Deborah Pearson of Memphis, Tennessee Loses Limbs Due To Protein S Deficiency, But Did Not Lose Hope

Editor’s Note: Deborah Pearson of Memphis, Tennessee was diagnosed in 2008 with Protein S Deficiency, a rare blood disorder affecting only a few thousand people worldwide. Unfortunately, by the time Pearson was diagnosed, the arteries in her leg and in one foot already collapsed. Deborah’s left leg above the knee and half of her right foot had to be amputated. Before the operation in 2008, Deborah worked as an executive assistant in Baltimore, Maryland. All of her life, Deborah held professional jobs. Before the operation, Pearson was 5’ 8” and slim and had the world by the tail but soon found herself on a downward spiral. Part 3 of a 4-part series.

When I learned I would have half of my leg and a portion of my foot amputated as well as being confined to a wheelchair for the rest of my life, my world was turned upside down. From the time of my operation in 2008 until 2011, I tried to find some sense of normalcy for my life. I had 16 consecutive surgeries, while trying to recover from the disease itself. I was in a hospital for nine months, while my arteries were removed and replaced with artificial arteries. From 2008 until 2010, I was in and out of the hospital. In 2010, I went to vocational rehaband told my counselor that I wanted to go back to work.

Deborah Pearson was persistent and did everything she could to go back to work and normalcy.

Deborah Pearson was persistent and did everything she could to go back to work and normalcy.

To heal, I had to take in a lot of calories, and I put on a lot of weight.  I had to get my body back in shape before going back to work. I started doing yoga and going to exercise classes. I made a decision that I wanted to regain some of what I had lost. I wanted to get back in shape, and I wanted to get a job and return to the working world. I had lost my health, my income, my shape and my quality of life, but I was determined to do whatever I needed to do to get as much of myself back as I possibly could.

I’ve always been a “go-getter.” I like to be involved and active. When I first received my wheelchair, I spent quite a bit of time learning all that I could about it and how to use it. Next, I decided to re-enter the world. However, I had to ride the city bus or a medical vehicle. I was determined to get my life back. I took courses at vocational rehab, I became very active, and I refused to pity myself. I believed and still do that God had a reason for everything, and so there must be a reason that I was in a wheelchair. I tried to keep a positive outlook on everything. I rejoined a church, joined a choir and along the way received positive motivation from a lot of people. I refused to settle for a sedentary life.

I will admit I was discouraged when I couldn’t find a job as an executive assistant, which was my career. I thought to myself, “Deborah, you have all of this technical knowledge, but you have no way to use it because of your disability.” I decided the first thing I needed to do was to go get a job, any job. I applied for work anywhere and everywhere. For a long time I couldn’t find a job, but I refused to give up. In addition, my credit was shot because of all of the medical bills I had accumulated, and I realized I had lost just about everything.

United Access allowed Deborah Pearson to go from place to place by herself with a van similar to this one.

United Access allowed Deborah Pearson to go from place to place by herself with a van similar to this one.

After submitting several job applications, I was finally hired as a tax examiner clerk for the IRS. I was grateful for the opportunity to work, but I had a new problem. To accept the job, I had to have a vehicle. I saw a brochure for United Access and discovered the company not only sold vehicles, but also made adaptations to vehicles for those of us with wheelchairs. Knowing there was a company that could meet my specific needs gave me hope. I needed money–to buy a van–so I could go to work–and make money. It was a catch-22 situation, and I thought I couldn’t get one without the other. I spoke with the people at United Access after I received the job offer. I told them my situation and explained that if they would work with me, I would be sure to pay on time, to get insurance on the vehicle and do whatever was required to pay for the vehicle. I really wanted this job. United Access told me that because I already had the job, I qualified, and that the company would sell me a vehicle. The people at United Access picked out a 2010 Town and Country touring van. The State of Tennessee’s Vocational Rehab paid for all of the vehicle modifications, so all I had to pay for was the van itself.

I have a Matrix Power Chairthat allows me to elevate and tilt backwards. United Access has installed a plate on the bottom of my wheelchair and built a locking system inside the van. I can drive my chair into the van. It locks in place, and the driver’s chair comes back to me. Then I can transfer myself from one chair to another. I push a button, the chair turns around, and then I can push another button and go forward, until I come to the steering wheel.

Deborah's power chair allowed her to be more independent.

Deborah's power chair allowed her to be more independent.

After my operations, I couldn’t be fitted for a prosthetic, so I was going to continue to be in a wheelchair. At the time, I never thought about losing my independence, or that I wouldn’t be able to jump in a car and go anywhere I wanted to go. I knew there were vehicles to meet disabled persons needs; however, I thought that a vehicle like that was financially out of my reach. I was ecstatic that my van’s modifications were paid for.  

I was so excited to have a job and have a van to have a way to get to and from work. I also knew I could pay for the van myself, and that was an amazing feeling. The van would take me wherever I wanted to go, whenever I wanted to go somewhere. I felt exhilarated and renewed, because I could feel part of myself coming back to me. I really believe that when I received the van, I got a second life and a second opportunity. I had an overwhelming feeling that I would be able to take care of myself.

I just drove around and went to all the places I couldn’t go to since my surgery. For me, having a wheelchair accessible van was a new shot at freedom, and a chance to recover some of the quality of life I thought I’d lost forever. I’ve learned that there are ways that we can regain a good portion of what used to be normal as long as we don’t give up. If we search, we can find the right people to help us. We can also learn that just because we’re in wheelchairs doesn’t mean we can’t roll into a vehicle and go. I feel very blessed to know that there are places like United Access all over the country that can modify vehicles.

To learn more about United Access, visit And, if you’re a veteran, you can go to the webpage and apply for a voucher worth $1,000 from the government to have a vehicle adapted. Keep up with this story and learn more!

Next: Kelly Woodward Discusses United Access And Independence

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at

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