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The Tapestry of Nicole Hackett’s Life Unraveled in 1988. Faith and Determination Stitched it Back Together

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Nicole HackettNicole Hackett: “The fact I am able to walk and talk unnoticed is a miracle in itself.” Nicole Hackett is a determined woman of faith who's experienced her share of twists and turns.

The Flushing resident was 18 years old when her aspiration to come a dancer leaped into her life in 1987. She had won a Joe Tremaine Dance Scholarship, an opportunity that allowed her to travel to Hollywood and, in an unrelated occasion, audition and perform in a Disney-produced commercial.

A total God thing

"I filmed the commercial before my scholarship term was up" recalls Hackett. "It was totally a God thing. I saw a poster for an audition in the same studio that was in a different room that day. I just went there."

That was the planned part of her life.

Unforeseen was a cousin of Hackett's who not only drove her to rehearsals so she could perform in the Disney commercial but also witnessed the good news of Christ's salvation to her, an invitation Hackett accepted.

"I came home on fire for the Lord," recalls Hackett, who will be 52 years old Jan. 15.

Her life as a newly-minted Christian had its share of peaks and valleys.

"I was going to church by myself the first eight months," says Hackett. "I was really involved in my church, but it's hard to live the Christian life alone. I stopped going twice on Sunday and slowly got caught up in my senior year of busyness."

Life unravels

Then in 1988, the tapestry of Hackett's life unraveled.


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A hip-hop and jazz dancer and instructor for a studio in Holly, Mich., Hackett returned to her hometown following the end of the scholarship. She was driving her car five days before graduating from Lake Fenton High School when a driver going in the opposite direction crossed the road's double lane and into Hackett's path. The driver happened to be a former dance student of Hackett's.

To avoid slamming into the approaching car, Hackett veered off the road and smashed into a tree head-on. The crash injured her cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls muscle coordination, balance, muscular activity and speech. In that moment, her ability to walk, talk or write was snatched from her.

Regains life

She was in a comma for a month and when she came out of it, found it nearly impossible to walk, talk, write or go to the bathroom without aid. She spent five months at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, and received additional therapy when she returned home. Being a dancer enabled Hackett regain her life.

"Being a dancer, my cerebellum was overdeveloped," says Hackett. "The Lord has really blessed me. I was able to relearn everything because I have a lot of brain matter there because of dancing, from all the movement I have done. Your connections are made up from what you do. My connections were very strong and very abundant. I was able to reroute all those messages. The fact I am able to walk and talk unnoticed is a miracle in itself."

She did not return, however, to dancing.

"I actually think that was the part of my life that was getting in the way," says Hackett. "He (God) decided to not protect the part that made me a dancer."

Post-accident life

Those connections eventually enable Hackett to enroll at Mott Community College a year following her accident. She transported herself to classes in a wheelchair and recorded her lectures instead of writing them down, an effort that earned her an associate's degree.

She then earned a bachelor's in psychology at Grand Valley State University in 1996 and a master's in rehabilitation counseling at Michigan State University in 1998.

'It's pretty awesome'

She worked for five years as a rehabilitation counselor for General Motors. Following that stint, Hackett and her husband of 24 years, David, decided to raise a family. Hackett became a full-time mother to two children, a son and daughter, now 21 and 18 years old, respectively.

"It's pretty awesome," says Hackett, who attends Flushing Community Church of the Nazarene. "I'm married to a wonderful man and I do have pretty good kids."
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Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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