Flesh says ‘no,’ spirit says ‘yes’
By Teri Burton
For 6-year-old Imperio Adan life could seem exceptionally bleak after losing her mother and her small puppy in a fatal car accident two weeks ago today.
But those who spend time with the Oakmont Elementary School first grader as she recovers from major injuries she sustained in the wreck say she is an inspiration with a spirit that just won’t quit.
One such visitor is Guy Ogburn, Imperio’s taekwondo instructor from Shins Tae Kwon Do in Dickson.
Ogburn said Imperio began taking taekwondo instructions last June and, while at first she was a bit stand-offish, a bond was formed between the student and the teacher. Perhaps, Ogburn says, it was divine providence in that God was preparing the two for the adversity that would befall the little girl on Good Friday.
Imperio’s back was broken in two places and her spinal cord was severed in the two-car wreck that killed Imperio’s mother, Mayra Adan Navarette, 23, and two other people.
Ogburn said that while doctors are pessimistic that she will walk again, those same doctors said they’ve seen patients walk despite worse injuries than Imperio’s.
“The taekwondo school believes that one day she will walk again. We’re starting with her fingertips and we’re going to work all the way down to her shoulders, down through her neck, down through her lower body and eventually get the feeling back in her legs again,” he said. “She also knows the one who is going to heal her is God. The doctors are doing everything they can but the ultimate healing is going to come from God.”
Imperio was transferred Wednesday from Vanderbilt Children’s Medical Center to Stallworth Rehabilitation Center where she is learning to use a wheelchair.
It was difficult for her at first, Ogburn said, but her spirit was willing after a little encouragement from the only male role model she has in her life.
“We got her up in the wheelchair and, of course, you’re used to walking on your legs and balancing on your legs but when you can’t feel your legs you don’t have any balance when you sit up,” Ogburn said. “She had to use her hands and she was scared. We showed her how to use the wheel and how to turn left and right. At first she said, ‘No, no, I can’t do it’ and we said, ‘Yes, you can. It’s just like when you punch and one hand pulls and the other hand pushes.’ She knew how to relate to the pushing and pulling because we do that in taekwondo movements. She just started taking off. Within four or five minutes she went from saying, ‘No, I can’t, I don’t want to’ to ‘OK we can do this.”
Imperio also restarted her taekwondo classes again on Monday and will be awarded her blue belt, Ogburn said.
“She responded very well,” he said.
Imperio knows that her mother is gone. But, Ogburn said, she also knows she will see her again some day.
“I told her, ‘Your mom’s gone from here but she’s alive with Jesus,” he said. “I told her that one day they would get together again and have a big pizza party. She really liked that.”
Imperio’s grandparents are her legal guardians now, Ogburn said, adding that the family has little materially but their hearts are full of love for their granddaughter.
There was no insurance so the family is depending literally on the kindness of strangers.
Ogburn said Imperio’s plight is bringing out the best in the community and that people have rallied round the little girl with prayers and donations.
An account has been set up in Imperio’s name at First Tennessee Bank in Nashville. A Web site was created in Imperio’s name as well so anyone who wants to monitor her progress, make a donation or find out how they can help can do so by visiting the Web site at http://home.bellsouth.net/p/PWP-Imperio
Janie Thomas, principal at Oakmont, said so far about $700 has been donated through the school and deposited in Imperio’s account. She said the money has come from parents of the students as well as the students themselves.
“What’s most precious are the nickels and dimes and quarters that come in from the children,” Thomas said. “They’ve gotten into their piggy banks and contributed.”
A car wash and bake sale is set for 12:30 p.m. tomorrow at Shins Tae Kwon Do located next to Applebee’s at 543 Highway 46 in Dickson.
Ogburn said other fundraisers are planned in the next few weeks.
For more information, call Ogburn at 446-6116.
Originally published Thursday, April 7, 2005