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Health Transformations: Betty J. Samara

Betty J. Samara, 82, is an avid user of the gym equipment at the Tower Club in The Village retirement community.

Erica Brough
Published: Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 8:55 a.m.

Betty J. Samara says stepping off of a platform “into nothing” and zipping across the jungle canopy in Barbados this summer was one of the greatest thrills of her life.

“Everybody was cheering me on,” recalls Samara. And for good reason: The retired registered dietitian, mother and grandmother who lives in The Village retirement community is 82 years old. Most of the other people ziplining with her that day were at most half her age.

“Naturally, I was the oldest one. They didn't ask me how old, but all they had to do was look at me,” she says.

Ziplining was just one of many items on Samara's bucket list. During the past couple of years, she has glided over North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains in a hot air balloon, taken a ride down the Mississippi River on a paddlewheel boat, taken a river barge through the south of France, and traveled to Venice, Italy, with her daughter.

But it wasn't so long ago that Samara inadvertently found herself stepping off into another, altogether terrifying abyss: On June 22, 2008, Samara and her husband, Tom, got into their car to run some errands in Sarasota, where they had been living for 16 years. Tom was a retired criminal investigator for the U.S. Treasury Department. Then tragedy struck when they were involved in a car accident.

Tom died at the scene. Betty was hospitalized with three pelvic fractures and two crushed vertebrae.

For a short time after the accident, Samara worried that she might not ever walk again. But with the help and support of her doctors, her family and a network of friends, she was able to get back on her feet.

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