Road to Recovery: A Story of Resiliency

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Jessica Hulbert

In many stories you encounter of how women have overcome adversity; you may recognize a central theme: resiliency.

In October 2022, Air National Guard 2nd Lt. Emily Mackey was injured in an accident while riding on a side-by-side that flipped over, severely injuring her right arm, and causing a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Her husband, 2nd Lt. Matthew Mackey, who was also a passenger, and had recently undergone Tactical Combat Casualty training, rushed to find tourniquet to apply to her arm as they awaited the arrival of emergency services.

“I didn’t remember getting on the side-by-side or anything prior to the accident. I only remember waking up in the hospital confused as to why I was there when a nurse told me that my husband was going to be so happy that I was awake because I had been in an accident.

As a result of the accident, Mackey had a lacerated bicep and a dislocated elbow. The TBI affected her mental capacity, her sight, and her communication, causing her to speak slowly and have difficulty with mental processing.

It would prove to be a long road for Mackey, but overcoming an arm injury and TBI did not stop her from pursuing her dreams of completing Veterinarian school and Air Force Officer Training School (OTS).

“I initially tried to rush back very quickly, but after a conversation with my husband and the Dean of the school I realized that I needed to take a step back and give it a little time. I took a year off vet school, but I also had dreams of going to OTS and saw that time off as an opportunity to focus on that dream.”

During her recovery period Mackey went through physical therapy and was finally medically cleared to resume activities. After submitting for officer school and receiving her official acceptance, she had a decision to make. Going to OTS meant that she would have to go without a medical waiver, as each candidate is required to meet the training requirements set forth.

“The physical training test was something I was really concerned about. I had no idea if I would even pass it, I knew the minimum requirements, but I needed better than the minimum. We also had obstacle courses that had to be completed. With my arm injury they were very difficult, but there was not even one that I did not do. My arm limits my mobility, but I told myself that I can do what others think I can’t do and that has been my approach to everything I’ve encountered after my accident.”

Mackey has successfully completed her OTS program and has now returned to Vet school. She applies the valuable lessons she acquired during her time at OTS to persistently pursue her goals. She credits her husband with saving her life that day and expressed her gratitude for her families’ unwavering support during her recovery and in pursuit of her dreams.

“Being resilient to me means you don’t quit. You keep pushing to reach your goal and you don’t let anything get in your way. There are obstacles, but you can overcome them, and you don’t accept the idea of letting anything get in your way. All that I have overcome has been a result of pursuing the goal even when my mind is telling me I can’t.”