Awards & Recognitions
- Ability Awareness Hero of the Year Award 2016, recognized by Channel KPBS Saan Diego
- Abilities Expo Ambassador 2015 recognized by Abilities.com
- Ms. Wheelchair California 2013
- Wheelchair California First Runner 2012
- Certificate of Recognition 2012 recognized by Mayor Sanders
- Certificate of Recognition 2012 recognized by East County Chamber
- Sinning Star Award of Excellence 2011 recognized by MWCC
- Ms Wheelchair California First Runner Up 2010
- Shining Star Award of Excellence 2010 recognized by MWCC
- Certificate of Recognition 2010 recognized by the City of Los Angeles
- Hero of the Year Award 2009 recognized by HeadNorth
- People First Certificate of Appreciation 2009 recognized by McMillan Ability Awareness Committee
I can still recall the first time I heard God’s voice. June 22, 2006. It was the night I was shot in the neck. The bullet exited through my back, severing my spinal cord. When the man who shot me ran away, he crossed paths with my 13 year old daughter as he exited the hallway which leads to my room. She ran in and found me lying on my bed in a pool of blood. My brother ran in right behind her, and as she dialed 911, he placed his thumb in the hole my neck and three fingers in the hole in my back to stop the immense flow of blood coming from the entrance and exit wounds caused by the 22 caliber bullet. I recall being angry at my daughter for being in the room seeing this as if she were the one doing something wrong. I quickly realized that no words were coming out of my mouth and she was the only one who could read my lips. My brother then asked me about my cousin, Jose Alvaro “Varo”, who had been with me the entire day and had just left my house with the shooter, after dropping me off. At that very moment it hit me, my cousin Varo had to be dead! Despite all attempts to stop the bleeding, I died too. Thankfully, paramedics arrived quickly, and I was rushed into the ambulance where I was revived.
As I was being rushed down Mercy Hospital’s ER hallway I woke up gasping for air. I saw a man straddled over me pumping my chest with great force while another man ran alongside as quickly as he could as he pumped air into a hole in my neck leading to my airway with a blue balloon like device. I later learned was called a Tracheotomy. Then I heard a nurse ask me if I could feel my legs and I shook my head, “no”. I began praying and that’s when I heard God’s peaceful, comforting voice for the very first time,
“Breath Maggie, breath!”
The next thing I heard was the same nurse questioning, “Who are we going to save,her, or the baby?” At that very moment I felt my son’s spirit leave my body. I was so excited about having this baby. He had everything he needed to come home, from teeny tiny socks to a nice big crib. I enjoyed every minute of my pregnancy and still recall feeling my baby’s kicks and hiccups inside my belly. Yet, the sensation of his spirit leave my body continues to haunt me to this day. According to my doctors, due to the amount of blood loss, had I not been pregnant, I would not have survived.
Waking Up In ICU
Two weeks later I woke up in ICU to the sound of a drill and my hair being ripped out of my head; by the twisting screw being drilled into my head, one of four which would secure a heilo and rods connected to a chest brace used to secure my neck and back. When I woke up I learned that my son did not survive and that Varo was shot twice in the head and did not survive either. I was told I would be dependent on a breathing machine for the rest of my life and that I would never speak again, nor have movement from the neckline down. As I laid in ICU all alone surrounded only by machines, beeping very loudly and pumping air into a hole in my neck which lead to my airway, I began to pray and speak directly to God:
“I know this is my fault. I take full responsibility for my actions, and I’m truly sorry. I know I’ll never walk again but, please give me something to work with so I may continue being a mom to my three kids and I promise to live to only serve and love you.”
The first thing to be removed, was the breathing machine and slowly but surely all the other wires and tubes were too! My arms which were once paralyzed and propped up with pillows as well as my hands which were in braces began moving. Next, after a long four months of therapy, I was able to speak again.
My Support Team
My parents, sisters, and church family and my children played a key role in my rehabilitation process and ability to regain my independence.
- My parents, especially my mom, did not leave my side for the first year and half after my injury. For that entire time my mother was my caregiver.
- My sister Linda, an LVN student at the time, took me and my children in and moved us into her Arizona home. Later we moved back to San Diego; my sister Jeanette took us in until we got our own place. My sister Lisa has continued to be a listening ear and confidant.
- It’s my church family whom I will be eternally grateful to for helping me reaffirm my faith and for teaching me how to have a real relationship with the Lord.
- My children Tesia, Kayla, and Mario were once my main motivator for fighting for my life and staying alive. Instead of me being the caregiver, they each now play a caregiver role in my life. My newest motivation for life lies are my two beautiful granddaughters, Rosalinda and Elena.
I learned from speaking and trying to help other people that there is true healing for myself when helping others so I founded Blessed with Life, a faith based peer support program for people with disabilities and their families. That lead to many more volunteer service opportunities, my competing for Ms. Wheelchair California (four times), and eventually working again! Now as a Motivational Speaker, Entrepreneur, Producer/Host of Wheel Talk Wheel Issues, Model and Author, I want to encourage others to do the following:
- Except Jesus Christ as your Savior.
- Accept and embrace your limitations.
- Know your abilities are stronger than your disabilities.
- Learn to love everything that has happened to you.
- Know that you will continue to have struggles, but you can get through them all.
- Create awareness to the able-bodied community and inspire those with disabilities.