larry King Show, and in 2008 she was a contestant in Oprah’s “Big Give” contest (watch here)
And Carlana thrives on adrenaline. At the age of 36, she fell in love with flying after she went on a “flying date“ with the man she would eventually marry (her second husband). She studied for her pilot’s license, eventually becoming the first female paraplegic to fly solo.
Carlana also does a bunch of other adrenaline-laced things. She skydives, rides Harley’s (on an adapted trike), mono-skis and she scuba dives (what doesn‘t she do?). After taking a break from producing in 2005, she published her memoirs, co-writing it with a friend from college. It’s titled Never Give In, Never Give Up, where she shares how she was able to get through everything with such fierceness.
Even though Carlana has begun to experience neuropathic pain as she‘s gotten older (she receives help from the Pain Foundation, which she highly recommends), she remains feistier than ever. She works as a freelance TV producer and flies and bikes all the time. We are not “forever victims” she says. “We are only victims if we choose to be.”
Oh man, I love this woman.
How have you discovered new dreams after your injury like Carlana Stone Lawson? Do you fly?
Watch the videos!