WEST POINT, N.Y. (June 14, 2016) -- United States Army Spc. Shealynn Casserly joined the Army in September 2011 to be a healthcare specialist. She trained extensively on how to treat various types of combat-related injuries for others but no amount of training prepared her for taking care of herself.
Casserly remembers being deployed to Afghanistan in May 2013 and seeing a lot of dust and dirt. She was later hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) catapulting her 40 feet from the blast. Waking up in a clean hospital room and seeing her brother while having no recollection of events left Casserly asking, "Where am I and what happened?"
Casserly learned from her brother about the explosion and discovered the blast left her with a broken jaw, broken eye socket, seven broken ribs, perforated ear drum, two broken femurs, dislocated left knee, contused liver and a broken hand.
While trying to begin the healing process, Casserly faced yet another setback. "They [setbacks] are a huge part of my life. After my injury, I had a small bowel obstruction that went undiscovered so [a part of] my intestines exploded. I had emergency surgery and doctors removed 6 inches of my intestines prolonging my inpatient time," said Casserly.
She also experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting in the need for vision therapy. "My eye muscles are weak, and it's hard for me to look out far then look at something close up. The [vision] therapy gives me a huge headache, but I can already tell it's helped me a lot in the last few months," Casserly said.
"I'm also in behavioral health since I experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anger" says Casserly. "After the PTSD issues, I hit a really low point so I started working out a ton."
Casserly attributed her improved overall health to working out in the gym. "I am addicted to working out. I am in the gym three times a day. At first, I started working out really hard and eventually it became a part of my life."
Casserly has a huge support system which includes friends at Fort Stewart, Georgia, parents, three brothers, one sister and her hometown community. "My hometown, Fisher, Minnesota was amazing. They raised about $10K for me and they did all that just from fundraising," said Casserly.
Recovery for Casserly is still ongoing. "I have changed. I learned that you have to be an advocate for yourself, stand up for yourself and let people know when you're hurting and when you need a break. I used to come across as a pushover but now I've become more assertive when it comes to my mental, physical and emotional health," Casserly said.
Casserly is excited to be at the 2016 Department of Defense Warrior Games. "It's my first time being here at West Point, [New York]. This place is historic for the Army. And for my brothers to be able to come out here and see me competing here, that's a big deal."
"My favorite sports are shot put and discus. I like the physicality of it and the coaches are phenomenal," added Casserly. "I want to get a gold medal. I feel really confident in cycling, shot put and discus."
"I feel like you should always have an attitude. There's times it's [recovery] not going to be easy and as cliché as it may sound, just keep pushing," she said.
Casserly reflected back on her accident and her injuries. "I want people to know there's never been a day that I thought 'Why me? Why not someone else?' I wouldn't ever wish this on someone else. It's been hell, and I wouldn't want anyone else to go through it. I'll take that for them."