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If you happened to walk through Mantor hall in the past few weeks, you may have noticed something unusual... read more

Band member marches to her own beat
Chelsea Archer
Antelope Staff
Photo by Chelsea Archer
Walker performed with the marching band at the UNK vs. Western State football game on Saturday, Sept. 12.

It’s that time of year again, football season. But the players and marching band members won’t be the only action on the field.  Joining the band this year on her trumpet is freshman Heather Walker, operating from a motorized scooter.

Walker, a nursing major from Amherst, was born with spina bifida, or a hole in her spine.

“My prognosis was that I could not move from the waist down and that I would be paralyzed and restricted to a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” Walker said.

After 13 surgeries, Walker now rides a motorized scooter and walks short distances with the help of a brace below her right knee.

“Because my legs were out of socket in my hips, they literally sawed off both of my legs, adjusted my hips and put my legs back,” Walker said.

After each surgery, Walker’s mother exercised her for four hours every day. Something as simple as walking up a staircase was a challenge.

“It was not easy and I did not like it at all. I would scream,” she said. “But she has so much determination, and if it weren’t for her I wouldn’t be here.”

Ten months ago, Walker picked up her trumpet for the first time in four years. Busy with college nursing courses, she didn’t have enough time for band. By the beginning of her senior year, Walker set a goal to join the UNK band. She spent each evening practicing until 5 p.m.

Now a member of UNK band, Walker stands on her motorized scooter while playing her trumpet with one hand and driving her scooter with the other.

“It’s not the easiest, but you are so focused on that feeling that you don’t realize how tired your arm gets,” she said.

While practicing, Walker adjusts her movements as necessary to coordinate with the other band members.

“I just try to make it work. If I can’t go one direction, then I’ll go another,” she said. “It’s possible; it just takes practice.”

“Heather is a remarkable girl, and I’m glad she joined the band,” said Dr. Gary Davis, band director. “It’s amazing to watch her play her trumpet with only one hand.”

When advising students on their goals, Walker reminds them to never give up on their dreams.

“Don’t let someone take something away that you know with determination, hard work and perseverance that you will get the job done,” she said.


Video by Chelsea Archer
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