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Veteran with MS Adaptive Sports Champ

Recombent cyclist on a rural road

 

by Hans Petersen, VA staff writer
Thursday, March 7, 2013

“Nobody gonna slow me down…”

You gotta like a woman who calls her husband “the Hubbs.”

And you’ve got to admire her amazing resilience, courage, and energy, given the hand she’s been dealt.

Meet Jeanne Goldy-Sanitate. Or, “Jersey Jeanne,” as she is known at numerous adaptive sports events around the country.

An Air Force and National Guard Veteran, she believes sports has changed her life and helps her deal with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS) in a positive way.

Jeanne served in the Medical Service Corps as a medic and optometry technician. She was stationed in Germany, the United Kingdom, and bases in the U.S. and was active in intramural sports at all her duty stations. She played tennis and was ranked third in the United Kingdom in a military tennis tournament. She also played several positions in softball including shortstop and pitcher. In her “spare” time, she ran 6 kilometers a day and played golf with friends in her unit.

 Nobody gonna break-a my stride 

In 1982, Jeanne started to have weakness and numbness in her right hand. In 1984, she sustained a spine injury, which left her a paraplegic. She entered a rigorous physical therapy program while still performing her duties as an optometric technician. She regained the ability to fully walk with a cane in six months. Part of her rehabilitation was cycling since she could no longer run.

Upon discharge from the Air Force, she became active in sports and swam 1½ miles a day, played intramural water polo, tennis, and joined a cycling club.

In 1999, Jeanne was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. She admits going through a tough period while dealing with the loss of her career in optometry, pain that was unexplainable, having to use a walker and then a wheelchair, depression from the feeling no one was listening to her, and “pity parties,” as she describes them.

Disabled woman on a ski chair with a man jogging beside her

 

A Survivor, Not a Victim

But it is in Jeanne’s nature to be a survivor, not a victim.

That spirit was reborn when she entered VA’s National Wheelchair Games in Alaska in 2006 and returned with three Gold medals and a Bronze.

portrait of a husband and wife with their dog

“Jersey Jeanne,” Jim, “the Hubbs,” and Casper

The Golds were in air guns, bowling and table tennis, while the Bronze was in softball, her favorite new adaptive sport. She was hooked on adaptive sports and vowed to find the niche that would best fit to promote her health and well-being.

She next attended her first Disabled American Veterans Winter Sports Clinic and participated in Alpine and Nordic biathlon skiing as well as curling. It was a great cardiovascular workout for her as well as strengthening her upper body as the wheelchair was becoming more and more her mode of mobility. At the 2008 Clinic she took first place in the intermediate Nordic biathlon with a time of 10 minutes, 41 seconds.

Next was hand cycling. In the December 2009 “Ride 2 Recovery” (Making a Difference in the Lives of Injured Vets) challenge, she rode all six days, logging 250 miles.

Always on the search for new adaptive sports opportunities, Jersey Jeanne then stumbled upon two new clinics. The National Veterans TEE Tournament in Iowa, is a program to develop skills in bowling and golf for Veterans with disabilities.

The TEE Tournament’s adaptive golf was a special success for Jeanne because it was a sport she could do with “the Hubbs,” her husband, Jim.

Disabled woman golfing with the help of an assistive golf cart

 

Helping Returning Veterans

Jeanne is active in the Disabled American Veterans organization, serving as a Chapter Service Officer (CSO). As a CSO, she went to Ft. Dix many Wednesdays to help troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan submit claims for service-connected disabilities. Going to Ft. Dix helps her keep ties to the military and gives her a chance to help her fellow Veterans.

Jeanne keeps current on legislation regarding women Veterans and is an advocate for the needs of women Veterans.

But wait, there’s more!

Jeanne attended the New England Handicapped Sports Association Disabled Veterans ski clinic in 2010 and was able to again find a sport she thought was out of her reach, snowboarding.

She snowboarded all three days of the clinic and called it “wicked sweet.” And then came kayaking and trap shooting. You get the idea. But this is just a brief summary. Read her complete “resume” of accomplishments.

Believe it not, Jersey Jeanne and “the Hubbs” did actually find enough time for him to retire so they could build a totally accessible home in Rehoboth Beach, Del.

An inspiration to all who meet and compete with her, Jersey Jeanne enjoys sharing with all Veterans her “sustaining life motto”:

“Nobody gonna break-a my stride
Nobody gonna slow me down
I got ‘ta’ keep on movin’!”

Bikers and recombent cyclists in a race

 

MS Awareness Month

There are over 28,000 Veterans with multiple sclerosis receiving care annually in VA. We are dedicated to furthering the understanding of this disease and treatments that will increase the quality of life for Veterans with MS.

March is National Multiple Sclerosis Education and Awareness Month. VA’s Multiple Sclerosis Centers of Excellence are improving the care of Veterans with multiple sclerosis through clinical care, information, research, and education for health professionals, Veterans and their caregivers.

For more information, visit our website at www.va.gov/ms.