Former DWTS star Victoria Arlen recalls how she overcame four years of being 'trapped in her own body' due to coma
After her days on DWTS Arlen has been touring as a motivational speaker spreading messages of faith and strength and sharing her story with others
Dancing with the Stars contestant Victoria Arlen was not thrilled at the idea of being an inspiration. She says so because of the rough time she had seen. In her early years her health had deteriorated a lot and despite her not wanting the label it was hard to see her as anything else.
According to a report in Brit Co, Arlen said, "I didn’t like being married to my story. It was so painful for me, and it was so tough to go through. I wanted to live." When Victoria was 11 years old her health started to deteriorate. She began to experience constant symptoms and illnesses such as flu, fainting spells, and asthma.
Arlen was able to recover from these illnesses but it all changed in 2006 when she had an appendix operation. She slipped into a vegetative state post the surgery. Four years later, her eyes blinked lightly reassuring the doctors and her family that Arlen may well be able to recover.
She had to undergo extensive therapy to help her regain her speech, muscular, and cognitive skills that she had lost when she had been "trapped" in her body. "Talking was the hardest thing, but the most exciting thing to get back. I really wanted to tell my family that I loved them, so badly, and to say thank you," Arlen recalled.
Arlen was able to make a recovery and since then uses her voice to tell others about her unusual experience. She was also ultimately diagnosed with a rare combination of autoimmune disorders which made her chances of survival even less. The focus on her future became the inspiration for her forthcoming book, Locked In, set to be released on August 28 this year.
For Arlen moving forward was a lot more than learning how to walk and talk again. She had to force herself to swim and get back into the water after her newfound fear of water. In the years after her recovery, she won four medals in swimming in the 2012 Paralympic Games which were held in London.
Arlen was also one of the youngest talents to be hired by ESPN and she made it to the semi-finals on Dancing with the Stars. "I’m not one that just sits and does nothing. When you sit still for four years or when you have no control for four years, all you want is to get back that control. That’s kind of what I did. It just drove me to do the impossible, ultimately," she said.
Victoria thanks her dance partner Val Chmerkovskiy who gave her the confidence she needed to move forward without having to look at her feet. About her experience on Dancing with the Stars, she said, "Val really helped me find a purpose for the pain that I went through, which I’d been searching for. It was almost like I had been climbing the mountain, and I’d started to see the view from the top, and that was like the victory dance. Val was that final person who pulled me up to the top and reminded me to look up."
After her days on DWTS, she has been on tour as a motivational speaker and is spreading messages of her faith and strength. She was also named a hero on Jockey's 'Show ‘Em What’s Underneath, Show ‘Em Your Jockey' campaign which she believes provided her an opportunity to dig deeper and share more about her story.
"Everyone sees the story, they see the medals, they see DWTS, they see ESPN — but when you break it down, I’m about faith, I’m about hope, I’m about love. This has given me the chance to show people what I stand for and who I stand for," Arlen says about the campaign.
"With every tragedy, there is a tremendous triumph waiting. You just have to hold out for that and keep believing. There’s no such thing as a lost cause. I’m the definition of one, and there’s no such thing. Everyone deserves a chance," she shared.
What a great inspiration you are, #VictoriaArlen @Arlenv1 💖— 4seasons Pix 🌊 (@4seasonspix) May 5, 2018
From active child, into vegetative state for 4 yrs, to #Paralympic gold + silver medalist + WR-breaking swimmer, to #DWTS and @ESPN
Thank you, @Jockey for shining a light on an amazing soul 💖https://t.co/F9otIBwUGq