I've been surfing since I was in middle school. Adventure and exploration has always been part of my life, in and out of the water. Some may call me the typical all-American surf chick: Yep, I have the wavy blonde hair and blue eyes -- but I'm also a college student and am working hard to become an interior designer. Things I love? My friends, the beach, my black lab Ruca.
My life felt simple, and perfect. But then, everything changed.
So, on a warm, typical evening with friends just over three years ago, I took a dive off a dock to immerse myself in my happy place, completely unaware that the water below was shallow. The accident left me paralyzed from the chest down and confused as to what the future held for me.
Surfing, and my life as I knew it, was suddenly taken off the table. At least temporarily.
As a member of the Ohana Surf Team of Stuart, Fla., I had been a longtime leader of peers and worked with numerous charitable causes. From serving as a surf camp instructor to volunteering with Surf for Autism to helping create the Special Olympics Brevard County Surf Team, I had the opportunity to interact with countless incredible people and I even earned sponsorships from major brands including Coil Surfboards, Arnette Sunglasses and BodyGlove gear, which helped me stay in the water and pursue my dream that much more easily.
The injury has altered my path, but it hasn't dimmed my spirit. I decided to face my new way of life with optimism and steadfast determination, this was the only way that I could live my life and the only way I could beat this obstacle.
I'm still an adventurer and an explorer, so despite any setbacks this paralysis has tried to throw in my way, I have embarked on countless post-injury adventures, from skydiving to swimming with whale sharks, to traveling the world, to riding a modified board with a pro surfer. This spring I'll start attending Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta, Georgia where I plan to graduate as an interior designer! Honestly, I'll try almost anything once.
Since my accident, friends and family have shown up with strength and support in so many incredible ways. "Team Brooke" launched to support my recovery efforts and share my story with the world. Pro surfer Jamie O'Brien even boasted a "Team Brooke" sticker on his board, which was incredible for me, and a Special Olympics gold medal winner under my tutelage sent his medal to my hospital room, the best kind of inspiration and reminder of who's out there supporting me.
It means the world to me that I have support and strength from those around me.
A positive attitude and an enthusiasm for life have been my best weapons through all of this,. I do believe I'll walk again, as do all those around me, and as an ambassador for, and with the help of the Wings for Life Foundation, the cure for spinal cord injury is closer than ever.
True healing requires more than just medicine and treatment, which is why we've teamed up with Dignity Health to discuss how compassion and a human touch can benefit our health and our lives in myriad ways.
Do you have a personal story about compassion or big acts of kindness that you'd like to contribute? Let us know at PowerOfHumanity@huffingtonpost.com or by tweeting with #PowerofHumanity.