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Invisible no more

Shanda Boyd is, quite simply, a dynamo.

A former Army nurse, Military Police officer, mother, and athlete, she serves as a national spokeswoman for groups advocating for veterans, and she appeared in the Disabled American Veterans Community of Heroes advertising campaign. She is also an ambassador for Camp4Heroes and Villagers for Veterans. She and her service dog, Timber, are featured in the book, “Vets and Pets: Wounded Warriors and the Animals that Help Them Heal.” She was also the first woman in the history of Valley Forge Military College to attend the Army ROTC Early Commissioning program.

Most of us see Shanda as an active, positive-thinking advocate. But for a long time she felt invisible – like the Fantastic Four’s Invisible Woman.

What a long way Shanda has traveled since her horrific auto accident 18 years ago.

“I had no idea what had really happened to me,” Shanda said in a recent interview. “And I wouldn’t for 14 years.”

The 23-year Army nurse had finished her shift at Madigan Army Hospital at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and was driving home when a car blindsided her Volvo.

Her brain injury wasn’t immediately obvious. But almost immediately, the symptoms began to show – trouble communicating, difficulty in concentrating, relentless headaches. Her life was captured in a 14-year-long relentless, spiraling descent that eventually ended her career and her marriage.

In a serendipitous moment, she finally got clarity.

“I went to an open house at the VA and there was a BIAWA booth,” she remembered. “A volunteer gave me a cassette and some information, and she told me that I may have sustained a traumatic brain injury.”

That volunteer was another of our Super Heroes, Janet Mott, aka Captain Marvel, a professional rehabilitation specialist who’s devoted her career to helping TBI survivors.

“She was literally an angel! Finally, someone got through. FINALLY! Eventually, people will be blessed.”

Now Shanda has an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate treatment regimen. Together with her beloved service dog Timber, Shanda has become a vigorous advocate for folks like her – her fellow veterans and for everyone struggling with TBI, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

“If I can be diagnosed with ADHD (cause by the head trauma), PTSD and TBI 14 years later, after I’ve crawled and stumbled, what really helped me was I always loved people,” Shanda says. “If God let me live through that, I’m blessed.”

Now, in addition to the above advocacy, she serves as an Ambassador for the Department of Veterans Affairs Million Veteran Program, a member the Mary Mahoney Professional Nurses Organization and is a Lifetime Member the UWAA, DAV and Seattle King County NAACP.

The Invisible Woman’s superpower is that she can create an invisible protective shield to protect those around her. That’s what Shanda does with her advocacy work. But she, herself, has shed her invisibility and wants the world to see her and others like her.

“Some of us are still invisible,” she said. “That’s why I’m talking, for all of us who feel invisible. It’s like visibility vs. invisibility.”

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