Dance also helped Nicole work through the trauma of her accident. “I could still express myself through movement. Obviously it’s not going to look the same, but I could still move and express my emotions,” she says “I had been holding in so much fear after my accident, but learned I could get those feelings out through movement.”
Recently, Nicole traveled to New York from her home in New Orleans to perform a piece she and Julie had choreographed, a dance that tells the story of Nicole’s accident and recovery. It wasn’t Broadway, but she finally danced on stage in New York, as she had always dreamed.
“Standing on that stage I felt calm and relaxed, and I was filled with a sense of pride,” says Nicole. “It made me feel whole again. Once the piece was over, I gave a bow, and as the audience was applauding, I felt they could hear me thank them for allowing me to do this thing that I love.”
As part of her recovery journey, there was someone else she wanted to see: Dr. Angevine. She wanted to thank him personally for “putting her back together” and giving her the chance to rebuild her life after her traumatic accident. So during her New York visit, the two reunited at NewYork-Presbyterian Westchester.
After their visit, Dr. Angevine shared how delighted he was to see that 15 years later, she was thriving.
“There’s a difference between what’s possible and what’s likely. I never make assumptions about what someone’s ultimate outcome could be, but at the same time I try to communicate what I think is likely,” said Dr. Angevine, adding that he still thinks about her case whenever he sees anybody with a spinal injury. “Looking at how far she’s come, and to see that she’s still improving, she beat incredible odds.”
Being back in New York does bring back memories of her accident, but Nicole says it now feels like that chapter has closed.
“I never thought I’d get married, but I walked down the aisle and slow danced with my husband and my father at my wedding,” she says. “I didn’t see myself moving out of my parents’ house and having a happy fulfilling career as a performer. I didn’t think I’d ever choreograph and perform my own piece on stage in New York City. To be here after all I went through, I feel very free.”