Monday, October 23, 2017
LAST year’s Rio Paralympics Canadian sitting volleyball team member Felicia Voss is cherishing a new lease of life filled with confidence and happiness after a bad case of pneumonia sent her into septic shock in 2011, which in turn put her in a two-week coma and led to the amputations of both her legs.
Voss who was born in Suva and resides in Burnaby, British Columbia, was the chief guest at the Nadi International Airport Volleyball (NIAV) Festival which was held at Prince Charles Park last Saturday.
A volleyball fanatic she played the abled-bodied version of the sport at the recreational level before her illness.
Voss was introduced to sitting volleyball by a friend in 2014 after her recovery.
The 37-year-old made her national team debut for the Canadian sitting volleyball team at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.
Canada won the bronze medal and also qualified for the Rio Paralympics where the side finished seventh overall.
During the opening at the Fiji National University Nadi Campus on Friday, Voss inspired the volleyball participants with her touching story of the miraculous recovery from an illness that nearly cost her life and the pathway back to a healthy life and selection into the Canadian sitting volleyball team.
“On a cold February morning in 2011, I woke up with the chills,” she said.
“I thought I had the flu but I had a volleyball tournament to play. So I took some cold medication and went off to play. When I got back home I wasn’t feeling well so I thought I would sleep it off.
“But by 11pm that same night I could not breathe well so I knew that there was something wrong. I was rushed to the hospital and immediately put on life support. We don’t know what caused the pneumonia that led to such a septic shock.
“But after two weeks in a coma I miraculously woke up. We won that volleyball tournament by the way. The illness left me with nerve damage in my right hand, fingers and my feet.
“So that is why I had to have both my legs amputated and a few of my finger-tips as well. During my recovery I realised a few things; one is that this thing tried to kill me and it failed and I survived; the other is that my path ahead was full of the unknown and I was scared. But I did not want to live in fear, I’m Fijian after all. That day I decided to choose happiness.”
“I chose to stay positive and because I had a second chance to live I wanted a good healthy life,” Voss said.
“Like anyone, I had good days and bad days. I was achieving a lot as I was able to walk with my prosthetic legs. I went back to work after three and a half years of recovery and surgeries.
“But my self-esteem and my confidence was non-existent, I was feeling depressed and I was talking to a friend of mine as to how much I missed volleyball.
“I could not play volleyball after the amputations which broke my heart. I could not watch volleyball on television without crying. So in order to help, he recommended me to try sitting volleyball which is an adopted version of standing volleyball.
Sitting volleyball and Canada
“After some persuasion I decided to try it and I loved it immediately,” she said.
“I’m so glad I tried it. Sitting volleyball is so challenging more so in my opinion than standing volleyball. Because you are on your back on the floor doing everything you would be doing in standing volleyball like serving, setting, spiking. It was awesome.
“In 2015 I was invited to join Team Canada. In the same year we were invited to play in the Parapan American Games in Toronto.
“At that tournament something happened to me. We were playing against Brazil who were ranked number three or four in the world. We had no hopes of winning and no one expected us to win. But it was during that last set that we fought so hard that we actually almost won that game. At that time I felt confidence flow into me as someone had flipped the light switch on in my life and everything seemed brighter.
“I felt stronger and determined than I ever felt before. We played Cuba and won the bronze. I’m proud of my achievements. Most of them would not have been possible without the love and support of my family, friends, my medical team, my company SAP and my sitting volleyball team.
“Sitting volleyball has given me so many things. It has given me a team of amazing women who are similarly disabled as I’m.
“It allowed me to travel the world. It’s given me strength, joy and a renewed purpose. It has allowed me to stay healthy and active. It also allowed me to give back to my community by teaching sitting volleyball to others.
“As of September last year we participated in our very first Paralympics Games. I’m so proud to be a Paralympian. Volleyball has had a positive impact on my life not only physically but also on my mental and emotional well-being.
“Volleyball was a ray of light during my darkest days. It’s helped rebuild my life when I was at my lowest point. It has not only given me confidence but given me focus and purpose.
“You are never too old to try a new sport. Also never too young to try a new sport whether you are able-bodied or differently abled.
“If you are passionate and you work hard with a positive attitude it could change your life and more ways than you imagine.
“If our rugby 7s team and many other talented Fijian athletes have demonstrated anything is that, Fijians are absolutely and supremely gifted and resilient.
“There is absolutely no reason we cannot have a volleyball team in the Olympics or the Paralympics