#120: Victoria Arlen On 4 Years Trapped In A Vegetative State


My guest’s story this week is the ultimate example of how, as humans, our thirst for life and survival forms a refusal to accept defeat. After being diagnosed at the age of 11 with two rare conditions, Victoria Arlen lost her ability to speak, eat, walk and move, and quickly slipped into a vegetative state. She spent the next two years hooked to a lifeline in a hospital where she was “written off as a lost cause.” Despite medical professionals agreeing that there was little to no hope of recovery or survival, Victoria regained cognitive function after two years. However, she couldn’t see, move, or talk, but could hear the conversations around her—with no way of letting her family know she was awake.

Not only did she wake up after four years, but she has gone to become a Paralympic gold and silver medallist, learned how to walk after 10 years in a wheelchair and was a contestant on Dancing With The Stars. Victoria’s story and experiences teach us how the importance of controlling your mindset, refusing to give up and expressing daily gratitude made her – and can make you – limitless.

Show Notes

Victoria talks us through her story of developing the autoimmune conditions Transverse Myelitis and Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis at the age of 11. [2:15]

Victoria shares how her shift to gratitude for the little ability or quality of life that she had, came very early as a motivation for her to fight her illness. [4:31]

Victoria explains her relationship with god, and how this developed when her condition advanced, providing her with comfort as it was . [12:00]

Victoria discusses her viewpoints on being ‘limitless’, and shares a memory that she keeps, that convinced her that her capabilities are endless. [17:31]

Victoria recounts her visit to the UK to participate in the London 2012 Paralympics, and how it was a defining moment for her future. [19:41]

Victoria educates us further on various conditions and discusses the ‘Victoria’s Victory Foundation’ that she founded to offer support for others who have the same conditions as her and raise more awareness of disabilities. [24:10]

Victoria recounts her experience on Dancing with the Stars, which she participated in after walking for only one year. [31:59]

Victoria shares challenges she’s faced outside of her recovery, with particular reference to rejection and how she used this to fuel further opportunities such as working with ESPN. [34:50]

Victoria discusses her experience and details of her book release “Locked In”, which documents the highest and lowest points of her journey. [40:54]

Victoria shares stories of those who have inspired, motivated and taught her in particular referencing her Mother who refused to commit her to a full-time care facility. [43:07]

Victoria closes the interview by thanking Spencer for sharing the same goal set of helping others and making a difference, as her motivation to tell her story on the show.  [45:59]


“Doctors told my parents that they should put me away in a special care facility, and more on with their lives”. [2:58]

“I had my eulogy on the backburner, but I really was like – when I get out of this, because I am going to get out of this… My story will not end with defeat”. [5:04]

“Sometimes all it is, is a blink, that really ignites something” [7:28]

“I will be damned if you can get this far, and then let someone tell you that you can’t do something”. [18:25]

“Everything that I’ve done, every success that I’ve had, there’s probably been about 5 to 10 rejections leading up to it”. [37:26]

“Rejection has always been fuel for redirection for me, to the path that I’m supposed to be on”. [40:04]

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