By Jeff Louderback
“If you can hear me, wiggle your feet.”
Abruptly awakened, like she was roused from her sleep and did not know where she was, Shannon Walcott-Raddin suddenly felt stabbing pain throughout her body. Trapped beneath a mountain of twisted metal, she could not move, yet she heard the voices of the nearby men once more.
“If you can hear me, wiggle your feet.”
This time, Shannon responded by twitching her toes, which prompted the rescuers to action.
This was not how the then 34-year-old mother, daughter and fitness enthusiast envisioned the evening of August 13, 2011 would unfold. Sharing a love for music, Shannon and her daughter, Jade Walcott (who was 10 at the time) anxiously awaited Sugarland’s performance at the Indiana State Fair. A fledgling mother-daughter tradition, it was their third time seeing the country group. They had tickets directly in front of the stage. Before the concert started, inclement weather arrived, and wind caused the overhead rigging to collapse on the crowd below.
Seven people died in the incident, and more than 60 were injured, including Shannon and Jade, who was fighting for her life. Jade remembers nothing about the seconds before she was struck on the head. Shannon vividly recalls the life-altering moment.
“Jade turned to me and said, ‘Mommy!’ I screamed, ‘Run!’” Shannon recalled. “Everybody was screaming ‘Run’ at the same time. It happened fast.”
When the group of nearby men saw Shannon’s foot move, they pulled the heap of heavy metal off. Shannon sustained a crushed pelvis, eight broken bones, and third-degree burns from the lighting, but her panic-stricken thoughts focused on Jade, who was found close by. She was hit on the head with the rigging and suffered a traumatic brain injury, prompting doctors to keep in her a medically induced coma for nearly three weeks. Mother and daughter spent eight weeks in Indianapolis recovering, and then the next chapters of their lives began.
Now 17, Jade attends the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati and is immersed in acting and musical theater.
“I remember just watching things on the news. Like being, ‘Wow. I can’t imagine what it would be like being in that.’ To see that and knowing I was in that is very hard,” Jade said. “”The person before then, prior to the accident, is kind of an old me now. As I’ve grown and matured since then, I’m really happy with where I am.”
Jade regained her emotional health and vitality from family support, her Christian faith, and a love for performing arts. Shannon’s journey of rebounding from her myriad of physical and emotional obstacles was propelled by a heightened interest in cycling.
A competitive swimmer since the age of 6, Shannon won multiple honors in high school and earned an athletic scholarship to Florida Atlantic University, where she swam for two years. Her love for swimming, running and spinning continued long after college, but it was the recovery from her injuries from that night in 2011 that shifted her focus.
Shannon was hospitalized for weeks and spent several months confined to a wheelchair and crutches. Her injuries left her unable to participate in activities she loved, including swimming. It was James Raddin who encouraged her to ride on a tandem bicycle with him to help facilitate her rehabilitation. The couple had met and started dating, and James recognized the important role cycling could play in Shannon’s rehabilitation.
“I moved from a wheelchair to crutches, and eventually walked without support. James said get on a spin bike and use one leg. Start one pedal at a time,” Shannon said. “There were days after the accident that I felt hopeless and did not want to get out of bed because of the pain and feeling that I could not be active like I had been all of my life. Since cycling is not a weight bearing sport, it is something I could do even while recovering from my injuries.
“Spinning became the most instrumental part of my rehabilitation,” Shannon added. “I gradually regained strength, and even more importantly, I became more determined that no obstacle would prevent me from living a healthy and happy life.”
Shannon is still recovering from her injuries. In the immediate years that followed the accident, she would slip and fall around once a month because her left hip was crushed and was weaker than before. James and Shannon transformed their mutual passion for cycling into the creation of LOGIK Fitness, which they launched as a one-of-a-kind indoor cycling studio and cycling shop that eventually grew to a comprehensive destination that includes the Cycle, Fit and Yoga studios. Shannon’s love for cycling, and its importance in her continued recovery, led her to become a spin instructor and join James in LOGIK’s competitive outdoor cycling program.
In the summer of 2015, four years after the accident, she even won two state championships for my age group in her first year as a competitive cyclist. However, a slip and fall on a damp bathroom floor that July left her struggling to walk, confronting her with yet another obstacle.
“It took three weeks before I could get back on a bicycle. I thought I would continue as usual, but just a few rides back in, and I had to step off the bike again,” Shannon said. “My legs just weren’t working right. I can’t really explain it. It was like they wouldn’t activate when my brain told them to. At that point, I stopped cycling altogether and made a doctor’s appointment.”
During this time, even sitting was painful. Physical therapy did not alleviate the discomfort. There appeared to be no answers. Shannon had seemingly rebounded from the tragic night at the Indiana State Fair, yet that hopelessness she felt after the accident returned.
“I was discouraged and depressed, and I sought the guidance of a life coach, who taught me how to make my experiences positive,” Shannon said. “Instead of fretting over not knowing what was wrong with me, I framed the issue a different way. I was going to find the perfect surgeon who would take me back to cycling again, and back to things I hadn’t done since the accident.”
Multiple tests later determined that Shannon had a rare nerve injury that is typically only found in traumatic childbirths. It was a lingering affect from the accident. In February 2016, she had surgery on her leg, and last year, there was another procedure with her hip. She remains active in indoor and outdoor cycling, inspiring LOGIK clients with her story, and motivating herself during times when aches and pains flare.
“What we do at LOGIK is rewarding each day because we get to work with them to move beyond what they see as possible,” Shannon said. “I know what it’s like to have significant injuries and seemingly insurmountable physical limitations. I know what it’s like to wonder, ‘How will I regain what I lost, and how will I get to where I want to be?
“You can be devastated by your circumstances, or you can use them to inspire you and make a difference,” Shannon added. “I get excited helping other people reach goals and continuing to strive to reach mine.”