'Not much I can't do' Local resident receives ability board

Shelby DeSoto
sdesoto@waltonsun.com
Allison Harasin gets situated on her ability board before paddling out for the first time.

Allison Harasin was enjoying a sunny August day at the pool with her family in 2010 when the unthinkable happened.

“I was diving … and the ladder was a little wiggly, so one of the times I dove in I slipped and landed on the back of my head,” said Allison.

In an instant, Allison became paralyzed after injuring her C5 and C6 vertebrae which are located at the back of the neck. Allison’s brother Kevin rushed in the pool to save her after hearing her cries for help. Having gone through some medical training, Kevin elevated his sister’s body in order to get her out of the pool.

“I jumped in and asked where she stopped having feeling, and when she said past her shoulder blades I knew it wasn’t good,” said Kevin. “I knew that I had to keep her as steady as possible and keep her calm.”

Allison was rushed to Bay Medical in Panama City Beach where she was placed in a medically induced coma for spinal fusion surgery.

“At first I didn’t believe it,” Allison said when she was told about her condition. “It was a surreal moment … they line up all of your doctors and they say, ‘you’re a C6 quadriplegic with no chance of walking again.’”

“Bay Medical wasn’t equipped to handle the severity of my condition,” she said about developing pneumonia and other medical complications like pressure sores while at the hospital. “They told my parents I wasn’t going to make it.”

She was then admitted to The Shepherd’s Center where she received ventilator treatment and began the rehabilitation process.

“It had been two or three months since I had moved. They had me slowly lifting weights to build resistance,” she said, noting that when she came home she also received out-patient therapy.

Some years later, Allison noticed a very unique paddle board on a Facebook page. Onit Ability Boards is a company in California that manufactures paddle boards designed for people with disabilities.

Just like most of us, interesting ideas are often liked and shared, but that is usually where the reality ends. For Allison, it was just the beginning.

She shared her interest in the paddle board with friend and teacher Constance Rogers and brainstormed ideas for having a fundraiser during the Walk Her Way event in June at Rosemary Beach.

“[Rogers] took my friend to go get a balloon animal and she came back and said, ‘your board is taken care of,’” said Allison.

An anonymous donor heard Allison’s story and wrote a check so she could have the board made.

“I thought it was something cool that was unattainable,” Allison said about the ability board.

Within a month, Allison received her board and was out on the water the next week. She said her arms were tired from paddling but it was an enjoyable experience.

Today, Allison is majoring in Psychology at Gulf Coast State College and said she plans on working in rehabilitative counseling to help others with spinal cord injuries.

She has also received an outpouring of support from friends, family and co-workers at Summer Kitchen Café where she helps out where she can.

“I thought ‘what can I do now?’ But I’ve learned through therapy and through the support of my friends and family there’s not much I can’t do. I can still do everything…” Allison said.