After an automobile accident left her partially paralyzed, Sandy Wankier left a sales and marketing job for a more creative profession—nails.

In June of ’95, just one month after Christopher Reeve’s disabling horseback riding accident, Sandy Wankier and her children started out on their first vacation in seven years. They were heading from Bakersfield, Calif., north, toward Oregon and Washington to visit friends. Wankier drove as far as Redding, Calif., before she stopped for lunch. Afterward, her daughter took over the driving. Wankier got in the back seat to lie down, but couldn’t get her seat belt on.

The nest thing she knew, the car went out of control, skidded on gravel, crossed over the freeway, hit a hill, then, flipped and rolled several times. Wankier was thrown 60 feet out of the back window of the car. She suffered a ruptured spleen and liver, a punctured lung, and ruptured discs in her neck and back. Her left arm was also injured very badly, as was her hip. While her spinal cord was not severed, the accident left her paralyzed.

During two years of hard work with physical therapists, she gave much thought to what profession to pursuer in light of her injuries. Wankier chose nail technician because, she says, “I’m more right-brained than left-brained and artistic by nature. I came from a background of sales, marketing, and promotions, so I certainly didn’t want to be stuck at a desk job.”

Extensive therapy with her left arm gave Wankier back about 80% usage. She still has little coordination with the left hand though, and works mostly with her right. As an added challenge, she now has carpal tunnel syndrome in her right hand from using a walker, which causes her hand to go numb a lot. Says Wankier, “I just work around it. Most of my clients know about it and understand if I have to stop and shake my hand around a bit.

“I feel proud to be involved with an industry that has heart. I sincerely appreciate the contribution made to the American Paralysis Association by ABA’s Beauty Ball and Charity Auction last year at the IBS New York show,” says Wankier.

After reading that the states of New York, Florida, Kentucky, and Tennessee give a portion of their revenue from traffic citations towards spinal research, Wankier began lobbying her own congressional representatives to see about getting a similar program started in California. She also would like to be involved in new research directly. “I’m very open-minded,” says Wankier. “I’ll try almost anything that offers hope.”

Wankier’s aspirations for the future? “I have a great deal of faith and I believe in the power of prayer, so I have high hopes that I will walk again.”


For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.