Ever since Crystal Gail Welcome was a little girl, she has been enthralled with writing…the pen, the paper, the finished product. As an adult, she continues to write. Before she wrote privately in journals and letters to friends, but now she writes to share her experiences with others. Her written work has been recited and performed across the United States. Crystal Gail was asked as a client of the Dekalb Rape Crisis Center (renamed Day League) to read and write a poem to be presented to the Mayor of Atlanta. Through writing, Crystal Gail has found her voice.
Crystal Gail grew up in Orange Park, Florida. Shortly after graduating high school, she ventured to New York City to attend college. Two weeks after receiving her Bachelors of Arts in forensic psychology, she traveled to a small village in Kenya. There, her mornings were spent planting trees in the Kenyatta National Forest. Come afternoon, she would walk nearly five miles to teach literature at a secondary school. Crystal Gail’s time in Kenya proved instrumental in helping her uncover her love for education.
Upon returning to the United States, Crystal Gail applied for and was accepted into the New York City Teaching Fellows. She received her Master’s certification in early childhood education. Around that time, she started developing headaches and slowly began losing her vision. Within months of developing those symptoms, she was diagnosed with the rare brain disease, Intracranial Hypertension. Welcome had her first of many brain surgeries. A shunt was placed to alleviate the symptoms and save her sight.
After a series of surgeries spanning three years, she moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Once reaching her ninth surgery, Welcome desired an end to the invasive operations. She researched top neurosurgeons and discovered one in Atlanta, Georgia.
In Atlanta, Welcome worked with a neurosurgeon, Nicholas Boulis, at Emory Healthcare. She was fitted with a Medtronic Neuromodulator (the neuromodulator redirects pain signals to the brain) a life-changing medical implant device. Before receiving the neuromodulator, Crystal Gail was extremely depressed and morbidly obese.
At the age of 33, she started running, completing her first half marathon with Team Jardina, just six months after her implant surgery. Her determination and desire to live a healthy, full life lead to her acceptance as a 2015 Medtronic Global Heroes team member. It is an honor she shares with only 24 other athletes from six continents around the world.
As a former teacher, Welcome knows the importance of leading by example. Through her actions, she wants others to realize that all things are possible. Each day, Crystal Gail strives to create something memorable. When she succeeds, she motivates others. As an ambitious athlete who is living with a neurological implant, her goal is to never stop trying. Crystal Gail carries a wallet-sized collage photo of herself. The left side is her at nearly 350 pounds, the right is a photo taken after her first brain surgery. Her mantra, handwritten on the back of the photo reads: “I can, I must, I will!” This is a message of inspiration, which Crystal Gail shares with everyone that she meets.