Manila woman never gives up

Tuesday, August 9, 2016
Audrey Booth Williams

Audrey Booth Williams of Manila is an example of determination, hard work and never giving up. Audrey was joined by family and friends Saturday, Aug. 5, to share the night as she received her MSE from Arkansas State University in school counseling.

Earning a master's degree is an accomplishment in itself. Audrey had to overcame some very huge obstacles in her path along the way.

She was completing her undergraduate work at Arkansas State University when a vehicle accident changed her life.

The 2006 Riverside High School graduate was following in the footsteps of many other family members as she was working on a teaching degree. She had a goal to someday become a school counselor. She was finishing her Field 3 internship working toward a BSE in early childhood education with her future all planned out.

Audrey was only a mile or so from her home on April 26, 2010, when she hit the shoulder of the road, over-compensated, and was ejected from the car as it rolled over several times.

Her daughter, Brooke, 3 at the time, was in the back seat securely buckled in her car seat.

"Thankfully, she did not have a scratch," Audrey said. "She managed to get out of the car seat and out of the wrecked car and came to sit by me. I never lost consciousness but I knew I could not move. Faith Rolland, a BIC teacher, was the first to arrive at the wreck scene. She stayed with us until the police and ambulance arrived."

Audrey was air lifted to the Med in Memphis. She suffered a spinal cord injury to the T3. She had talked with a representative from a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta, Ga., and was making plans to go there when she took a turn for the worse as her body went into septic shock. She had emergency surgery and was in ICU for six weeks. It was touch and go for awhile.

After six weeks Audrey was transferred to the Baptist Health Rehabilitation Health Institute where she stayed for five weeks. When she left the Med she could not sit up and had very little balance.

"I knew I would not be able to walk again, but we were not sure how much hand functions I would have," Audrey said.

She tackled rehab with a determination to return home to be a mother to Brooke and continue her college to become an educator. It was not easy, but she never gave up or gave in as the most simple tasks in life became a difficult chore.

She said the staff at Baptist Rehabilitation Institute were wonderful. She was encouraged by other women who had suffered the same type of injury and were now leading productive lives.

Even in rehab Audrey took an on-line class. She came home, did her practice teaching in the fall following her accident and proudly wheeled herself across the stage at ASU to receive her BSE in December of 2010.

"I was so excited to start to work teaching kindergarten in Osceola just days after I graduated," she said.

She worked there until October of 2012. She began having health problems and had to take a break from the classroom.

As her health improved, she decided to go back to school and work toward earning a degree in counseling.

"I always knew I wanted to work with young people and try to help them have confidence to reach their goals," she said.

She started graduate school and worked as a graduate assistant in the spring of 2014 through July 2015.

"I had a lot of support from family," Audrey said. "My Aunt Pam Chipman encouraged me to move forward and apply for a counseling job in education."

Audrey has finished her first year as Gosnell High School counselor for grades 9-12, and said she loves it.

She went to work on her counseling degree in the summer of 2015, taking 35 hours, working full time, and receiving her MSE on Saturday.

Audrey is not through yet as she plans to complete mental health classes to receive a LAC Degree in rehabilitation counseling. If all goes well, she will receive the LAC in May 2017.

"The administration staff at Gosnell bent over backwards to make sure I had what I needed as I worked and went to school," she said. "I have had a lot of support from my family and friends including my dad (Dwight Booth); my husband (James Williams); my grandmother (Helen Chipman) and others who encouraged me and helped me."

Audrey said she could have continued receiving disability and given up her plans but she wanted to let her own child, and the young people she comes into contact with as school counselor, know they can set goals and reach them even when life throws a few major curves along the way.

When Audrey was six years old, her mother, Patty Chipman Booth, was in a car accident and suffered major head injuries. She was in a coma for 21 years before passing away in July 2015.

"It was tragic on our whole family," Audrey said. "Knowing what she had gone through gave me the opportunity to be grateful for everything given back to me after my accident. I have been blessed. I am able to care for my daughter, continue my education, care for my home, drive, and work at a job I enjoy. Yes, I can't walk, but I was given a chance to live my life, my mom did not have the choice."

Audrey is looking forward to the school year and does not take anything for granted.

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