Seeing Erica Regalado today, one wouldn’t guess that she was wheelchair bound just two years ago.

Regalado has been on the island for a year now. She and her husband, who is in the U.S. Navy, came here from San Diego.

It was in San Diego that the mother of three tripped on some concrete steps and fell, shattering her patella and injuring her wrist. These days on Guam, she’s climbing ropes and squatting and working out regularly at Urban Fitness. Regalado is one of several women who exercise together regularly at the Maite gym. The women say they’ve found friendship and unending support among each other.

But after her accident in 2019, she was told she’d not be able to move like she could before. The injuries from her fall were serious enough to warrant surgery, Regalado recalled.

“I was wheelchair-bound, could not walk for weeks I was not able to bend my knee,” the 36-year-old said. “It was so emotional not being able to move, just taking it for granted, the ability to go to the bathroom by yourself. I had to get assistance just to do things."

Though she battled with feelings of helplessness, Regalado also was fueled by determination.

“I was just so determined in physical therapy to move because I was told that I probably would never regain my full mobility the way I was before,” she said.

Each week, she’d push her body to do more, move more. The limitations of her body surrendered to the persistence of her brain.

“It was a miracle. I was able to do a little bit more and I was told, ‘Oh you may not be doing may not do this and that,’” Regalado said. “I would just work harder.”

She surprised her surgeon and physical therapist with the progress she made. A little less than year after her accident, she was able to walk, a sight that brought some of the people in the physical therapy office to tears, Regalado said. They’d seen her barely able to move but within a year’s time, she was walking on her own.

“After that, I was just motivated to take advantage of being able to move,” she said.

With her mobility restored, Regalado took on new physical adventures. She went on hikes and challenged herself to do new things at the gym. She wanted to push herself in the same way she powered through physical therapy.

“I was just so grateful to be able to move and walk and so that one thing led to another,” Regalado said. “I just wanted to do things that I never was able to do when my legs were good. It’s crazy, I'm climbing ropes, I’m doing the monkey bars I'm doing these classes. I was told I would never be able to do some of these things ever again in my life.”

She remained careful when she started to exercise because she didn’t want to injure herself again, but she didn’t stop. Every goal she met, whether big or small, made Regalado emotional, she said.

If someone told her before her accident that she’d be doing the things she does now, Regalado said she’d laugh at them.

“Like, there’s no way … I was into physical activity but not to the extent that I'm doing it now,” she said.

To others who might be struggling with mobility or recovering from an accident, Regalado offers this, “Celebrate your small wins and keep going.”

“I don't want to minimize how difficult and how dark of a place it can be, not being able to move. And just watching everyone around you be able to do simple things and you in your mind, you're like, ‘I can do that,’ but physically you can’t do it, don’t give up,” she said.

Focus on what you can do, celebrate every accomplishment and use that positive energy to push yourself a little more, Regalado added.