Imagine going 28 years without eating a steak or anything but soft foods...that was probably the least of the problems for Gayla Hereford of Lubbock. Finally, all that is going to change thanks to a good social worker, Covenant Counseling Center, a bank with a heart and a lot of doctors in Dallas.
It was 1978 and Gayla Vaughn was a track star at Estacado High School. At age 15, she won everything at a track meet in Odessa. "Running the relays. Coming in first place. Hearing all the people screaming and hollering. Oh, it was a joyful time," says Gayla.
But the best day in her life became the worst when Gayla missed the bus and hopped in a car for the ride back to Lubbock. Gayla was the only one seriously injured in an accident, which killed her self-esteem.
Tony Aguirre describes Gayla when he met her 4 years ago. "She was having an emotional breakdown. Not trusting in people she had become locked in her house for many years and would not come out in the community," says Tony.
Gayla lost her upper lip, all her teeth on top and the left side of her jaw, not to mention the shredded glass that left devastating scars.
"Someone would say 'oooh look at her'. People need to realize how they talk to someone, how they look at someone. Your tone of voice means a lot...it hurts," says Gayla.
But now, 28 years after the accident, Gayla is back on track, in the running for a new life and a new face. "I'm so excited. It's like a dream come true," she says.
Covenant Counseling Center is working to raise money for Gayla's living expenses while she undergoes a series of reconstructive surgeries in Dallas over the next few months. The first checks were presented Wednesday. In all, more than $2,000 was collected at a send-off reception.
Gayla goes to Dallas next week for the first surgery to rebuild her lip and give her teeth on top and then plastic surgery will follow. "The first surgery is going to be big. I told him I'm going to be sore, but I'm ready," she says.
So, Gayla is starting what could be the biggest race of her life, in which the finish line will bring a winning smile and,for the first time in a long time, a steak.
"Yeah...I'm gonna eat me some steak," laughs Gayla.
If you'd like to help Gayla in her journey, donations can be made to the Gayla Hereford Medical Fund at First Bank and Trust.