Silverton Fitness members are used to being warmly greeted as they come into the gym by Destiny Schack, a young lady who always seems to have a big smile on her face.
Schack, 22, makes everyone feel at home and brings a real passion to her work at the gym. As the resident “mind/body specialist” (the title on her business card), she can be found teaching a variety of classes – yoga, pilates, abs and glutes, and relaxation, which is also known as “Chillin’ with Destiny.”
She seems to exude positive energy and health. A few years ago, this picture would have been hard for her to envision.
Shortly after she graduated from Silverton High School as salutatorian in 2004, Schack was thrown from a horse she was training, landed hard and was knocked out cold. Unconscious for six or seven minutes, Schack remembers regaining her consciousness face down in the dirt. Her cousin, Heather Dye, who had witnessed everything, was at her side. She had seen Schack convulsing and was terrified.
While her cousin called an ambulance, Schack remembers wondering why she couldn’t get up or, at least, roll over. She lay there face down for an hour, waiting for help.
She didn’t know things were only going to get worse for her.
Schack was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit, where she was diagnosed with a severe concussion. Soon, however, she began to lose her eyesight, and for several days could only see shapes. Her whole left side had suffered serious nerve damage, leaving her unable to walk on her own. Despite her injuries, Schack was discharged from the hospital after five days.
She tried to resume her normal life as a student at massage school, but it was difficult. Several times Schack passed out and had to be rushed back to the hospital. After several such incidents, her doctor ordered a MRI, which revealed a foot-long blood clot in her lower spine, and he recommended that she have surgery to remove it.
Schack intuitively felt she did not want the surgery, and told the doctor no. She also said she didn’t want to continue on the medication prescribed for her.
“It seemed my body had endured so much already, and I didn’t want to poison it further,” Schack said. “I had always been into (natural) healing . . . Plus I have always been a stubborn ass.”
A week after she stopped taking her meds, Schack was on her feet again. But, as her body started to heal, she gradually became aware of how much the accident had damaged her brain and her thinking.
“I had no organizational skill – there was just chaos in my mind. It is very frustrating to go from being a very academic person to one who looks down at her shoe and says I don’t know if I remember how to tie it,” Schack said.
At this point, her determination took over. The self-described Type A personality knew she had to change and find the right balance between her mind and body. She rested, and worked on focusing her energy. She studied and practiced yoga, all the while dealing with constant pain, headaches and scoliosis (curvature of the spine).
Schack eventually got through massage school but found that giving massages was physically difficult for her at times. She began working as a waitress at The Home Place and it was there that she met Mike Thompson, current owner of Silverton Fitness, when he came in for breakfast one day. They chatted, and, shortly after that, Schack went to work for Thompson at his previous gym.
When Thompson purchased Total Body Health Club a year ago and took over the larger building and incorporated the business into Silverton Fitness, he was able to increase the class offerings. Schack now spends an average of four hours a day teaching. She is excited about this opportunity to help people “be present and aware . . . Instead of giving massages, I am able to teach techniques to people so they can find their own peace.”
She also finds herself drawn to work with high school students, introducing them to yoga. She knows from her own experience that adolescence is a very stressful time and believes these techniques and practices can help them.
“High school students are so bright but they need direction. They need as many positive influences as they can get, and yoga can help them to make centered decisions,” she said.
Other new opportunities have started to open up for her, too. She is now working part-time as a sports model, doing photo shoots for companies like Nike and Fred Meyer, as well as sessions serving as a “human mannequin” to test new sports and performance apparel. She also had a non-speaking part as a World War II nurse in an independent movie recently filmed in Portland.
“The accident has certainly put me in a position not to take good opportunities lightly. I work well with photographers, because I’ve trained myself to see detail very well. I spend my life looking for the beautiful subtleties of the things we find in nature, and it translates well from my own body,” she said.
Through all the activity, Schack continues to cope with the lingering effects of her accident. While she has not suffered any more seizures, she still has some vision and thinking limitations, which she describes as “digging through the brush” in her mind. But she has largely recovered and feels “very relaxed and very much at peace,” happy to be helping others move toward that same state.