Peer & Family Support Spotlight: Felicia Gibson

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on April 18, 2022 # Peer & Family Support Program

Felicia and Michael What started as a typical late-summer evening turned suddenly tragic for Michael Gibson.

“We were hanging out at home watching TV, and we fell asleep,” says Felicia Gibson, who was Michael’s girlfriend at the time. “We got up to go to bed, and Michael took the dog out to go to the bathroom. A couple of minutes later, I heard several loud bangs.”

Outside the couple’s Savannah, Georgia, home, Michael had encountered several men breaking into cars on their quiet cul-de-sac. As the men got in their car to leave, Michael tried to get the license plate number, and one of the thieves shot him in the center of the back.

“Of the six or seven rounds shot, only one hit Michael, and the bullet stopped at his T1 vertebrae,” says Felicia, who was 38 years old at the time. “He is a C6, C7 quadriplegic, but we don’t know if the injury is complete because the shrapnel in his spine prevents us from doing an MRI.”

Michael proposed to Felicia in the hospital, and a couple of days later, they were married in the ICU. After two weeks, Michael was transferred to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. The bullet had ripped through his esophagus and damaged his trachea, and the 30-year-old had nearly 20 surgeries to try to repair his injuries.

Almost a year after the 2017 shooting, Michael went back to work with Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation and began taking classes to finish his undergraduate degree. Felicia changed careers to become a certified fitness instructor, but she wanted to do more.

Felicia and Michael at their wedding “I was on a Facebook group for caregivers, and someone suggested that I reach out to the Reeve Foundation,” says Felicia. “I initially got involved with doing advocacy work. I met with Buddy Carter, who is our local Congressional representative, as well as Savannah’s mayor and alderman.”

Felicia joined the Savannah–Chatham Council on Disability Issues, but she still wanted to do more. She became an ambassador for the Reeve Foundation’s National Paralysis Resource Center (NPRC), meeting with local schools, rehabilitation centers and equestrian centers to educate employees about the NPRC’s free resources and services for people living with paralysis.

Last year, Felicia learned about the Reeve Foundation’s Peer & Family Support Program, and she decided to get a mentor for herself.

“Having a mentor has been very helpful. We share so many similarities,” says Felicia. “The Peer & Family Support Program does a great job of matching people with someone whose situation is like yours. We talked about a little bit of everything. Sometimes the conversation is about Michael, sometimes it is about me, and sometimes it is just about being a woman.”

Shortly after getting a mentor for herself, Felicia decided to become a mentor for others.

“I realized how helpful it was for me, and I wanted, in turn, to be helpful to others,” says Felicia, who has mentored seven women who are also caregivers to date. Initially, she worried that she might not be able to make a difference, but those fears were quickly dispelled.

“Being a mentor is very fulfilling. Sometimes I just offer an ear when people want to vent, and sometimes, I offer advice and resources. I’m happy to be there for whatever someone needs,” says Felicia. “It is a very good feeling to give back. I wouldn’t be where I am today without others helping me. You can’t do it alone.”

Felicia encourages other caregivers to reach out and accept help. “Don’t think you have to do it all by yourself. And be sure to try to do something for yourself now and then.”

Her advice for other mentors is to focus on helping others when you can.

“Sometimes, people just find you. Don’t stress if you don’t do as much as you’d like,” says Felicia. “Even if you don’t have all the answers, you can be helpful just by being there and listening.”

The Gibson's participating in the Reeve Run & Roll

Last fall, Felicia and Michael joined Team Reeve and raised over $2,800 as participants in the second annual Reeve Run & Roll virtual 5k. They organized a team of 20 people, including several family members. Felica also recruited many girls to skate the 5k from the junior roller derby team she coaches.

“The Reeve Foundation does a lot of good things to bring this community together. I hope the research and funding help lessen the blow one day, and people can regain some of the functionality they lost,” says Felicia. “It’s been a great experience dealing with everyone at the Reeve Foundation, and I appreciate all the time and effort they put in to make life better for so many people.”

You can request a Peer & Family Support Program mentor here.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.