Love for music keeps Air Force Veteran living


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After winning gold last year for her rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” Sanjanette Scott was getting ready for her first-ever National Veterans Creative Arts Festival when it all went bad.

She was already at the Orlando VA hospital for another appointment, when she lost feeling in her legs and couldn’t walk down the hall. A maintenance man picked her up in a golf cart and rushed her to Urgent Care.

“They were looking for a pulse in my leg and there were two people in the room. Then there were four people. And they were all trying to find the pulse. Then there were eight people. Then there were 12.

“I said to myself, ‘This is not going to end well.’ I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t good.”

It didn’t end well.

After multiple surgeries, doctors amputated her left leg above the knee. Scott never made it to the festival. She’s back this year after winning gold again for “Ave Maria,” which she performed in the hospital while recovering from an infection.

She also has diabetes and multiple sclerosis.

But Scott keeps smiling.

Women smiling and hugging

Air Force Veteran Sanjanette Scott (left) and her recreation therapist Jenny Danieli at the 2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

“What good does that do me to be angry? It’s not going to do me any good, because if I stay angry, then I can’t concentrate on other things,” Scott said. “Look, I lost my leg. That’s not going to change. But singing and getting the chance to come here, this keeps my sanity.”

Scott has dealt with medical setbacks most her adult life. She joined the Air Force in 1987 and worked in the Precision Management Equipment Laboratory. But after a series of debilitating migraines, she was medically retired in 1996.

“They found calcium deposits on my brain and don’t know why, but with migraines, I was no longer worldwide deployable.”

She worked at Target and then Goodyear, and went back to school, getting a degree in business management and a law degree in 2009. But Scott could tell something else was wrong.

“I walked 10 miles a day around Lake Baldwin (in Orlando), but my legs would fall asleep. I would have to shake them. I would lay down and lose feeling in my legs.”

Scott had earlier been on cholesterol medication, but was taken off when it made her ill. Doctors now think plaque was breaking off and traveling to her legs, creating the clots.

“When I finally lost the pulse in my leg, they wanted to take me to Miami, but the doctor thinks I wouldn’t have survived the trip. He said one of those clots would have broken off and killed me.”

After the initial surgery, Scott was in excruciating pain.
“The doctor touched my leg and I screamed,” she said. “They prepped and rushed me back to surgery to remove more clots.”

By then, there was too much damage, and the leg was dying. Doctors first amputated below her knee, but had to go back and further amputate above the knee. While in a rehab facility, she got an infection and was sent back to the Orlando VA to recover.

Her recreation therapist, Jenny Danieli, kept trying to get Scott to audition again.

“She kept calling and calling, and finally, I just put a shirt on over my pajamas, went down to Medical Media, and they shot a video of me doing ‘Ave Maria.’ I didn’t think it was that good,” Scott said. “When Jenny called and said I won gold, I about fell out of this chair!”

Danieli said she knew Scott wasn’t feeling her best, but believed the music would help heal her.

“She has a gorgeous voice and is so tenacious,” Danieli said. “I was heartbroken when she wasn’t able to make it last year. It was my first festival last year and to see this all come together is amazing, and I wanted her to experience it. When I found out she made it, she was the first person I called.

“She has such a tremendous love for music, Miss Happy-Go-Lucky and is a great person. She is really one of my faves.”

Scott said this gives her a chance to get out of the house and do what she loves.

“Coming here is just awesome. Without this, I’d be stuck on the couch.”

Spend some time chatting with her, and it’s hard to believe Scott spends much time sitting around doing nothing. She’s now studying to take the Bar Exam and wants to specialize in Veteran law. Her prosthetic was recently finished and she’s looking forward to getting up and walking. She’s also interested in some other adaptive sports events like the Summer and Winter Sports Clinics.

“I might have issues, but I always try to eat right and stay healthy. Absolutely, you do not give up ever. You don’t know when a breakthrough will come, and it could come tomorrow. It could be a phone call or a letter. We don’t know how long we have here, but you have to live while you’re here.”

Author

Gary Kunich

joined the U.S. Air Force in 1986 and served for 20 years in public affairs. He is now the public affairs officer for the Milwaukee, Wisconsin VA Medical Center.

Comments

  1. JOYCE Scarbrough    

    I would have loved to have seen a video of this woman singing Ave Maria, she has such a beautiful Outlook on life. Good luck on your bar exam and make sure you continue with that great attitude on life and congratulations on your win!

    1. Gary Kunich    

      Hi Joyce! We’ll try to do it with a Facebook Live video on the VA Adaptive Sports Facebook page. Thanks for the suggestion!

      Gary

  2. James C. Johnson    

    I love her Spirit. Tell her to never stop moving forward. I have been inspired just by reading her story to start singing again. One day i hope to meet her in some sort of event.
    God Bless Her.

    1. Gary Kunich    

      Great lady! Glad we got to tell her story!

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