Peer Support Team

If you would like to schedule a meeting with one of our SCI Peer Supporters, please contact Robert Medel at 408 885 2397 or vmcpeersupport@scvmcrehab.org
 

Annamarie Moreno

team Annamarie was 27 years old when she was in an automobile accident on December 8, 2012, hitting a cement wall at over 100 mph. She sustained a C6 complete spinal cord injury. Annamarie will be the first to acknowledge that the circumstances of her accident were nothing to be proud of. The driver of the vehicle had already left the scene with Annamarie fighting for her life and without the aid of a good samaritan, she would not have made it. Charlie, an off duty marine, alerted the emergency services and stayed with her until the paramedics arrived.
Waking up in Hospital on a ventilator and feeling that she had let her family, her 8 year old daughter, her 6 year old son and mostly herself down made her recovery extremely challenging. With daily tasks now more challenging, Annamarie was able to start to piece her life back together with the love and support of her family, her friends and a strong spirit.

“I feel as though I was destined for this in some bizarre crazy way, if my story helps one person then, myself being in this chair is worth it! I have good and bad days however my good definitely out weigh the bad. I have a different outlook on life and appreciate the simple things like going for bike rides with my children listening to the birds chirp in the morning or going outside on a warm night to look at the moon and stars there is so much we take so much for granted!”

Antonio Quistian

teamOn August 31, 2008 Antonio then aged 27 was involved in a motorcycle accident which left him paralyzed from my chest level down. (T-4 incomplete) After months of recovery he began to experience the difficulties of daily living while being in a wheelchair. He then returned to college and learned to use his disability to his advantage. Antonio founded a corporation titled Endless Ability Enterprises, a company that creates products to assist those living with a disability in their everyday lives. His products include Ability Jeans: Function Fashion for wheelchair users. He also created products for improving recovery and others allowing him to return to his passion of riding motorcycles and driving exotic cars.

“I am a man who has found my way to beat the odds as well as stay positive and focused through the challenges of living with a disability. Regardless of the obstacles I made every attempt to continue living life just has I had before my accident, only now doing it a little different, a little smarter, with more appreciation”

Carl McGrew

teamIn 2012, Carl was 55 when an operation to remove a blood clot on his spinal cord left him with a T8 complete SCI. Despite being paralyzed from the navel down, he continues to work as a Supervising Pretrial Services Officer. Carl lives in the same house with his wife, dog and cat in San Jose and does nearly everything he did prior to his injury, just a little differently.

"Although I have been a Peer Supporter since 2014, I love to come back to the meetings not only to share my own experience in solving problems with the patients but I continue to learn from both the peers and the patients to finding answers to the challenges I face in my continued recovery".

Chris Bergevin

teamChris was 48 when he had a diving accident while on vacation with his wife and two kids in September 2014 and sustained a C4 complete injury. Formerly, a stereotypical Silicon Valley engineer, he now has a much broader perspective on life – He enjoys the simple moments with his family.

During rehab Chris went through the dizzying array of IT options available to get back online. He knows the frustration of feeling, "It's still me inside!". He wants to offer recent Quads his experience to try and ease that transition.

Cindy Faulkner

teamIn April of 1998, Cindy was 38 when she was injured in a motor vehicle accident. She sustained a T8 complete injury. After a completing an extended stay in SCVMC, she moved to a skilled nursing home until her own accessible apartment become available. Meanwhile she started volunteering at VMC, purchased a van and learned to drive with hand controls. In 2008, she became a volunteer on the Advisory Board for the In-Home-Supportive Services Program for Santa Clara County. A few years later, Cindy had to stop her valuable work for the county due to health complications.

"I value my family and friends and sharing experiences and ideas with the other peers. Sometimes in life, we don't have control of what happens to us. But I used to tell my friend, also a paraplegic, had this not happened to me, I would have never met you!"

Debbie Dobosz

teamIn November, 2011, at age 54, Debbie was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor at level C4. Surgery left her paralyzed on the left side and without sensation on the right. It’s called Brown-Sequard Syndrome. During the first 4 years since her surgery, Debbie regained much of her mobility and continues to improve. She is a Registered Nurse and works as a Clinical Educator for the Palo Alto Medical Foundation.

“I am blessed to be part of the Peer Support Team. Their ‘can do’ energy continually empowers me to believe in my dreams and is a place to share the joy of my accomplishments since surgery. I hope sharing my story helps create a space for others to have the same experience. Engage!”

Gordon Poole

teamIn 1995, Gordon was 30 when he broke his C5 cervical disk in a fall. After an extended stay in SCVMC SCI Rehab, he went back to school, eventually earning a J.D. at Santa Clara University School of Law and is currently employed in the Bay Area by Motorola Solutions. Gordon considers himself to be a high functioning "upside down" quadriplegic. His dedicated wife, Amy, has been by his side, before, during and after his spinal cord injury and together they have a beautiful young daughter. Gordon and his family enjoy sailing, hiking and traveling. "Aim so high you'll never be bored!"


Greg Anderson

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JoAnna Johnstone

teamIn 2008, JoAnna was 41 when she had a surgery complication which resulted in a T8 incomplete spinal cord injury. For the previous 17 years prior to her injury, she was the owner/operator of a home daycare. JoAnna now enjoys spending time with her grown up children, who were teenagers when she had her injury, as well as her family and friends. She continues to do everything she used to do, cooking, baking and cleaning just a little differently.

"One of my favorite quotes and something I live by, `It is what it is in life's journeys."

Kevin Lee

teamIn 2004, Kevin was 41 when he dove into a shallow swimming pool while celebrating at a Party. Kevin sustained a C1 incomplete SCI and was lucky to escape with his life. Although initially paralyzed from the neck down, 3 months later he made his way out of the SCVMC rehab center on crutches.

Kevin now spends some of his time as a director at ReCares, a Non Profit Organization that collects and redistributes donations of clean, gently used medical equipment.

Although Kevin can walk with the aid of crutches, he finds his mobility scooter works best when he is out of his house and makes full use of it during his annual pilgrimage to Burning Man.

"I can't move as fast anymore but a like to joke it has not slowed me down. I do remember being inspired by a peer supporter when I was a patient attending the peer support meetings and I hope sharing my experiences will have the same inspirational effect on others"

Ligia Andrade (Zuniga)

teamLigia was 28 years old when she sustained a C5/C6 complete spinal cord injury from an automobile accident on January 17, 2009 while heading home with her children who were 12 and 7 at the time. Since then, Ligia spends her time encouraging, educating, and empowering others with disabilities in her community. Ligia is a Commissioner for the San Mateo County Commission on Disabilities, Treasurer of the Board of Directors for the Center for Independence of Individuals with Disabilities-San Mateo, a Sexuality and Disability Educator for Sexability, and has been a peer supporter for five years now. Along with her professional endeavors, she enjoys spending time with her children, as well as with her friends and family.

"The peer support program is an invaluable asset to our spinal cord injury community. It saved me as I was beginning my recovery, and still continues to as I continue to recover. Hope is what binds us all together, and I want to bring that same type of hope to others going through what I went through and still go through. We need each other to get through this change in our lives."

Marv Tuttle

teamMarv was 48 years old when he was involved in a motorcycle accident in 1998. He sustained a T-12 spinal cord injury and is paralyzed from the waist down. Married with two kids, five grand kids and one great granddaughter, this Vietnam Veteran continued to work until he was fifty-four and now spends all of his time doing volunteer work, i.e. Scuba diver at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Volunteering for Canine Companions and volunteers with the V.A.

“I was blessed with my service dog Yara in November of 2010. I waited for ten years to apply thinking that I didn’t deserve one of these amazing dogs. I was wrong.

My Yara helps me in so many ways including my work with special needs children. There is a good life a debilitating injury or illness, You get out of it what you put into it"

Mike Thum

teamMike was 24 years old when on July 2006 he was shot in the back while defending himself from burglars. He sustained a T4 complete injury and was paralyzed from his upper chest down. After four months in the hospital, and about four months adjusting mentally and physically to the transition back into society, Mike began living on his own and taking care of himself. He spent the first few years self-employed in the music and photography/design business before moving up to the south bay area to begin attending school. In late 2015, Mike graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting at San Jose State University, and is now working as an auditor. Mike has been a part of the peer support program since early 2012.

"My rehabilitation experience was at a place that had very little knowledge of spinal cord injuries, let alone a network of other people with spinal cord injuries. Hearing able-bodied people telling me how to function in a wheelchair while they were standing in front of me seemed ridiculous. I always wanted to be able to provide my insight to newly injured people or even people in chairs for a while, becoming a part of peer support has been a great outlet for me to do so. Not only has it helped me give back to people, but I have also gained quite a bit from meeting people, sharing ideas, learning from each other, and building great friendships."

Nick Struthers

teamIn August 2004, Nick was 42 when he had a mountain bike accident in the hills above Los Gatos and was initially paralyzed below his shoulders. He was airlifted to SCVMC where he was diagnosed with a C5-6 incomplete SCI and underwent surgery. Nick experienced a lot of return over the days and weeks after his accident and coupled with what Nick would describe as an obsessive attitude towards his rehab, he was able to get back to almost the same physical condition he was in before the accident. Nick, who is originally from Scotland, still continues to enjoy mountain biking in the Los Gatos Hills.

"Since joining the Peer Support Team, I continue to be humbled and inspired by my fellow Peers and the patients that I have had the privilege to meet and work with. If there was one thing I know now that would have helped me in my recovery is the realization that my condition did not just affect me but also had a huge impact on the people closest to me."

Rich Johnson

teamRich was 41 when he broke his neck in a motorcycle accident in July of 2009 at C7/T1. Despite no return function, Rich's recovery has been stellar. This was due to a diligent pursuit of a high quality of life, problem solving and advocacy. One of his greatest joys is just being a dad to his daughter who turned 13 in 2015. Native of Los Gatos, Rich enjoys driving his family on vacations, attending concerts, car races, dining out, going to the movies, boating, BBQ-ing, and attending his daughter's school performances and sporting events. Rich has gone parachuting post injury as well as camping. He and his daughter have gone for a ride in a glider. Rich is a big fan of regular exercise and a healthy diet (most of the time).

He finds sharing success in his recovery with others just learning to adapt mutually beneficial. Staying connected to the community of other wheelchair users enables Rich to stay rooted in gratitude and solution oriented.

“Life is good. Don't miss it!”

Steve Estrada

teamOn November 23, 2000 Steve was 42 years old when he was in a motorcycle accident which resulted in paralysis (T8 complete) and he also sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury. He coma'd for 2 1/2 weeks and had immediate back surgery (T-8 Fractured in 3 places) when he came out of his coma. Steve then spent 6 months in rehab at SCVMC. He is presently mentoring new patients that have sustained Spinal Cord Injuries at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.

“I enjoy being a Mentor because it's my way of giving back.“