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On July 3, 1990, 22-year-old LaShonne Williams-Fraley and her boyfriend sat quietly on the living room sofa, watching their favorite late night talk show. Williams-Fraley was taking a summer off before going back to school to take computer classes.
But then they heard the pop, pop, pop of gunfire. “Get on the floor,” her boyfriend commanded, and as she slid from the sofa to the carpet, a bullet pierced her neck, traveled through her lungs, and exited her body underneath her left arm. “I knew I’d been hit. My body was on fire,” Williams-Fraley says. She remembers being carried on a gurney, the hushed voices on the street, the flight to the trauma center, the tubes, the halo of steel around her head—and the sounds of a hospital bed rotating rhythmically to ward away bed sores. “I knew I shouldn’t or couldn’t move and that maybe I wouldn’t ever walk again,” she says. “But I also knew somehow I would be ok, no matter what.”
In the years since, Williams-Fraley has never looked back. “You have to adapt to your new body, your new life. When I left the hospital and came to NRH, I was afraid. But the therapists began to teach me how to push my wheelchair, and once I got mobile, I didn’t stop moving.”
She found respite sitting in the hospital’s Victory Garden, or simply watching TV, “doing normal everyday things with other people in wheelchairs. It taught me that I was alive—only one part of me didn’t work anymore. It wasn’t what I had planned for my life, but I was still me.”
After three months at MedStar NRH, Williams-Fraley’s family brought her to their new home. “The hospital staff taught me the skills I needed to function, but then I had to make it work myself,” she says. When she was ready, she enrolled in an office automation training class sponsored by NRH. After an internship in the hospital’s public relations office, she became a full-time team member in 1996. Today, Williams-Fraley is the communications coordinator in Marketing and Strategic Development.
She has a teenage son, Kennard, who she drives to after-school events, while running errands in her specially equipped “mommy van” like any other single parent of an active boy. “The night I was shot, the doctors told my mother I probably wouldn’t make it. But here I am, two decades later, defying the odds.”