Life hasn’t been easy for Durangoan Jessica Vought: She lost the use of her legs in a car crash and parted ways with two husbands. But life’s punches have not stolen her joy.
“This girl has never once, since I met her – never, ever, ever – has had a pity party,” said her friend, Lynn Dearey.
Vought, 35, grew up in an abusive home with alcoholic parents. She describes herself as a “lost kid.”
She didn’t follow the rules and hung out with the wrong crowd as a high school student in Ignacio.
But she was also a rising volleyball star, a sport she discovered and loved as a freshman.
Then, at the end of her sophomore year, in May 1999, she rode in a car with a drunken driver who crashed.
“They found the car on top of me and my best friend at that time,” she said.
Vought, who was 16, was in a coma for two months and woke up with a brain injury. She was paralyzed from the waist down. The driver of the car was also paralyzed, and her best friend died in the crash.
When she woke up from the coma, she realized she didn’t have God in her life.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” she said.
The day she woke up she became a Christian, and that has been her source of joy ever since, she said.
In the 19 years since the crash, Vought has been invited to share her story with Durango High School students and others. She always welcomes opportunities to try to prevent drunken driving, she said.
“I love passing on what’s happened to me to save a life or allow one of (the students) to notice something and to save one of their friend’s lives,” she said.
But life’s cruel turns weren’t done with Vought. Her first marriage of seven years ended after she discovered her husband was having multiple affairs.
“We had fun. We had life, until things came up to the surface,” she said.
After she found out about his affairs, she left him a note and moved out of the house they shared, she said.
Her friend, Noah Vought, who also used a wheelchair, helped Jessica with the move.
She met Noah while working in the podiatrist’s office where he was patient.
Shortly after the divorce papers came through from her first marriage, she married Noah.
“You just had to look at him and you were dewy on the floor,” she said.
The two were married for almost nine years and were largely homebodies, although they went to the Bar-D-Wranglers about 10 times each summer.
They mainly played games, watched movies, studied the Bible and saved up for their rare vacations.
The two visited Disney World twice, once for 39 days and again for 49 days.
They took long vacations, in part, because it took such a long time to pack all their equipment and drive to their destination.
In May 2017, Noah died from a blood clot that went to his lungs that was related to his other health conditions, and Vought had to reframe a life that had been built around her marriage.
Vought, who had not attended a church regularly, visited The River Church in Durango for the first time in August last year and met new friends, including Dearey, who has encouraged her to get out more.
But the challenges keep coming. Last year, Vought had to have her right foot amputated because of reoccurring sores. She was also diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition that makes it impossible to eat gluten, which is a protein in wheat, rye and barley.
Through it all, Vought has stayed positive because of her faith, Dearey said.
“She is the most amazing individual I have ever met,” she said.