My new life as a quadriplegic began on the late evening of September 9th, 1970. I was just 19 and my hopes of becoming a Deputy Sheriff ended. I was critically injured in a car accident. I was taken to Kansas University Medical Center, where I was in a coma for 2 weeks. The doctors had told my parents to make plans for a funeral, but by the grace of God and my perseverance, I awoke. I spent the next 6 months recovering from my injuries. I made the decision those months that I would not give up and I would make the best of a bad situation. I was released from the hospital and was on a waiting list to enter a rehabilitation center in Kansas City, Mo. I spent a month in rehab learning how to transfer and learned how to better cope with my disability. I never gave up and was always upbeat and was not going o let anything get me down.
I had been home about 6 months and decided I was going to get back in the work force. I was hired at a sheet metal company where I answered the phone and did billing. I was there for a couple years and the new Police Chief in town knew me and knew my passion for law enforcement. He came to me and asked if I would be Tonganoxie’s Police Dispatcher. Of course, He did not have to ask me twice. I finally was given the opportunity to be involved in something I loved. I started in April of 1974, and never looked back. That job created new opportunities. I was asked to also dispatch for the New EMS service and the Southern part of my County. I worked for those two agencies for about 15 years until our county got a 911 service. I still dispatched for Tonganoxie, as I still do today.
In 1978, I received a Law Enforcement achievement award from the Kansas Attorney General. That was a great honor to receive such an award that only a few have received. In 1980 I was given a Youth Service award from the local Sertoma group and in 1992; I was named Citizen of the year, another great honor.
My career has not just been in Law enforcement. I was asked to run for City Council. I ran and won election in 1989 and served for 8 years until 1997. I took a break from politics until 2007 where I was asked to run for Mayor. I won the election in April of 2007 and am currently the Mayor of the City of Tonganoxie.
I have been very fortunate to have a great support group in my life from family and friends. You must never think your life is over because of your disability, but a new beginning to a different life.
The Life I Live Now by Michael Vestal
It was a beautiful warm September night,
Not a cloud in the sky, the stars were bright.
I was just nineteen; my life was great,
Until that evening; I met a terrible fate....
I was driving home on Tongie Road,
That is where the rest of my life unfolds.
I was passing a car, not far from home,
I lost control, and I was not alone....
My car hit another, and flew in the air,
It rolled over and skidded on its top in the road,
I was hurt very badly; or so I was told.
Three others with me were not hurt at all,
They ran for help; they made the call....
The next thing I knew, in the hospital I awoke,
It was two weeks later; the doctor said; "Your neck is broke".
At that moment I realized, I'd never walk again,
My life as I knew it had come to an end.
I said, "Why God, why did you do this to me?"
I decided on that day; what will be, will be....
Yes, my life changed, on that fateful September night,
I've never given up, I've continued to fight.
I believe for me, God had his own plan,
It was to help others in any way that I can.
Through the years, a boy became a man,
I learned to live and love life, the way that I am....
Audrey Schremmer is the Executive Director of Three Rivers Inc. She considers it a blessing to be surrounded by great team members, her peers around the state and country and of course her four legged friends that come with her to work everyday.
Audrey Schremmer-Philip, Executive Director