The only evidence of Tahirah Johnson’s past life is the teal and silver roller derby jersey hanging by the front door. There on a hook, it seems ready to be snagged, thrown on in the car en route to a bout. But look at the evidence of Johnson’s current life inside her northwest Oklahoma City home, and you know that jersey is a relic. There is a walker stashed in the front corner of the living room. A wheelchair sits nearby. Johnson reaches across the arm of her automated wheelchair and grabs her plastic water mug with her thin fingers. Slowly, carefully, she swings it toward her and brings its straw to her lips. Even the most basic action is difficult. The same goes for staying motivated. "I sort of go in waves,” she admits. Johnson is known in the roller derby world as Tequila Mockingbird. She is also known as the gal who suffered the worst injury in roller derby’s history. Saturday night, roller derby players from around the region converged on Oklahoma City for a benefit bout. In a sport where they sport names like Anne Putation and Athena DeCrime and wear bruises like badges of honor, players packed into cars and drove for hours to help raise money for Tequila. "It’s the worst injury that’s ever happened,” said Brooke Burleson, a member of the Oklahoma Victory Dolls which organized the benefit bout. "She deserves so much more than we could ever do for her.” Johnson, you see, has no insurance. She was living in Chicago and working as an attorney, a profession where firms regularly tell lawyers to pay for their own health insurance. Not long out of law school and living under a mountain of debt, Johnson did what millions of Americans do. She took a chance and went without. Truth be told, that was the last thing on her mind five years ago when she saw a flier for roller derby while attending a poetry reading. She worked out at the gym and went for runs regularly, but she thought adding a team sport to her fitness routine would be good. Since she’d skated as a kid, too, she was sold. Not long after, she attended her first practice for the Windy City Rollers. Her team practiced three days a week, and even though players were only required to attend two a week, she went to every one. Roller derby became part of her life. Then on Aug. 25, 2007, it changed her life. She was skating in a bout with her team when she got caught in a pile-up. Because the gals skate in packs, they get tied up and fall down all the time. Pile-ups are as common as fouls in basketball or tackles in football. Johnson fell forward on her knees just like every roller derby player is taught, but as she did, the stopper on another gal’s skate drove into the back of her neck. The force lifted Johnson up before she fell backward. As she lay on the track, she felt nothing below her neck. "I wasn’t even in pain,” she said. "I knew I was in trouble.” Johnson had injured her spinal cord near the base of her neck. After surgery and nearly two weeks in intensive care, the feeling slowly returned to her body. She eventually regained limited use of her arms and hands, legs and feet. She can put on makeup, comb her hair and make herself a sandwich. She even took steps with the help of a walking machine. But since Johnson moved last year to Oklahoma City with her boyfriend, a Bethany native, there have been more struggles than triumphs. There is equipment she lacks and therapy she needs. "It’s $50 for half an hour,” she said of the therapy sessions. "We haven’t been able to afford that.” Still, Johnson fights for everything she can. After doing stretches and exercises and getting ready in the morning, she spends the afternoon mailing forms, filing paperwork and calling insurers. "I couldn’t possibly work,” she has said in frustration, "because I spend all my time on the phone with you guys.” That’s the same feistiness she had when she played roller derby. She still has the spunk. She still has the spirit. Maybe Tequila Mockingbird isn’t a thing of the past after all.