StorageMart Superheroes: Nina Pemberton

Any business is only as good as its employees, which is why we’re so grateful for the men and women who keep StorageMart running smoothly—and providing customer service we can be proud of.

And there’s no one who better exemplifies the spirit of StorageMart than Nina Pemberton, whose courage and resiliency are an example far beyond the StorageMart on Providence Road in Columbia, Missouri, where she serves as manager. She has been with the company since 2008.

Nina’s world changed on Father’s Day 2017, when she was in a horrific horseback riding accident. We recently checked in with Nina to hear more about that fateful day—and her amazing comeback.

The Accident

SM: How did you get started riding horses?
NP: I grew up with a father who had a passion for them and I, too, acquired that passion. I learned everything I could from him and wanted the same life for myself. A life with horses is not a hobby; it is a life choice. They become part of who you are and you a part of who they are. They are a passion that is unending.

SM: How did your accident happen?
NP: I was working with a new horse when a tack in the tree of the saddle came through and hit his spine, so he went rogue. Normally, this would have not been such an issue as I would have ridden him out, but we were headed straight for the highway. I made a split-second decision to dismount into a brush pile to help break my fall. I jumped towards it and landed in it only with the top half of my body, which is when I realized it wasn’t just brush, but also logs, discarded metal poles, and tires. The bottom half of my body hit the ground … and hit hard. I heard more than I felt at that moment.

SM: Did you realize the extent of your injury?
NP: I knew I was hurt and was hoping it was a broken leg or hip. This was not the case. I ended up in the hospital for 27 days in the Orthopedic ICU with a pelvis that had completely broken in two, right at my spine. (God was watching over me that day, as he is all days.) They immediately did surgery and put a bolt in the right side of my pelvis to attach it back to my core to hold me together.

SM: What was your prognosis?
NP: They said that I would likely not ever walk again, and if I did, it was going to be very minimal and I would never walk correctly. The thought of never riding again was almost as terrifying as never walking again. When I got up the next morning and walked to the bathroom with a walker, I collapsed. By taking the pressure off of the right side of my body by bolting it back to the left side, they didn’t realize that the left side was broken off as well and it then gave way. I was rushed back into surgery, where they then had to put another four very large bolts across my pelvis. This was an extreme surgery that had never been performed before. My outcome was unknown.

SM: What was your mindset at the time?
NP: It was just a setback and a challenge to see what my determination and commitment to success could do for me. I am one of very strong will and drive.

Nina in the hospital

SM: What was your recovery like?

NP: They wanted to put me in a coma for three months and keep me in traction to heal. No way! I needed to get back to work. I had promised my company that I would return back to work by Aug. 1. The doctors all said it was impossible. When someone tells me something “cannot be done,” it becomes my mission to prove them wrong. I said that nothing is impossible with a strong will. They would have to find a different way to get me back on my feet. They refused, so I told them to release me. They made my husband and I sign paperwork stating that we knew the risks and that we were liable for our own decision and actions.

SM: How did you feel once you got home?
NP: Since I was not taking pain medication (something that I am very much against), I needed all of my mental strength to get myself through this. I immediately started therapy on my own as I knew I would push myself far harder than what any physical therapist was willing to let me attempt for fear that I would hurt myself. Being home and being able to look out the front window of our house at the horses in the run was all the motivation I needed.

SM: How long did it take to feel truly better?
NP: When you are in that kind of pain, you literally live and feel each passing moment of your life, just praying to make it to the next and knowing you will be a little better as time goes by. After 10 days of grueling therapy, I graduated to a walker and then crutches, and then my own two legs. Then, on the tenth day home, back in the saddle. Success! Pure success! And, by the way, I returned to work Aug. 1 with no walking aide of any kind.

SM: Why were you in such a rush to return to work?
NP: I love what I do here at StorageMart because I love the interaction with people of all walks of life. I love hearing their stories and being a beacon of light for them when they are going through hard times. It gives me great pleasure to be able to assist them and make the transition easier on them. I have also learned to listen when people need to talk. Sometimes our tenants are going through a rough patch and just need to vent. I have always been a big talker but have learned that I am also a pretty darn good listener as well.

SM: What did you learn from all of this?
NP: I already knew that the mind was far stronger than the body and that we are capable of far more than we realize. With the support and love of a great family and being backed by a company that believed in me, this challenge is now in my rearview mirror. It has made me even more thankful for life, my health, my family, my career, and, most of all, thankful to God above for sparing me and giving me the strength not only to survive, but to thrive and heal. If you think you can do something, you can.

About StorageMart

At StorageMart, we pride ourselves on the relationships we establish both with our customers and the communities we serve. But we also take great joy in our relationship with our employees. We’re as thrilled to have Nina back as she is to be back—and are so thankful for her amazing recovery!