After a Life-Altering Accident, a Young Teacher Adapts to a New Reality

click to enlarge James Buck

Allie Bianchi’s life was on a sky’s-the-limit trajectory. With a fresh college degree in hand, Bianchi, 23, had finished her first year at Barre City Elementary School working as a special educator, a job she’d dreamed about.

She’d started on a master’s degree and still found time to babysit local kids she’d worked with since she was a teen. She was thinking about getting her own place and moving out of her childhood home in Richmond.

Bianchi gravitated toward activities that allowed her to move her body. A former field hockey player at SUNY Cortland and high school dance team member, she liked to work off the stress of her job by rising before dawn in winter to scale the slopes at Jay Peak and Bolton Valley and ski back down. So it was no surprise that on a steamy summer Saturday, she’d end up mountain biking at Catamount Outdoor Family Center in Williston with two of her best friends.

It was August 6, the day Bianchi’s life would be divided into before and after.

The three friends were taking jumps off a rock no more than eight inches high when Bianchi’s front wheel turned slightly to the left as it hit the rock. She was propelled over her handlebars and into the grass. Her neck took the full impact of the fall.

Bianchi knew immediately that something was wrong. Her arms dangled and her legs felt like they were above her head. When rescue workers loaded her into an ambulance, Bianchi offered her own prescient diagnosis: “I’m paralyzed, and