Monday, November 2, 2015

Debi Thomas is now destitute?

If you were around in the 80s, you might remember Debi Thomas, a black figure skater who was famously pitted against East Germany's Katarina Witt at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary.  I used to love watching figure skating, so I knew Thomas from her athletic jumps and aspirations for being a doctor.  And, let's face it, she was a successful black woman in a sport dominated by white people.  Of course, people took notice of her.  She was the first African American to win a medal of any kind for the United States in the Winter Olympics.


Debi Thomas at the 1988 Olympics... She won a bronze medal.

In 1995, author Joan Ryan wrote a scandalous book about women's gymnastics and women's figure skating, going as far as calling the sports "celebrated child abuse".  I read Ryan's book, Little Girls In Pretty Boxes.  Debi Thomas was interviewed for it.  She let everyone know that she was happy to be out of the figure skating world.  Apparently, before the '88 Olympics, Thomas was burned out and unhappy.   She had aspirations of becoming a great surgeon.  After graduating from Stanford University in 1991 and Northwestern University Medical School in 1997, Debi Thomas seemed to have it all.  She married sports attorney Chris Bequette in 1996, with whom she has a son.  She later divorced Bequette.

But then, after becoming a successful orthopedic surgeon, Thomas decided to work in private practice.  For some reason, she opened her practice in Virginia's coal mining country, which isn't known for being especially prosperous.  Her practice failed and she lost all of her savings.  Now, supposedly destitute, Thomas lives in a run down trailer with her boyfriend, Jamie Looney.  She has apparently given up her medical career and her bills are higher than her income.

I know a lot of people are judging Debi, wondering what in the world happened to her.  She had everything going for her.  While I might be able to see how a former top notch athlete could end up broke after retiring from sports, Debi had a first rate education and was trained to be a doctor.  What in the world made her move to rural Virginia?  Though her services might have been welcomed there, most people in that part of the state aren't known for having a lot of money.

Here's the funny thing.  Not long ago, before I read about Debi's troubles, I looked her up.  I saw that she had started a practice in rural southwestern Virginia, then closed it.  I wasn't that surprised her practice closed, knowing how economically depressed that area is.  However, I was surprised when I heard that she found herself stuck there, broke.

Iyanla Vanzandt is going to do a show about Debi.  Unfortunately, I doubt I will be able to see it.  Even if I could watch it, I don't really enjoy Iyanla's show that much.  I would probably watch Debi's episode, though, because I am curious to know what went wrong.  I suppose her story is one that can remind everyone that no matter who you are, bad fortune can find you at any time.

As for those who are saying Debi can easily pull herself out of this mess, I'd like to agree.  But not knowing exactly what happened, I can't say if Debi is totally at fault.  First, I want to know why she went to coal mining country.  I don't know for sure, but I would guess it was the boyfriend who brought her there.  I know she got divorced and her ex is a lawyer.  It probably cost her a lot to split from him.  And then, once you move, you've spent a lot of money, especially if you've tried to launch a business.  It takes money to move again.  That's not to mention, of course, the utter humiliation, depression, fear, and learned helplessness that sets in when you feel like you've lost everything. I have no doubt that Debi is dealing with depression and anxiety on top of everything else.   If you look at her past, it sounds like she's never failed before.  She probably had no idea that failing was a possibility.  I hesitate to be too harsh, though I'm not sure the world needs another reality show, which is what Debi says she wants to do now.

Frankly, I'm surprised no one in the local medical community has reached out to her... though maybe they have.  The University of Virginia has a branch in coal mining country and it includes a nursing program.  I wonder if Debi Thomas couldn't be of some use to them?  Adjunct professors don't earn a lot of money, but it might be something.  Hell, I'm not even sure what part of coal mining country she lives in.  I would just like to think something can be done to get her back on track.  We'll see.  But hell, even though Iyanla is annoying to me, she probably can relate to Debi Thomas.  She once had it all and lost it, then got some back again.  So maybe being on Iyanla's show is a step in the right direction.


10 comments:

  1. I'm very surprised to hear about Debi because she always seemed to have her head on straight. Olympic success wasn't the pinnacle of her life, she had plans for afterward. I can't believe she couldn't join another ortho practice - probably have to move to another locale - unless there were issues with the quality of her care, etc.

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    1. I'm puzzled. She does have a boyfriend, though, and I really wonder if maybe he's the reason she's there.

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  2. She lives in Richkands VA which is plagued with drug addiction & lack of medical care. If ever anyone could be of use she could be in that community! The boyfriend is a third rate loser & a drunk. Ive been told he is an addict but cant confirm that. What I can tell u for sure without a shadow of a doubt is that Debi Thomas is in a unique position. With her status as an Olimpic medal winner & a doctor she cld very well bring the national spotlight to this drug riddled area & finally help get sum real resources & real help to the people living in SWVA. Her own addiction to the boyfriend among other thngs is what is keeping her down.

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    1. Thanks for that insight. I am from VA myself, but have never really been to that part of the state. I have a friend who lives out there and is unemployed. He makes it sound very difficult to live there, It's a pity she can't do more for herself and her community,

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  3. I wish I could help her move to higher ground. Sometimes when you're down so low you can see the sky. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. I hope she'll get to the light soon. Maybe there is an angel coming her way soon.

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    1. Yes. Her story is sad. I hope life turns around for her soon.

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  4. I didn't know that Debi Thomas and I are the same age. I remember watching her skate and cheering for her during the Olympics. I was happy to learned that she followed her dream and became a doctor. Now I hear that she is broke, and living in a bad situation. As a 48 year old woman that too has been in bad situations, felt depressed and just plain stuck. I do hope that she is able to reclaim her life and get back to where she used to be. Sometimes life happens to us and it can either be really good or really bad. I also don't understand those who want to judge her. We all fall down sometimes. The hard part is picking yourself up and continuing to try. I wish her the best.

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  5. I just believe that everything happens for a reason. It is not strange to me that Debi founds herself in this awful position at this time, and I can truly relate to it, having dealing with similar issues myself, but what I coming to realize is that there is a purpose for everything. She has to know that this is only temporary. I know she probably feel like she is awakening from a bad dream and now reality is setting in (hence the notion to do a reality show) which would allow her to stay in some sort of dream state. My best advice to her would be to seek God for all the answers to her questions. She truly believe that she can help her fiance' by denying herself, her wants and dreams. Debi you are only going to continue to get lost in his world. You are giving up your own trying to fit into his and waiting for him to see you and understand who you are which I believe you are a servant sent by God to do His, but it is not to glorify man but God. Looney will have to make his peace with God and be delivered from his own demons. and until he does, he will never love you like you want and deserve. It will always be one sided. I believe some time away from him is the only way she will be able to help herself and him as well. It's a cold world, and we must not conform to it but be transformed from it by the renewing of our MINDS!

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  6. Greetings from someone who has trouble keeping things neat and tidy. I am not alone out there having trouble with simple tasks if you get my meaning. Thank you for this site.

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  7. With all due respect to "UNKNOWN" (or with little or no due respect; that phrase is used entirely too often), I absolutely hate the expression "everything happens for a reason." Are heinous crimes REALLY perpetrated on innocent victims for a reason? Actually I suppose they are, but the reason is that someone exercises his or her agency to commit an evil act.

    With regard to Debi Thomas, I take issue with applying the "everything happens for a reason" mentality to her situation. Yes, something good could eventually come of it, but for the most part, her story is very sad. I'm not sure how much of her situation is of her own doing or of her getting hooked up with a boyfriend who has not been great for her, or how much it's just horribly rotten luck. Either way, I can feel sympathy for her and can hope that things improve for her without using that hackneyed line about "everything happens for a reason," as though either God or the universe willed such a thing on her.

    I read that there was some sort of hearing concerning her license to practice medicine in the state of Virginia. I don't think she contested the cancellation (or forfeiture of renewal -- I'm not sure which it was). The article didn't say what the issue was.

    I really hope things go better for her in the near future.

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