Heather Galeotalanza and Erin Martin train to qualify for the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
Heather Galeotalanza and Erin Martin were nurses at Seattle Children’s Hospital at the same time, but they worked in different departments and didn’t cross paths at work.
They finally met when one day when they went to brunch with a mutual friend. Martin and Galeotalanza formed a connection, and since that day their lives have overlapped in the most unexpected ways.
In 2016, three years after Martin injured her spinal cord in a rock-climbing accident, she helped Galeotalanza adjust following her own fall while climbing. Galeotalanza suffered a spinal cord injury that requires her to walk with braces and hiking poles.
Martin uses a wheelchair to get around.
“After I was injured, I reached out to our mutual friend and was like, ‘Hey, could you put me in touch with Erin because I have a spinal cord injury now as well?’” Galeotalanza said.
“And Erin was awesome. She came to see me like every week that I was in the hospital, and we’ve just become really good friends because we both have spinal cord injuries. We have a lot of mutual interests, and we’re both nurses.”
As if they didn’t have enough in common, the two friends became skiing partners after Galeotalanza, 35, introduced Martin, 34, to Para Nordic skiing in the spring of 2019.
While they’re both new to the sport, they hope to soon have another shared experience. Martin and Galeotalanza will train together this winter with the goal of both of them qualifying for the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
“I feel so lucky that Heather reached out to me and was open to being my friend and kind of letting me be a part of her experience after her injury,” Martin said. “… It’s so hard to describe, but I feel so lucky to have a friend now that I can talk to that truly understands my experience in a lot of ways.”
With their spinal cord injuries, Galeotalanza and Martin use a technique known as sit skiing to compete in races. Skiers strap themselves into a bucket seat that’s mounted to skis and use ski poles to propel themselves across the snow.
Of course, it wasn’t the type of skiing that Galeotalanza and Martin were accustomed to before their accidents.