by Jennifer Meininger Wolfe ’93
Fourteen years ago, Angela Wiggs ’94 earned a BA in journalism from what was then Trenton State College. She graduated with honors and a minor in communications. The plan was for her to write the stories, not be the story. That all changed on October 16, 2000, when the former Princeton Packet reporter was brutally attacked and nearly killed by her husband. She suffered a collapsed lung and a broken jaw and cheek bone. Massive blood loss from six stab wounds led to a loss of oxygen to her brain, and she slipped into a coma. An arterial specialist who treated her that night told her father that he did not have minutes to save her life—he had only seconds. The outlook was grim, but, after 32 days, Angela awoke. She has been battling back ever since.
Angela suffered neurological damage and had to relearn everything, from swallowing to using a fork to signing her name. While mastering her signature was something to which she was especially committed (she says she “practiced a lot” so that she could sign her divorce papers on her own), it is walking that has been her greatest accomplishment.
Doctors said she would never walk again, but thanks to years of physical therapy and an enormous amount of determination and faith, she took her first steps in 2005 during an aquatherapy session. Two years later, with the help of parallel bars, she was able to walk outside of the pool. “[Physical therapy] is the toughest job I’ve ever had,” said Angela, who attends therapy five days a week in Virginia, where she lives with her parents.
At the time of the attack, Angela was working in the Newark office of the State of New Jersey Division of the Ratepayer Advocate, which represents the interests of utility customers. These days, she’s a different type of advocate. She serves as a volunteer for DOVES (Domestic Violence Emergency Services), a shelter where she provides one-on-one counseling when needed. She also speaks at churches and offers advice to people who contact her through her Web site or simply show up on her doorstep: she tells them how to get help and get away from a violent partner. Last summer, she collected toiletries for emergency care packages, which were distributed to women at DOVES who had quickly left their homes and had no provisions.
Angela’s commitment to helping others is especially honorable and inspirational, considering she is still working on her own recovery. In May, her Phi Sigma Sigma sorority sisters celebrated her courage with a commemorative TCNJ brick, which will be placed in the Alumni Grove, a path she will hopefully be able to walk without assistance one day. They are also planning to raise funds for a wheelchair-accessible van that will allow her to continue her physical therapy and her volunteerism.
For more information about Angela, visit www.friendsofangela.com or http://communities.msn.com/FRIENDSOFANGELADomesticViolence.