KING CITY — Doctors told Ellie Skromme she would never walk again after a 2017 rollover crash that ended with her being ejected from her pickup truck and landing face-down in the dirt with the vehicle on top of her.
While she has gone from no feeling at all in her legs, to being able to wiggle her toes and tense her leg muscles, she is seeking help with physical therapy payments after an anonymous donor was unable to continue because of Covid-19.
Skromme, who is currently Miss Rodeo for a Reason 2020, was a past member of the Junior Fair Board and competed in Miss Salinas Valley Fair 2017 shortly before her accident on Jolon Road.
“What’s unfortunate about my injury is from the moment I leave rehab they say, ‘You’re wheelchair bound for the rest of your life,’” Skromme said.
She explained that insurance will not cover the neuroplasticity physical therapy, which she credits with leading to her improvements in leg function.
“I just have this feeling that my purpose in life isn’t to be in this wheelchair and I have bigger things to do,” Skromme said.
Her therapy sessions are in Clovis, where she has filmed some of her sessions and posted them on Instagram, displaying that she can stand and walk with assistance and support. However, the cost of $1,600 per month has placed a hurdle in continuing sessions.
“I try to go to physical therapy two days a week right now,” said Skromme, who added she is considering a move to Clovis to be able to do physical therapy full time.
She said the therapists there specialize in neurological disorders and spinal cord injuries.
“The more you’re making connections with your nerves, the faster your recovery will happen,” she said.
Skromme noted the difficulties of finishing her college time at Cuesta College as well as working and dealing with moving on with her life.
“I have this ache in my heart that if I don’t try it now and give it everything I’ve got, I’ll always have that possibility of could I have walked again,” she said. “I don’t want to disappoint anybody, but I’m doing everything I can.”
Pushing herself was what led to a competition in Las Vegas with the faith-based organization Rodeo for a Reason.
“The organization had a special place in my heart because they were willing to have somebody in a wheelchair compete,” Skromme said. “And then for me to actually win, it was a life-changing experience for me.”
Skromme’s friend Mackenzie Brazier set up a GoFundMe page to help raise funds for treatments, which exceeded the $3,500 goal within three days. But, Skromme said she wants to continue with therapy for another year to attempt to regain her ability to walk, which means finding further sponsorship.
“It’s such an awkward thing, asking people,” she said about the fundraiser. “If there’s one thing this type of injury has taught me, it’s OK to ask for help if you need it.”
Skromme described herself as independent and outgoing, and being in a wheelchair and having things she can’t do has put her in a different state of mind.
“It’s OK to not be completely independent,” she said.
In September 2017, Skromme was driving between home and work when she crashed, which she admitted was due to a combination of a low tire and her going about 70 mph on the winding Jolon Road in King City. The resulting rollover meant her vertebrae was not only fractured, but fragments of the bone went into her spinal cord.
“I’m so grateful, it could have been so much worse,” Skromme said. “I didn’t get a brain injury. I can still use my hands.”
The resulting injury left her completely paralyzed from the bellybutton down.
“Now I can wiggle my toes, which is a huge thing because that’s the farthest away from your brain,” Skromme said. “I can almost completely hold myself up standing.”
She added, “It’s amazing when you put your mind to something what you can accomplish.”
Without a sponsor to know if she can complete her goal of one more year of therapy, Skromme said she is taking it month-by-month.
“I believe that we’re put on this Earth to make the world a better place,” she said. “I’m just doing that in any way that I can, whether it be through inspiring people by not giving up in this awful situation or through putting my head together in pushing through.”