Injured Kokomo teacher determined to ride bicycle again


A teacher in Kokomo is recovering from serious injuries, after being hit on her bicycle last month.

The accident happened while she was training for a charity ride to benefit disabled veterans. Now, she's in rehab, determined to walk again, ride a bike again, and continue the mission to help others.

She's used to literally climbing mountains - scaling the country's tallest peaks. But at St. Vincent Hospital, teacher, swim coach and cyclist Donita Walters is facing her toughest challenge yet.

"This is a new mountain. It truly is," Walters said. "But we're just making the best of everything, aren't we?"

In her hospital bed, Walters smiles broadly. She has a bedazzled neck brace, decorated by her daughter, and sits under a patchwork of prayer from her students and church.

"Isn't that sweet? Look at all these messages. A lady from church began quilting this quilt the night after the accident. You just can't help but feel loved," Walters said.

She faces a long road to recovery with a grueling schedule of daily physical therapy after an accident nearly took her life.

"They push you. I'm a coach and I want to be pushed. I told (her physical therapists) I want to exceed their expectations, but it's hard! I came back to my room a little disheveled yesterday going, 'Oh my gosh. I can get on my bike and cycle 50 miles and now I can't even lift my leg off the floor'," Walters said.

It's quite a change for this adventurous athlete.

Last month, Walters was set to bicycle cross-country to support Homes For Our Troops, a charity that builds homes for disabled veterans. She and a friend from high school were going to bike together about 4,000 miles this summer.

It's called The Wandering Project.

But on her last training ride, headed home from Kokomo High School, a car hit her bicycle from behind.

"I heard screeching tires and then I felt the impact and I don't remember anything until seeing my husband at the end of the ambulance that evening before I was airlifted to Indianapolis," Walters recalled.

Walters has a broken neck and a shattered pelvis. Rods and hinges, staples and sutures are holding everything together right now. Doctors told her recovery will take 12-18 months, but Walters has a goal with a more urgent timeline.

"Our oldest son gets married on October 1 and I wanna dance with my son. I do want to dance with him," Walters said, tearing up. "I want to be on my own two feet, not him holding me up, but on my own two feet dancing with him."

She also wants to get back on the bike and complete her mission of helping disabled veterans. The Wandering Project is still raising money, even though Walters' ride is on hold.

She hopes while she's in the hospital, donations continue to come in.

"I get what they're going through. I get it! I have my legs and I'm going to walk. But these veterans don't. But I am feeling the rigors of physical therapy. I'm feeling the rigors of a broken body. But I didn't get mine in battle," Walters said.

Now, she's battling for those heroes - to recover and ride again.

"It's hard. It's really hard. But I want to get better," Walters said. "We're going to get better."

She also hopes this raises awareness about bike safety - that cars need to share the road, not share the lane with cyclists. She's also reminding cyclists to wear helmets. Doctors say her helmet saved her life.