ST. TAMMANY PARISH, LA (WVUE) - At any moment when you get behind the wheel of a vehicle, just one collision alone can drastically alter your life. It happened to one North Shore mother who is also a St Tammany Parish Deputy.
When emergency responders arrived at the scene, Ally Mahesa was in extreme pain after a rear-end car crash.
"It was the most incredible violent impact I've ever felt in my life," said Mahesa.
For this St. Tammany Parish deputy it was a reversal of roles - usually she's the one responding with help.
"I didn't know where I was. I had to orient myself because I was so disoriented and could not tell dispatch what happened," said Mahesa.
In the past, the 47-year-old had been the victim of at least two other separate crashes.But this one on the job would be different. She was in her patrol unit. It was September of 2014. She was on Highway 21 in Covington and had just stopped, when out of nowhere a car slammed into her vehicle. Once again, it wasn't her fault, and it was her third crash in just a few years. But this was the worst because it left her paralyzed and unable to walk. It was a tragic turn in her life.
"I was on tremendous pain killers and still felt pain," said Mahesa.
One of her physicians said the crash was too much for her spine. He says the impact traumatized it, and it was as though her spine sustained amnesia and forgot how to help her walk. The news would have left most patients defeated, but not Mahesa. She refused to accept the tragedy as her final sentence. The single mother had three children that depended on her, and she had to get back to work. So she focused on the positive news. She knew her spine was not severed, so she knew there was a possibility she could learn to walk again.
"If I had thought about anything else I would have probably given up, " she said.
Family friends and co-workers rallied to her side. Fellow deputies also built a wheelchair ramp at her home. But it was a painful road to recovery.
"I couldn't control the spasms in my legs. The physical therapist would have to hold my legs down to get through a session." said Mahesa.
Somehow, though, in spite of it all, she never strayed from her goal.
"She was still strong, she was pushing forward with it, she didn't take it as a sentence," said fellow St. Tammany Parish Deputy Grey Thurman.
Eventually, with help from her home physical therapist, she used a harness to try to stand upright. But it was the purchase of parallel bars that played a defining role in her recovery. After a long day of physical therapy, she started using the bars to drag her body down the hallway, pushing her feet, trying to get them to respond. It amazed her doctor because it took tremendous upper body strength to do that daily just weeks after her release from the hospital. Those slow steps soon gained a lot of momentum as her dead limbs came alive.
Soon she was back on the force with the St .Tammany Parish Sheriff's Office, close to a mere three months after her paralysis. For most patients that would be enough. But she wanted to get back to the gym to strengthen her body even more. But she had to find a new way to work around her physical restrictions due to the medical plates and screws in her body. Lifting weights turned out to be the answer. With the help of body-building books, she learned the new ways to exercise without harming her spine. Pouring herself into this new passion not only helped push her farther beyond her paralysis, but it also transformed her body. Her once-broken body became a sculpted physique.
"If something is taken away from you that you enjoy before or some injury or tragic event happens, find something else or find a different way to do what you did before, " she said.
Her former fitness trainer, Aaron Willamson, who is now based in California, was blown away when he saw a picture of her.
"There aren't words to describe what she had done. That is just sheer will. That is determination on a whole other level," said Williamson.
The once-paralyzed St. Tammany Parish Sheriff's deputy now participates in body-building competitions. Its an incredible accomplishment that has earned her great praise.
"She is my super hero. She is a Wonder Woman," said one of her physicians, Dr Mike Petrosky.
Her fellow deputies are also in awe of her perseverance.
"She is certainly a brave individual. Being able to go through what she went through and come back and progress as much as she had." said Deputy Thurman.
Mahesa hopes she can now share this with others. She says it's a lesson on the power of positivity - that no matter what you face, there is always hope and you can always overcome whatever adversity you face.
"There is always going to be something that you will find happiness in. It may not be what it was before, but there is always going to be something you will find happiness in and you are just going to have to seek it out," said Mahesa.
She proved it - that you can lift yourself out of an impossible situation, making it possible, like her, to reach great heights.
So far she's won awards in her two body-building competitions. Her goal is also to win even more.