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Novel explores making great strides despite impediments

November 24, 2018

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) — “Karate made her feel strong, powerful and independent. Everyone thought that since she had a visual impairment, she would be unable to defend herself. That she always depended on someone to get her out of a situation. She was going to get her black belt to show everyone that she could do it and that she could do anything like everyone else.”

Thus begins Bethany Furrow’s novel, “Beating the Odds.” It is the story of Lucy, a visually impaired 15-year-old girl who aspires to become a black belt in karate and compete in a national martial-arts tournament. Lucy’s experience is based largely in part on that of its author’s.

Bethany Furrow was born prematurely at 23 weeks in Charleston on June 9, 1992. She weighed 1 pound 7 ounces and could fit into the palm of her mother Tammy Hannah’s hand.

“The doctor told me that he wasn’t going to call the neonatal unit because she would not be viable for life,” Tammy said. “I told him that he was there to do a job, and his job was to give all the care he could for me and my daughter and that it wasn’t up to him to make a decision if she was viable for life. I told him that God was the only one that could make that decision. At that time, I put Bethany in God’s hands.”

Within a few minutes, Bethany began breathing on her own. A nurse called the neonatal unit.

Six days after birth, Bethany had open-heart surgery. She was on a ventilator for 91/2 weeks and overcame multiple viruses while in the hospital. She suffered two severe brain bleeds and endured several eye surgeries.

At one point, doctors were unable to give Bethany an IV for nutrition because all of her veins had collapsed. She could not tolerate feedings and doctors gave her 24 hours to start taking feedings, or her chance of survival was slim. Thankfully, with prayers, Bethany started tolerating feedings around the 22nd hour.

“She fought from the very beginning,” Tammy said. “She was very strong then and very strong now, very strong-willed.”

Bethany spent her first 108 days of life in the NICU at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Charleston. When she finally came home in September, she weighed over 5 pounds.

“She came home on oxygen,” Tammy said. “She was on oxygen for two months at home.” By January of the following year, she was finally able to breathe on her own.

Bethany is completely blind in her left eye and legally blind in her right eye. She also has mild cerebral palsy, which affects her fine motor skills.

When asked if her disabilities often pose a challenge to her, Bethany said, “Yes and no. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. It just really depends on whatever I’m doing.”

She has had to deal with bullies as well as the struggles of day-to-day life, but nothing has prevented her from achieving her goals.

In “Beating the Odds,” Bethany addresses bullying as well as the determination and ability to achieve a goal in spite of having a disability. To her, the inspiration to write the novel was clear.

“It was actually after (karate) class one night,” she said. “I just had this thought. I was like, ‘That could be a good story. Why has no one ever written a story like that before?’ And I’m, like, ‘No one else is going to do it. Why not me? I’ll do it.’ ”

In the novel, Lucy must overcome many obstacles, including living with a disability. She must prove that she can take karate classes with the disability, and she must overcome an injury at the hands of a bully in order to pursue her dream of competing at the national tournament.

Bethany writes, “Lucy knew that she was improving, but she was afraid that she would be unable to go back without getting hurt again.”

The novel is not without conflict, both internal and external.

The book’s theme also reflects Bethany’s philosophy.

“If you’re doing something you really like,” Bethany said, “and (if) you really want to finish what you’ve started, do it. If it’s possible, finish it.”

In the novel, she writes, “After everything she went through, she had not given up. She proved that even with a disability and suffering an injury, she could get back on her feet and beat the odds. That was something she would never forget.”

Tammy believes these three sentences summarize her daughter’s life.

“That’s something I’ll never forget because that’s what Bethany did from day one,” she said. “I wish I could have her attitude.”

Bethany is a 2010 graduate of Cabell Midland High School in Ona but currently resides with her mother in Logan. She is working on a bachelor’s degree in creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University. Her novel, “Beating the Odds,” is available in paperback and Kindle editions at Amazon as well as on CreateSpace at https://www.createspace.com/6836523.

In a Facebook post, Bradlee Furrow, Bethany’s brother, wrote, “Pick up a copy of her book and learn about a visually impaired girl going up against the odds to try to get to the karate nationals, and support a local author just having fun beating the odds.”

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Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, http://www.herald-dispatch.com

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