Home 2017-10-19T17:33:07+00:00

On June 26, 2008 Nancy was returning from Whistler Mountain with her daughter’s Girl Scout Troop. She was involved in a head on collision with a commercial truck near Lyon’s Bay, just outside Vancouver Canada. The front driver’s side of the car absorbed much of the impact leaving Nancy with a C3-C5 spinal cord injury. She was air lifted from the scene in grave condition.

Nancy, originally from Maryland, moved to California at the age of twenty-four. She finished her Bachelors Degree in Psychology at California State University, Fullerton.

She continued her education earning a Masters Degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling and a California Teaching Credential.

Continuing to take Art and Animation classes, Nancy took a year off from teaching to work at an animation studio working with Computer Generated Images. Upon her return to the classroom, she taught Sophomore English. When asked to put a Computer Animation and Graphics Program together she gladly took on the challenge.

Nancy’s twenty-two year career in teaching ended due to her near fatal car accident.

She lives in Southern California with her husband Mark.


Only the Rats are Walking, Smith offers an uncompromising portrayal of life as a tetraplegic, with no sensation or motor control in her torso or limbs. She recalls the initial despair in the ICU with unflinching honesty, while her depiction of people’s attitudes toward the paralyzed is by turns comical and deeply frustrating. At the same time, she shares how family and friends rallied to help her adjust to her new reality.

Smith’s tale provides insight into life with paralysis, making her story vital reading for anyone dealing with, or helping someone deal with, a severe spinal cord injury.

In the confusing, fear-filled moments following the car crash, Nancy Smith pushed down her rising panic to ensure her four young passengers were safe. Only when Smith turned her attention to herself did she realize something was terribly wrong. She was motionless, unable to move, her face pressed against the airbag. Her spinal cord had been severed. She was paralyzed.


Ms Smith has accomplished a great deal with this publication. Her story is moving, tragic, honest, and painful. I recognized much of what she wrote about such as care in hospitals, the insensitivity of some people and the reality of special needs accessibility. I live near Whistler and have looked at the route taken to go from there to Vancouver. I remember my dental hygienist telling me she worked Monday through Thursday, then she and friends would drive from Bellingham, WA to Whistler on Thursday evenings, ski until Sunday afternoon and drive home. I wondered how she coped with driving these roads at night in the winter months. After reading what Nancy went through on that road, my hygienist has been pretty lucky.

She has an excellent spouse in Mark, and a caring daughter in Savannah. Life is hard for all of them, but hardest on Nancy of course. I wish this accident hadn’t happened, and that she was back at Montebello High School teaching graphic design and helping to run her household as before.

She has strength yet admits frustration is always present. How could it not be?


This is a story that deals with a tragic accident. Nancy Smith is a mother, school teacher and girl scout leader. She was invovled in a horrific accident in Canada that severed her spinal chord. She shares her recovery journey and sense of humor describing her travels in dealing with her new life. This book encourages and provides strength to anyone going through life’s hurdles. A MUST READ!


I opened the book and read the first sentence, sat down, and read a quarter of the book before I had to work this weekend. When I got home I immediately picked it again and finished it in 4 hours. I was compelled to read it because Nancy kept writing after telling us of the accident, the horror of trying to make sense of the world she knew, and how it would never be the same. But one has to read on and find out how Nancy faces this impossibly difficult new life. After her miraculous rescue and medical care in Canada, her long journey begins most sadly back California, her home state. Nancy and her family begin to slowly, educate themselves and discover the lack of qualified health workers, well managed facilities, reliable health equipment, less than cooperative insurance companies and medical doctors that coldly inform her that they cannot do much for her. Nancy uncovers Tetraplegia as an area of Health and Medicine not well understood, or covered in medical training. As a female Tetraplegic, she is unable to use her hands, arms or legs. And needs caregivers’ help for functions such as washing, or dressing herself, as well as feeding herself , and being turned on her back and front in order to prevent sores….

Victoria I. Lee Jerrems

This book was at times disturbing and just about the time I thought I didn’t want to read anymore Nancy Smith added enough humor and matter of fact comments to make me want to continue the read. She did accomplish what she set out to do….1) she brought awareness to the life and facts of those living with high level spinal cord injuries and 2) she did increase empathy, my empathy at least, for those living with these types of injuries. She owned the responsibility of her accident. She did not sugar coat the difficulty her family went through. I was glad that I watched a short clip on her involvement in the experimental neuroscience trials to know that she is contributing to the science community to maybe make the lives of others in the same boat a bit better. Hearing the people conducting this trial talk about her positive attitude and willingness to go forward makes me realize that she must be one heck of a woman.




With the silence broken, I could hear someone moaning from the backseat. I realized the bang had caused more damage than I could have imagined and my girls were hurt too. Alright that moaning was one of my girls. Then came a voice, “What happened?” Good I had two girls accounted for so far. “Somebody help me,” a third voice screamed. I was sure the three girls in the back seat were okay. I was missing a voice. I was missing one voice. Whose voice was I missing? I needed to hear four voices. I was positive the first three voices came from the backseat. I was sure of that now because I could hear them talking. I wanted to help them but I was unable to speak. The one voice I needed to hear the most was silent. Where was she? I was trying to recall our route. I knew I had four girls in my car when we left Whistler. We had not stopped anywhere after we left Whistler. So there was not a chance for anyone to switch cars. Where was my fourth voice? My face was planted in the airbag but it was turned slightly to the left. I could see very little and I was unable to lift my head to get a different view. Then, out of the corner of my left eye, I could see my Savanna. She was out of the car and leaning against the concrete barrier, hand to her forehead.