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Windy City Rollers Thu Sep 16 2010

After the Fall: Catching up with Tequila Mockingbird

Derby-Dame.jpg

On August 25, 2007, Tahirah Johnson, aka Tequila Mockingbird, a star Jammer for the Windy City Rollers team The Fury, took what at first seemed to be a run-of-the-mill tumble during a bout. But when she couldn't get up again, it was horribly apparent to everyone that something had gone very wrong. Johnson had sustained an injury to her C4 vertebrae, rendering her unable to move below the shoulders.

What's more, at the time Johnson was self-employed as a project attorney and didn't have health insurance. While she concentrated on her recovery, fans and derby girls across the nation pitched in to help Johnson financially.

Having just past the third anniversary of the accident, I followed up with Johnson, who now lives in Oklahoma City. She's still wheelchair-bound, but thanks to therapy and rigorous workouts she is able to walk several hundred feet on a platform walker with a little assistance. As always, Johnson is gracious, optimistic, driven, and still a Windy City Roller at heart.

Derby Dame: Hey Tequila! You're in Oklahoma now--when did you move?

Tahirah Johnson: My boyfriend and I moved to Oklahoma City in November 2008. His family is here, and we're staying with them. Basically, we moved for economic reasons. But we are planning on coming back to Chicago!

DD: When I last talked to you in 2008, you had regained some more movement in your hands, you were able to sit up, and you were starting to use some sort of crazy walking machine...

TJ: Yeah, I'm still using the Lokomat [a robotic walking machine] over at Oklahoma University. That's a big help. There's actually very few of them in the country available for therapy--one happens to be in Chicago, and another at OU. I didn't have access to it for a while. I'd say things are going pretty well.

tequila smile

DD: Before, you were working out and going to therapy constantly. Has that changed?

TJ: I don't get as much access to [therapy] now, but I have a lot of stuff to work with at home. I have a Wii to work out with, and that's been really helpful. I still work out a few hours a day.

DD: Now, therapy and medical bills aren't cheap, and you didn't have insurance at the time of your accident. Has that affected your recovery process?

TJ: I'm on Medicare and Medicaid, and I had more resources with that in Chicago than I do here. Oklahoma just a while ago started giving any outpatient therapy for people with Medicaid. So there isn't much I can do. What I receive here is much more limited in Chicago, but at least it's something.

DD: Do you plan on going back to work at all?

TJ: I haven't yet, but hopefully I will soon. I'm in the middle of working on getting my Illinois law license back, and then after that I hope to get the Oklahoma license as well. There are license fees you have to pay to maintain the license, and I wasn't able to do that, so I let it lapse. Right now I'm working with them to possibly waive those for me.

DD: What kind of work would you do?

TJ: I'd like to get into disability law.

DD: You've received a lot of love and support from fans and friends, and I know the donations you've received have been helpful.

TJ: I'm not sure how much has been raised, but it's been really helpful. It especially pays for therapy and medical supplies, whatever I can't get from the state.

Tequila poster

DD: Have you been in contact at all with the local derby league?

TJ: There's actually three leagues here: two flat-track and one banked. I'm in contact mostly with the Oklahoma Victory Dolls--we go to most of their bouts.

I still talk with some of the girls from Windy City, mainly with Dakota [aka Kola Loka].

DD: Any words for your Chicago fans and supporters?

TJ: I am looking forward to coming back--I didn't want to leave in the first place. And I'm getting better over time, and I really appreciate everyone's support.


If you'd like to donate to Tequila Mockingbird's cause, go to her website or check out Broken Cherry's line of Help Tequila gear.

Photo of Tahirah by Katie Stapley.

The Derby Dame is Gapers Block contributor Kara Luger, who skated as Typhoid Mary with the Windy City Rollers and the Pikes Peak Derby Dames.

 
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