Traffic collision leads to new path for Quincy veteran
Nicole O’Shea with her service dog Socks, who has been with her through her sometimes difficult recovery from a traffic collision that prematurely ended her military service.
CHERYL SCHWEIZER/COLUMBIA BASIN HERALD
Staff Writer | November 10, 2022 5:12 PM
QUINCY — Nicole O’Shea said she had planned out at least some of her future, starting with her enlistment in the U.S. Army. And then all of a sudden everything changed.
It was the winter of 2004, and she was on her way from Quincy to Yakima for training.
“It was February and it was super-foggy,” O’Shea said. “I had to pull over to clean my windshield off, so I could see. I got rear-ended at 70 miles an hour; I was almost at a complete stop. Rocked my world, in a not-so-good way.”
At the time O’Shea said she thought she was okay.
“They didn’t send an ambulance to the scene because I was up and walking around,” she said. “I didn’t know anything was wrong with me. I didn’t feel anything. I was in shock.”
She drove her damaged truck the 25 or so miles from Manastash Ridge on Interstate 90 to the training center.
“Once I got to the training center, I got out of my truck and I just passed out. (Military personnel) took me to the emergency room,” she said.
“So that was the beginning of the end,” she added.
The injuries were severe enough to derail her military service.
“There was a cervical fracture and there was a bunch of soft tissue damage,” she said. “You know, that stuff doesn’t really get better. If there’s spinal damage, which there is, you can’t do the duties that you have to do. And they don’t have time to babysit you out there.”
It was a blow, because O’Shea, who enlisted in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, liked being in the Army and was looking forward to serving.
“I liked it a lot. One of my nicknames was Smiley,” she said.
She got it during a water survival training exercise, she said, when she was eager to jump into the pool while others were not.
But the accident changed all that.
“My unit deployed, and I didn’t get to go,” she said. “I was bitter about it for years. I was young - I just knew that wasn’t my plan. But God had different plans for me.”
Seeking treatment for her injuries opened up a new opportunity.
“I guess I realized I had to take a different route,” she said. “So I was inspired by my friend Bree Harding - she was my massage therapist.”
Harding and her treatment did a lot for O’Shea, she said, and she wanted to pass that along to others.
“The work she did was inspiring, because of how she affected me. Not just physically, but also on a mental, emotional; spiritual level. I hadn’t felt anything like that before I had started seeing her for therapy, and that was inspiring.”
She came back to her hometown of Quincy to open her business.
“I went to massage school in 2005, had a few jobs right out of the gate, and decided self-employment was the route I needed to take, so I’ve been doing that since 2007. When I was 21 I started Nicole’s Healing Hands.”
To O’Shea, massage therapy is about more than treating physical symptoms.
“It’s more about explaining what massage therapy is. It’s a therapy - I do it as a therapy,” she said. “My aim is always to be therapeutic for people because that’s what I experienced. Whether it’s physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, all of those together.”
But treatment requires a realistic assessment of where a patient is and where they want to go.
“We don’t do fluffy stuff at my office,” she said. “I tell people, ‘You can come complain at the first session, but if you don’t want to do anything to change your life after that, don’t come complain to me again.’”
Massage therapy is physically demanding for the practitioner, and so she’s looking at adding new services and backing away from the massage practice. There’s enough demand in Quincy to keep her and her assistant busy and fully booked, she said.
O’Shea is working on obtaining acupuncture certification and plans to add that to her business. She also wants to study herbal medicine therapy and add that also.
“(The business) will morph and change,” she said.
Cheryl Schweizer may be reached at email@example.com.