Legend has it that I was born under the infamous traffic light on Tipperary Hill. As a young child I always had fun at Aunt Mary’s art table anytime she visited. A kind local photographer placed a twinlens camera and film in my 10 year old hands. Mr. Speedie published my photographs in a small local newspaper. I also dreamed of being a writer. Becoming disabled 19 years ago awakened the creative I was always meant to be. The creative I always was.
Art with purpose
Seven Sisters Advocacy with Art
I was born and raised in a sheltered and strict Irish Catholic family in Syracuse, NY. I am one of 7 daughters born to a working-class family. We lived in a 150 year old farm house. The mice ran through the walls at night telling me bedtime stories. I did not receive much love and affection from my parents as a young child. In 3rd grade, I received a “spanking” from my parents. The next morning I could not open my mouth and my whole back, neck and shoulders were not able to move. No one took me to the doctor. It was one of many family mysteries that no one wanted to help me solve. I graduated from Fayetteville-Manlius High School Cum Laude… No, that wasn’t me, that was two of my four older sisters. I was the Class Clown. A few other things happened during high school.
In September 1976, I was playing soccer at FM and fractured my ankle. I was 14 and a sophomore. A week later it was discovered my ankle was not set correctly. As an inpatient awaiting surgery to reset my broken ankle, I was sexually assaulted by 4 doctors (interns & residents) one after the other. I told no one of these assaults carrying the blame, shame, and guilt with me for 40 plus years.
5 months later my Mom would die at the same hospital of metastatic breast cancer. Being the oldest at home, I became mini mom for 1.5 years. Weekly grocery shopping with my dad and making dinner every night. Keeping the house running and an eye on my 12- and 14-year-old sisters. My dad would wander in between 9-11pm for the second shift dinner while I was doing homework at the kitchen table. Homemaker and high school student and I didn’t even take Home Ec.
My Dad remarried in October 1978 to a wonderful woman. We all loved her, and she made my dad so happy. And I was able to be just a kid my senior year.
Then onto Niagara University where I graduated with a triple major. A BS in Nursing, a BA in Student Government and a BA in Alcoholism (Niagara its not your fault, Alcoholism has been in my family for generations… past and present. I started my professional career back in Syracuse at the same hospital where I was sexually assaulted. After one year I moved to Jacksonville, FL. I needed to see the sun and not see the snow! And I needed to forget about my past. But it was etched into my soul and I carried it with me everywhere I went. In Jacksonville, I served as a Lieutenant in the Naval Reserves during Desert Storm 1990-1999. As a part of my military training, I was assigned to a school and became a Certified Health Care Risk Manager. I also worked at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville for 11 years.
I left Mayo Clinic and moved to Tampa for love, marriage number two, but unfortunately no baby carriage in June 2001. On July 1, 2004, I had a career ending accident at work that would leave me disabled in my contorted left hand, wrist, arm, shoulder and left upper back. I had been a Nurse for 21 years. I was diagnosed with a neurological pain condition called CRPS, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, aka The Suicide Pain Disorder. I would be in severe pain 24/7. In June 2005, the CRPS, aka RSD, spread to my right hand, wrist and arm. In October 2008, while visiting a friend in a 2-story house, both knees swelled like watermelons. It was determined that the CRPS has spread to both knees making it very difficult for me to move for years. It took me three years before I could bend my knees again with mild to moderate pain. While I lived in Tampa with CRPS I was never out of pain. Pain everyday for over 9 years ranging between 5-10/10.
In August of 2008 I sustained a moderate whiplash injury in a motor vehicle accident after leaving a Healing Mass. Yes, even God has a sense of humor! In 2010 and 2011 I was involved in smaller car accidents in parking lots. I kept telling my doctors that something was wrong with my brain. Over the years they did two MRI’s that were normal, but I was unable to understand what to ask for next. Although I was married, I had no advocate. I moved to Arizona in September 2013 by myself. Within 3 months one of my doctors suggested some testing. I was found to have a traumatic brain injury affecting the Executive Function area of my brain with significant cognitive deficits. I was evaluated to be functioning at an 8th grade level! This led to occupational therapy and speech therapy 3x a week for over a year. At another facility, I had eye therapy 2x a week for a year. When I would read a sentence one eye tracked forward and one backward at the same time. And then I would lose my place and reread starting the process all over again. In Tampa and Phoenix I was speaking three or four word sentences. I would look to my husband to fill in the blanks when people didn’t understand. A six year gap from the MVA to therapy starting is a crime that I was too ill to seek justice for.
I divorced in 2017, and we have found a path of forgiveness and friendship. Like most former spouses, there are times of tension and silence then times of trust and friendship. I would not only have to forgive him but to rely on him again due to my poor health while detoxing off 3 narcotics over 3.5 years. I tapered of OxyContin in 2018. I tapered off Oxycodone in 2019. And I tapered off Nucynta in 2021. I did not go on Methadone or Suboxone. Most people doing so take that medication for the rest of their lives. In my case, it did not make sense to me to add an additional medication to a full array of other pharmaceuticals. Forgiveness was pivotal for me to accomplish my destiny. During my 19 year chronic illness, I would lose all of my college and high school friends that had been with me for 30+ years. I also lost Mayo Clinic work friends, other Florida friends, immediate and other extended family members. The few that I have, you know who you are! They dropped out of my life one at a time. Pain experts say very few people will understand your pain condition on any level. I thought by giving them a website to reference, they would better understand my pain and the changes it caused in me. I learned you can’t make people love you or care about you. Believe me… I tried for most of my life. 19 years of isolation! This emotional pain was added to my already intense physical pain.
On 7/1/21 was the 17th anniversary of my accident at work that disabled me. On 7/1/21 was the first day of me being narcotic-free in 17 years! I still have pain in both arms but I manage it with a variety of techniques and other meds. My knees are much less painful in this Arizona climate and as long as I avoid stairs they keep quiet. The power of prayer is undeniable. It gets you where you need to be physically, mentally and spiritually. I would not be here without my Faith.
I have written about many of the challenges I have faced in my life to inform the readers about my character. I have tenacity, grit, boldness, determination and perseverance. I am ethical, honest and a truth teller. I am a VICTIM turned SURVIVOR. I am “The Salt of the Earth” born in a city known as “The Salt City”.
I am a Modern Day Warrior
Fiona Coleman, CEO
Chief Entertainment Officer