April 16, 2024

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Beyond Overcoming Personal Tragedies and Leaving Her Purpose to Helping Others Retrain Their Health and Battle Alcohol Addiction: Christa Camarillo

What would you do if life’s setbacks crushed your dreams just when everything seemed to be falling into place?

Some would give up. Yet others would rise, dust themselves, and seek to turn things around; using the setbacks as their stepping stones for the renewed purpose.

This is what Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Health Coach Christa Camarillo did. When life seemed to have thrown at her tragedies that broke her heart and shuttered her dreams, she reflected, retrained, and used them as tools to help others, and live a meaningful and purposeful life.

As a young girl, Christa knew she would be a pro soccer player. Undoubtedly, she had the will and talents and was hardworking. The only thing standing in her way was that there was not much pomp for soccer in Louisiana, specifically her home city of New Orleans.

However, in high school, she was traveling all the way to Baton Rouge three times on weekdays and during the weekends—180 miles each day—to play for a traveling team. That was how far she was willing to go for soccer. 

Which was great, as it meant getting recruited by the top teams in the country. She got to sign with Powerhouse NC State and was considered among the top recruiting classes in the school’s history. 

Halfway through the term, she suffered injuries in her lower back and had to return home to recuperate under closer watch. But just when she was recovering and ready to up her physical training, she suffered her first major tragedy. 

On the morning of March 11, 1993, she took her bike and rode to the track for her first track session. She trained on the stadium steps and went to warm up on the track. Out of nowhere, a serial rapist who had been released for good behavior ambushed and brutally attacked her.

When the endless ordeal was through, she barely managed to escape and call for help. The police caught up with the assailant, who was locked up for life without parole after trial.

Christa Camarillo was still determined to return to her game and win her national title. After leaving the hospital, she numbed her mental wellbeing and trained harder than ever. And this secured her a starting position as a sophomore student.  

She went on to compete in three NCCAA college cups and was on the team with the most wins in NC State history. Upon graduation, she played for semi-pro teams like Dallas Lightening in 1997 and Chicago Cobras in 1999. All her thoughts were now fixed on the first women’s pro league, which she heard would start in 2001.

One morning in 1999, she went out on her training bike, not knowing that it would be the day her dreams of playing again would end. At 10.30 in the morning and 10 miles into the training ride, a car struck her, slamming her head with the windshield. The driver was busy on the phone and didn’t notice her.

For a moment, she was gone, and only her lifeless body lay 45 feet across the road. She suffered a borderline skull fracture and other fractures and lacerations across her body. All hopes of ever playing were gone.

Recovery and Retraining Others

Luckily for Christa Camarillo, she survived. Her rough recovery path involved wound and jaw therapy, occupational and physical therapy, and counseling. Through it all, she managed to limp into grad school, slowly pick up the pieces and graduate as an outstanding graduate student.

She then worked as an exercise physiologist at a local hospital helping cardiac patients rehabilitate. This became her new purpose which she held onto until 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit.

The storm destroyed the entire gulf coast and left the city and everyone devastated. Christa was homeless and jobless. 

She had to move to Houston, TX, through her hospital system, but returned to New Orleans in 2007. The city was still broken. Everyone she knew had a broken heart, and she too had not healed from the effects of the storm. Her heart too was broken. She opened her wellness and fitness business to retrain the people, and help them cope with the tragedies caused by her storm. 

This became her new purpose.

Though she has gone on to work with other health facilities to help with cardiac exercise physiology, her purpose of retraining others to live meaningful lives after tragedies remains her core mission. 

And now, in addition to helping deal with heart conditions, she is also helping non-patients to retrain their health. She is helping those struggling with alcohol change their lifestyles for the better.

Christa Camarillo is a consultant for Reframe, an alcohol reduction app. And, through her company Retrain LLC, Christa Camarillo is hosting forums and workshops on stress and how it affects the heart, risk factor management, and change in habits and mindset.