Suzi Hileman was shattered in more ways than one on January 8, 2011, when a gunman opened fire at a Tucson grocery plaza where she had taken her nine-year-old neighbor, Christina Taylor Green to meet U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords. Six people died, that day, including young Christina, and twelve others were injured by the gunfire. Suzi took three bullets, one of which shattered her hip. “Don’t you dare call me a hero,” Suzi said in interview (under a thinly veiled, albeit lighthearted threat.) No. We call Suzi a shining example of grit, determination, positive impact, and love – a true survivor – and one of the many reasons we are proud to share this work at Body Works Pilates.
Before moving to Tucson Suzi and her family lived in Northern California where she hiked 25 miles a week, lifted weights, and practiced Yoga religiously for many years. She took her first Pilates class in 1990 and recalls enjoying it. Suzi relocated to Tucson in 2006. Here, she and her husband Bill joined LA Fitness where they found a Pilates class led by a Fletcher-trained instructor. “Bill never recommends people as highly as he did that instructor. I went, sat up front, and did that class again and again. I got stronger,“ Suzi explained. “The Pilates informed everything else I did. My breathing was better, I could hike longer distances without aching as much. My body was more in shape and capable than ever. I still remember when I did a roll-up for the first time in my life! Once you do it, it’s so freaking easy!”
Suzi’s hip was shattered when she was shot that terrible day in 2011. It had to be completely rebuilt. She was in the hospital for 11 days and non-weight bearing for 14 weeks. Two of her Fletcher Pilates instructors visited her at home and assured her that doing the work as part of her rehab would get her walking again.
Suzi recalls her first interaction with Kyria Sabin Waugaman at Body Works, “She placed her hands on me, and before I knew it, I was standing straight. She said ‘Oh sure. We can fix this.’ I thought. Okay. Where do I sign up?” Suzi now practices Pilates four to five days a week. “The work is aspirational. Nobody’s perfect. I never leave feeling like I’m doing less than when I came in. I either maintain or get better. I show up. I do the work. And I love it. My son even noticed that I’m walking so much better!”
A love of Suzi’s that predates that of her Pilates practice, is of children. She is a retired social worker who volunteers and works tirelessly with and for children. She worked with Kyria for over a year to get Pilates in the curriculum at Amphi Middle School and even took a group of girls from there to a PMA conference in Ft. Lauderdale. She is currently an adopted grandma at Prince Elementary School. “It’s my second favorite title, next to Grandma for my own grandchildren. It’s impossible to be sad around little ones.”
This year, on January 8, Suzi was feeling down. So, she went to the playground at the elementary school, threw open her arms and said, “Grandma needs a hug.” The kids came running over, then slowed to approach her gingerly so they didn’t knock her over. “My goal is to enable the entire kindergarten to run at and hug me with me being able to hold myself up and not topple over,” she explained. That day is soon to come.
We are so grateful to Suzie for sharing her story with and inspiring us.