Karen Trotter (formerly Karen Mitchell
of McHenry, Illinnois) served four years
in the United States Navy as a diesel
mechanic on board the Y.T.B. Winnemucca
based at Treasure Island Naval Station
in the San Francisco Bay from 1984 to 1988.
After her tour of duty ended she married
and had two children, Brianne and Daryl.
Brianne, the oldest, has always been
in good health but Daryl was born with
five major heart defects.
Shortly after Daryl was born he
underwent major heart surgery to
correct several of these life
threatening conditions and he would
soon face two open heart surgeries
to further correct more problems.
It was during these grueling years
that Karen developed difficulty walking
and maintaining balance. While dealing
with her son's heart problems and an
impending divorce from the children's
father,she awoke one day, unable to
walk at all. What followed was an
eight year battle with an undending
series of Medicare clinics that seemed
increasingly uninterested in helping
her to come to any sort of diagnosis.
Several years of similar revolving door
appointments with the Memphis
VA Hospital resulted in nothing more
than what she had gotten from private
practice. While everyone concerned
seemed to believe that Karen might
have Multiple Sclerosis, no one was
willing to make a commitment to a
firm diagnosis, so consequently
Karen received little or no treatment
that would either benefit her or slow
down the attack of her disease.
It was not until she finally moved
with her new husband to Dallas that
she would finally receive the care
and treatment that she needed through
the efforts of the Dallas VA Hospital
Spinal Cord Injury Clinic.
Within a year, Karen finally got
a firm MS diagnosis and was started
on a course of treatment and a regular
physical therapy regimen.
journey toward recovery would not
have been possible without the help
of Dr. Michael Priebe, Perry Dijkman
and Quintin Stephens.
Dr. Priebe is the Chief of the
Spinal Cord Inury Unit of the VA,
Perry Dijkman is the National
Service Officer of the Paralyzed
Veterans of America and Quintin
Stephens is the coach of
Team Roadrunner, the track and field team.
Dr. Priebe is the physician
who not only made the commitment
to finalizing a diagnosis, he also
recognized the need for an immediate
course of aggresive treatment for
Perry Dijkman recognized that Karen's
condition was most likely service connected
and has mounted a thorough campaign
to help Karen recover sufficient
medical benefits for her to regain
something of a normal life again.
Quintin Stephens is a quadraplegic
ex-Marine who organized a winning
track and field team of paralyzed
It was Quintin's inspiration that
led Karen to getting involved with
Team Roadrunner will be hosting nearly
a dozen veteran athletes at the
Paralyzed Veterans of America Wheelchair Games
during the first week in July, 2003
in Long Beach, California.
Karen will be competing in the
100, 200, 800 and 1500 meter races
in a customized lightweight racing chair
designed specifically for these events.
© 2003 LONG BEACH PRESS-TELEGRAM
By Earl Williams
Her arms were pumping hard. Her shoulders were hunched forward.
Karen Trotter couldn't use her legs.
But she didn't have the time to think about that, or the multiple sclerosis that put her in a customized lightweight racing chair built specifically for racing.
With a crowd of supporters screaming her name, Trotter passed James McGilber in the final stretch of the novice 400-meter race to finish first in her heat at the 23rd annual National Veterans Wheelchair Games on Tuesday at Long Beach State. The 37-year-old crossed the finish line in an unofficial time of 3 minutes, 4.30 seconds.
"This was the first sporting event that I have ever competed in," Trotter said. "I felt great. I was nervous. I have been racing for six months. When it's a month before you are supposed to race and you can't keep your chair in the lane, it's nervous time.''
This win is small when compared to the challenges she has overcome in the last 10 years.
In 1995, Trotter began to show signs of MS two years after she gave birth to her first child, Brianne, now 10. At the time, the U.S. Navy veteran lived in Arkansas but had to travel 60 miles to Memphis, Tenn., to the nearest VA medical center. There, doctors suspected she had MS, but they couldn't confirm it. "I woke up and felt that tingling sensation like (my legs) were asleep,' she said. "They never woke up.''
That was the same year she gave birth to son Daryl (now 7), who was born with five heart defects. "He came a month early. Doctors were a little concerned because of his color,'' Karen said. "Three weeks after we brought him home from the hospital, he was diagnosed with (major heart problems).
"Right now, he is doing great. We are three years post surgery with him. He does anything he wants.'' Between the stress of her health issues and those of her son, Trotter's second marriage fell apart. Alone, she went from walking to using a cane to a walker and eventually to a wheelchair. "I was married for seven years,'' she said. "After my son was diagnosed, that was hard. I think that when my symptoms started to progress, he couldn't handle my son and myself.''
Her concern was Daryl and Brianne, she said.
"It was hard because I had to be there with my son,'' Trotter said. "I held off seeing doctors (for my own health issues) because I needed to be there with him. I pretty much stayed at home and did what I had to do for my children. It was grueling. I had to stop driving and depend on other people.''
Despite her physical limitations, Trotter has learned to do as much for herself as possible.
"I figured out how to cook from a wheelchair,'' she continued. "I have burns to prove it. I did, basically, everything except be a soccer mom. I couldn't go everywhere my kids wanted me to go. And unfortunately, they suffered.'' But in 1999, Jeff Haas, now her fiance, won her heart and the family moved to Dallas, where the VA medical center diagnosed her with MS and she began to receive the proper treatment.
"Once we moved to Dallas, we were on the fast track to a diagnosis and some realistic treatment", said Haas.
Eventually Trotter was introduced to Quintin Stephens, a quadriplegic U.S.
Marine veteran who got her involved with Team Roadrunner.
Right now, I feel great", Trotter said after her second race.
"I am a little tired, but I have my good days and bad days."
Karen's Race Day - VIDEO