Q&A with Reeve Foundation Advocate Felicia Gibson

Posted by Reeve Foundation Staff in Daily Dose on February 19, 2020 # Advocacy and Policy

By Brittany Branard, Reeve Foundation Public Policy Coordinator

Felicia Gibson advocates for the Reeve Foundation via the Regional Champions advocacy program. We asked her to share a bit about her story and her experience as an advocate.

Q: Please share a bit about your experience.

A: I will never forget 1:00AM, August 27, 2018. My boyfriend, Michael, and I just finished a television show. I readied myself for bed while Michael let our dog out in the front yard. It was then that I heard several loud bangs. It didn’t register in my brain as gunshots until I found him in our driveway. Michael observed thieves breaking into a neighbor’s car. Upon seeing my boyfriend, the thieves chose to empty a magazine into the neighborhood, their bullets striking another neighbor’s car, one sailing over a neighbor’s sleeping teenage son, and one entering the center of my boyfriend’s neck, shattering on his T1 and ultimately resulting in him as a level C6/C7 quadriplegic. I have been by his side since.

Michael asked me to marry him on August 31, 2018, in his ICU bed (he had been planning on popping the question for months; he had the ring hidden in the garage in a box of MRE’s). We got married on September 4, 2018, in the ICU. It has been a long and scary journey, but he has since “recovered” and as of December 1, 2019, returned to work full time as an aircraft planner. Our lives have changed drastically. Prior to the incident, he was an aircraft mechanic and I was a veterinary technician and practice manager for a local veterinarian. Now I am pursuing a career in group fitness instruction with a focus on barre as well as finding my voice as an advocate for those with living with paralysis and related disabilities.

Felicia Gibson, Reeve Regional Champion, and her husband, Michael Gibson, are pictured with their congressman, Representative Carter (GA)Q: Why are you advocating for the Reeve Foundation?

A: I am advocating for the Reeve Foundation because I believe the people within the organization genuinely care. When I asked how I could help, they let me dive right in. They assisted in getting a meeting with my district’s congressman, who has further assisted us by offering his support and by contacting our alderman about our concerns. Soon we will be speaking with local leaders in my area about challenges we have found throughout our city and how to combat them. The Foundation has solid strategies to promote and implement positive life changes for those living with disabilities, as well as their friends and loved ones, not only nationally, but also on local and personal levels. The Paralysis Resource Center (PRC), research, clinical trials, peer counseling, and all the other funding and services they provide are invaluable, and I am very proud to be a part of an organization that helps so many people.

Q: Do you have any tips for advocacy?

A: As far as tips for advocacy go, I would say don’t give up and don’t be afraid to ask for help. I tried to find local groups and attempted to talk to other organizations that said they could help guide me, but I never received a response. I kept looking and discovered an amazing woman, Kelly Lamb, who leads Team Reeve Endurance. She connected me to the Foundation’s policy and advocacy coordinator, who is proving to be an amazing mentor. Without her I would be so lost.

Another piece of advice would be to follow up on issues important to you and don’t be afraid to make some noise. Educate, Educate, Educate! If you feel comfortable, then share your experiences. Until this happened to us, I had no idea just how hard it was to plan a “simple” evening out. Not everyone sees curb cuts that are in such disrepair, such as an incline/decline that you or someone you love could get seriously injured on, or how someone parking in hashmarks can prevent someone from getting in or out of their vehicle. These things are just the tip of the iceberg, but no project is too small. If it can improve the quality of someone’s life, then you are making a difference!

About Felicia Gibson
Felicia Gibson and her husband Michael live in beautiful historic Savannah, GA, with their 3-year-old german shepherd, Poe, and senior cat, Mini. In addition to acting as Michael’s primary caregiver, Felicia is working towards making Savannah easier to navigate for all levels of mobility and is pursuing a career in fitness.