Paraplegic Karen Roy’s Tragic Accident Defined Her Life’s Work

Karen Roy with her beautiful family in New Orleans.

Karen Roy with her beautiful family in New Orleans.

Editor’s Note: You’re not beaten until you give up. Although you may not know where you’re going or what you’ll eventually become, as long as you continue to improve and try to be better than you’ve been yesterday, good things start happening. Karen Roy from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has proved that statement. A medical social worker today at Neuro Medical Center/Rehabilitation Hospital, Karen Roy has taken a journey to arrive at this position that demonstrates the courage of an individual and the never-say-never attitude that results in a successful life. Part 2 of a 5 part series.

On September 19, 1987, my boyfriend, Mike, asked me to go to a bar with him. Tabby’s is the name and it is in a bad part of town. Earlier that day, Mike and my parents were helping me move into a new apartment, and my parents asked if we wanted to eat dinner with them. I really wasn’t in the mood to go out, especially to Tabby’s, but Mike insisted that we go. Instead of eating with my parents, we ended up going to a football game and then went out. I had a bad feeling about going to Tabby’s, but I ignored it.

Karen and Mike spent a lot of time together while she was in college.

Karen and Mike spent a lot of time together while she was in college.

When we left Tabby’s, we saw that someone had smashed my car window. I asked Mike, “Should we call 911 and get a police report?” Just as I finished that sentence, I felt someone grab my shoulders, and on the other side of the car, I saw a man grab Mike and put a gun to his head. I pulled forward and was hit on the head with a gun. Mike and one of the guys started fighting. The man fighting with Mike yelled, “Shoot him, Doty. Shoot him!” 

All of a sudden, the man who was holding me put the gun to my back and pulled the trigger. Doty and pointed the gun at Mike to force him to let go of the other robber.  They got whatever money Mike had and ran away. Mike came to my side and asked, “Are you ok?” I said, “I don’t know,” and collapsed.

I had trouble breathing and I realized I couldn’t move my legs. I felt like I was about to pass out, but people had come outside from the bar and were chanting, “Don’t go to sleep or else you’ll die!” I had to force myself to stay conscious.

The police arrived first and secured the area, and then the ambulance arrived. They interrogated Mike. He was upset because he didn’t know what had happened to me, or where I was. Meanwhile, paramedics rushed me to the hospital and was given a chest tube to help me breathe.

The bullet had gone through my lungs and severed my spinal cord. The doctors told my parents that if I lived through the next 48 hours, I would be paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of my life.

The gunshot had severed Karen's T10 and T11 vertebrae and broke her spinal cord.

The gunshot severed Karen’s spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.

I spent a week in ICU, a week in the regular hospital and 5 weeks in rehab. I was in Mississippi Methodist Rehab Hospital in Jackson. They told me I would be in rehab for about 3 months, and I thought in my head, “Yes, in your dreams. I’m getting out of here.”

The therapist would try to teach me things, and I’d say, “Look, this isn’t rocket science; let’s move on to the next thing.” I didn’t have surgery, I didn’t have a break, and I could reach my feet. I learned how to catheterize myself. I knew I could learn quickly. All the therapists had to do was show me one time, and I could do it. I wanted to get back home. I wanted to get back in school, and I wanted to finish the semester I’d started.

Mike dealt with a lot of guilt after the shooting, but he stayed by my side, as well as my parents. They modified their house to be wheelchair accessible. After 6 months, I wanted to be independent again, so I moved into my own apartment. I started exercising and wore leg braces with electrical stimulation so I could stay active. I hoped and prayed that I’d be able to walk again. I had prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best. I wanted to look great even though I was in a wheelchair.

Karen was determined to walk again.

Karen was determined to walk again.

Within 48 hours after the shooting, the police caught the man who shot me. He was sentenced to 248 years in prison without any chance of parole or probation. When I went to court to testify, the shooter tried to stare me down like he was angry and threatening me. I realized that being angry with him wouldn’t help me, but I do remember thinking, “Ok, it doesn’t matter how mad you are; you’re the one sitting over there in shackles, wearing an orange jumpsuit and facing a lifetime of prison. You have no power over me.”

Next: Paraplegic Karen Roy’s Life-Changing Decisions

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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3 Responses to Paraplegic Karen Roy’s Tragic Accident Defined Her Life’s Work

  1. Pingback: Karen Roy’s Difficult First Year Of College Before Her Spinal Cord Injury « UroMed Catheter Health Blog

  2. Christina LeBlanc says:

    I am a friend of Karen’s. She is a strong person and very family oriented, like myself. I have a variety of friends from several areas and several different personalities. When I stay connected with a friend, like Karen, it’s because I admire something about that person. I feel so honored to have met Karen and even more honored to know her as “my friend”! She is a remarkable & beautiful person. She is without a doubt, my life-long friend! She has shaped herself into what God has planned for her and Has one of most contagious smiles I’ve ever seen! She has a light of pure love surrounding her and if your lucky enough to know her, that spark of light touches your heart, a true gift, I say!!

  3. Pingback: Karen Roy’s Difficult First Year Of College Before Her Spinal Cord Injury

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