A former sit-n-ski water skier with several adapted water ski titles under her belt, Stephany Glassing is one of the few licensed female paraplegic pilots in the country. And that’s not all. She’s also a mother, an artist, former Ms. Wheelchair Georgia 2003 and a lover of monkeys. Yes you heard us right – monkeys.
The recipient of a Capuchin monkey (she requested one to help with depression), she’s become a huge disability service monkey advocate since receiving Tracy, speaking on behalf of the organization that gave her her monkey whenever she can.
To learn more about Stephany, an amazing woman and dedicated single mother who refuses to let her chronic pain win, read on.
Why she’s fearless
Raised by a mother who worked at NASA, Stephany dreamed of flying as a little girl. She grew up in Melbourne, Florida near NASA and was a total “Florida girl,” loving the sun and water. But like so many people when they’re a teenager, in 1984 she made a bad decision after drinking – she decided to get into the car of a friend who was drunk.
While a passenger, the car rolled and Stephany was ejected, with the car landing on top of her. She woke up a few days later in the hospital and was told she would never walk again. Stephany was grateful for the second chance at life and moved on strongly.
After her injury, Stephany went on to receive a degree in computer science from a local community college, and then she received an art degree from Arts Institute of Atlanta. She also became pregnant not too long after injury, giving birth to her daughter Briana; a young woman who went on to become Miss Atlanta in 2012 and Miss Cobb County (pictured above with Stephany). Stephany and her daughter were extremely close and remain so till this day.
In the first years after her injury, Stephany actually was not active athletically. It wasn’t until the early nineties when she discovered adapted water skiing. Growing up she loved the water, so this was a natural fit. From 1995 to 2007, Stephany was an active water skier and part of the USA Disabled Water Ski Team. In 1999, she won the title of Disabled Water Ski Champion and the USA National Ladies Sit Ski jump Champion.
Stephany eventually had to retire permanently from the water skiing in 2007 when she began experiencing chronic pain from sitting in her wheelchair for over 30 years. And when she had a strange reaction to taking antibiotics in 2010, having a condition called Osteomyletis, which was a mass that literally melted her L4 vertebrae. Stephany had to get a rod and plate put in to help with the damage, which only increased her chronic pain.
Missing the water, Stephany is now an adapted rower, a new sport she’s fallen in love with, and she says it helps with her chronic pain immensely.
While doing peer support at the Shepherd Center near her home town of Marietta, Georgia, Stephany discovered Able Flight, an adapted flight nonprofit in North Carolina, that helps people with disabilities get their pilot’s license. An adrenaline junkie, Stephany knew this was for her. It took for several years because of health setbacks, but she eventually got her pilot’s license in 2012, flying a specially modified Sky Arrow S-LSA.
For Stephany, flying has been a beautiful tonic to her soul. “I love the sense of freedom flying gives me. It really gets me get out of my chair,” she likes to say. But 24 years later after her injury when her daughter moved out for college, even her love of flying couldn’t keep her spirits up.
For the first time since her injury, she became depressed. A longtime artist, Stephany thought outside-the-box to help herself, and applied for a Capuchin monkey from Helping Hands. She received Tracy, her monkey, just a few years ago, and her life had been transformed. Having Tracy has helped her in so many ways – a companion, someone to care for and of course someone who can help her too.
While Stephany’s athletic achievements have been impressive since her injury, what we’re really impressed by is her ability to thrive in the face of chronic pain, and fight depression and win in her later days. She proves we all have that fighting spirit within us, if we just know where to look for it.
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