Thursday, June 21, 2012
Forester’s past influences her future
By ALICE ORTIZ
Ashley Forester of Holly Springs is the 2012 Miss Amory Railroad Festival. Forester is a graduate student at Ole Miss with plans to graduate in 2013 with a degree in clinical mental health. Her undergraduate degree was in psychology with a minor in theater.
Her life’s goal was changed in January 2006 while a junior at Marshall Academy. The car she was riding in with friends was struck head-on by a drunken driver near West (in Holmes County).
“They took me to the nearest hospital and airlifted me to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis (Tenn.) since it was close to my hometown,” said Forester. “I was in and out of the hospital for the next month. I had two hip surgeries and have three pins in my hip.”
She will have to have hip replacement within the next two or three years.
“I was told to wait as long as I possibly could before the hip replacement,” she said.
Forester said she struggles over the winter and during rainy weather with arthritis in her hip. She takes anti-inflammatory medicine to help keep the arthritis controlled.
She had several different types of physical therapy while she was recuperating. Forester clearly remembers the day in June 2006 when she was able to walk without holding onto things.
“I had to use a wheelchair, walker, and cane. It seemed like forever before I could walk,” Forester said. “I had to have a hospital bed at my house to be able to get in and out of bed without too many problems.”
After the accident, she missed about three months of school. Her mother worked at Marshall Academy and the teachers were great at sending homework to her. Forester was unable to go to school consistently because she couldn’t sit very long in the wheelchair. She was able to keep up with her schoolwork and graduated with her class in 2007.
“I loved to do pageants and didn’t want to give up,” Forester said. “I had to correct how I was walking after the accident so now I can walk straight. It was very emotional to learn to walk again. A person doesn’t realize how important it is to be able to walk until they can’t walk. It was very surreal to walk again.”
She has to do 30 minutes of exercise every other day. If she doesn’t, her hip will get stiff. She also has to maintain a healthy lifestyle so she will not gain weight.
For Forester, standing and walking in heels is a big part of being in pageants, and those times can be trying with her hip problems.
“When I am in heels in a swimsuit on stage, my mom will cry,” she said. “She remembers when I could not even walk and it is an emotional time for her.”
She said she thought her childhood had prepared her for what was going to happen to her with the accident. Her grandfather was a very bad diabetic, had heart problems, and was almost blind all her life. She had spent a good part of her life with her grandparents.
“He was the most inspirational person in my life. He never let his disability hinder him,” Forester said. “He always told me to never let a disability victimize me. He said a person could be either a survivor or a victim. He was dependent on his family for help, but he never complained.
“When I had the car wreck, my life changed and I looked to him for encouragement. I was taught at an early age how important it was to accept things that happened to you.”
As a result of the accident and what she went through in the hospital, Forester hopes to one day use her degree to work in a children’s hospital as a counselor. Eventually, she wants to have her own clinic for children. Future plans are to enter a doctoral program in pediatric counseling. She would like to incorporate play therapy for children into their counseling sessions.
“I love children and theater and want to combine the two of them and make a living out of it,” she said.
Forester’s platform for Miss Mississippi is “Service for Sight.” She advocates for Mississippi School for the Blind in Jackson and also helps promote The Gallant Hearts Guide Dog Center in Madison.
“I have loved being Miss Amory Railroad Festival and am now busy getting ready for the Miss Mississippi pageant June 27-30 in Vicksburg,” Forester said. “We have been having mock interviews and getting dresses fitted for the event.”
Forester, who has been in musical theater since she was 12, will be singing as her talent in the Miss Mississippi pageant.
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