Camille Weight lost the use of her legs almost a decade ago. Pursuing an athletic training degree at State, she tapped a passion to help heal others and found a new level of strength.
When Camille Weight maneuvers her wheelchair around Indiana State’s campus, simultaneously opening doors and balancing an enormous black bag with her massage therapy equipment, she does it better than most people on two good legs.
Then again, this senior athletic training major from Utah has had more experience overcoming obstacles than most 30-somethings.
“Nine years ago, I lost all function in my body, but mainly my legs, and doctors don’t know why,” said Weight, now 31. “I found myself losing balance and getting weaker over time. I went from walking to crawling, but I didn’t truly realize it was a problem until I fell into the oven while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.”
The incident struck her like an earthquake, triggering a cascade of life-changing aftershocks. Weight quit her job as a teller at a credit union, lost relationships, vacated her apartment and moved to Montana with friends, who spent two years helping her define her new normal.
“When I moved back to Utah after two years, I stayed with my brother and his family. My brother’s wife was pregnant at the time, so I got to help them take care of their girls while I lived with them. It was so fun,” said Weight, who is one of six children. “After several months, I moved into my own studio apartment downtown with disability income, which I no longer had right before I moved to Indiana. At the time of moving, I quit my job as a call center rep that I had for several months after finally being able to be well enough for a job.”
But a call for change was ringing loud in Weight’s head the day she found herself in an online game of World of Warcraft with players from Indiana. The players mentioned their upcoming move from Gary, Ind., to Terre Haute in 2012 to start their undergraduate education and continue on to graduate school at Indiana State.
“They knew I wanted to do something beyond my health, especially go to school and move somewhere new because I love traveling. They suggested I come out there,” Weight said.
In a matter of weeks, she gave away and sold her belongings, said goodbye to family and friends in Salt Lake City and boarded a bus bound for Indiana. She made her first home in Clinton, Ind., where she lived for about 90 days while exploring college options and establishing Indiana residency so she would be eligible for in-state tuition when she enrolled at Indiana State in the fall of 2014.
“I knew right off the bat I wanted a minor in massage therapy, but I just picked athletic training and fell in love with it. I ended up switching to an applied medicine concentration, and I want to go on to get my master’s degree,” Weight said. “My birth mom died when I was 9-years-old, and I remember seeing the pain she was in, but I couldn’t do anything to ease it. If I can use what I’ve learned to ease even an inch of that kind of pain for someone else and help them realize that they can do more than they think they can, that’s what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Weight got her feet wet in the health care field when she served as a student athletic trainer for Indiana State’s track and field, women’s soccer teams and cheerleading. She also completed rotations with Terre Haute North High School’s football and volleyball teams.
“I loved that there was always something new and different when I worked with the athletes at Indiana State, and I could really see their progress because I was with them long enough,” Weight said. “Being a part of their healing process was fun, and I’ve learned so much about the body, health and ethics by working with them. The staff and the athletes were amazing to work with, and I found myself looking forward to getting to work with them.”
When Weight was placed as a student athletic trainer with the track and field team, she asked to be treated like any other student athletic trainers, despite her disability. She performed evaluations, treatments, rehabilitations and participated in facility upkeep.
“Anything we asked her to do she did and never said no. Camille has a spirit that doesn’t let anything get in her way,” said Cody Inskeep, head athletic trainer for Indiana State’s track and field and cross-country teams. “I think people who don’t know Camille might be surprised by her when they first meet her, but when you get to know her, you learn that she has a willingness to get things done, no matter what.”
Weight used that same determination to transition herself from her wheelchair to a stool on wheels to give a massage to Hannah Adkins, ’18.
“(Camille’s) fun and independent, and I’ve watched her mobility get better,” said Adkins, a human development family studies major from Terre Haute who met Weight during New Student Orientation. “I am amazed to watch her carry around the massage equipment. I was going to ask her if she needed help carrying it, but she looks really steady doing it herself.”
She makes it look like a breeze now, but Weight never forgets the years of trial and error.
“There was a lot of lifting, leaning and dropping when I was first learning to carry everything, but now I hop up on tables, get down on the floor and climb when I need to. It can wear me out, but it would anybody,” she said. “Coming to Indiana State has really helped me with my own rehab, too. I’ve never really gotten a whole lot from medical rehab, but with the support and guidance of fellow students and staff, I’ve been taking what I’ve learned at school and adapted it to myself and it’s helped me increase my mobility.”
Whether or not Weight ever regains full mobility of her legs is as much a mystery as how she lost it, but it’s not slowing her down. In August, she said ‘I do’ to a fellow Sycamore who was one of the video game players she met online before moving to Indiana, and this spring she’ll become an Indiana State alumna and prepare to start graduate school in occupational therapy.
“Right after I lost my mobility, I felt like my brain started losing thought processes, but coming to Indiana State has given me more capacity to think and to achieve. I feel more alive at school because it gives me something to focus on, and it’s surely got me out in the world and helped me meet new people,” Weight said. “I know it would have been better if nothing had ever happened with losing mobility in my body and legs, but I also know now that there is so much I would have missed out on if it hadn’t.”