(NEW ORLEANS, LA) - Katy Blake takes a sip of water from her favorite cup and sighs.
"You know," she says, "it's funny. I almost didn't go. I just had a feeling in my stomach."
It's called a premonition.
It's happened to most of us.
That unexplained feeling that life is about to take an unexpected turn and not for the better.
Katy had one, on June 12th of 2010.
24 hours later her mother was by her side in a hospital. "We weren't even sure if she would survive," she said.
23-year-old Katy Blake of Pascagoula isn't one to sit still.
Her present passion is painting, and an inordinate appetite for anything connected to the New Orleans Saints, especially if it involves quarterback Drew Brees.
"He's just so attentive," she says, "Just when he smiles you can tell how caring he is. He's just such a good person."
After deciding a public relations degree wasn't what she really wanted, Katy left Southern Mississippi and got a place in New Orleans, at just the right time for a Saints fan.
It was January 2010 and the Saints had just won their first Superbowl.
Katy was standing there in Lee Circle at the victory parade, eager to see Coach Peyton go by, holding the Vince Lombardi trophy and she waited for one player in particular.
"Ahhh. I just love Drew!" she sighs, smiling as if it had just happened.
Little did she know both the trophy and quarterback would come before her again, but under very different circumstances.
Which brings us back to June 12, 2010, and that premonition.
"I don't know," she said again. "Something just told me not to go."
That next day, Katy gathered in Hattiesburg with a group of close friends for an annual canoe trip.
With lunch packed in their coolers, they headed downstream until they reached The Gator Hole, a sandbar and swimming hole, where they stopped to cut a watermelon.
It would be at that spot where Katy's premonition would become cruel reality.
"A friend and I were horse playing when he spit on me!," she said, smiling. "As a girl I was a little grossed out and I started running towards the water and I saw a lot of my friends neck deep in the water and so I thought they were in the deep end."
Her smile fades.
"And so I jumped and as soon as I jumped I knew it was too shallow."
Katy hit bottom.
Face down in the water, she felt her body go numb.
At first, her friends thought it was a joke, until one of them lifted her up from the water.
"And that's when I said, something is wrong. Get me to the sand bar."
Katy was airlifted to the hospital. Her neck was broken.
Katy's mom, Sara, got the news through a phone call from one of Katy's friends, who said, she thought it would be ok.
"The first time going in there was like, unbelievable, with all the tubes, the ventilator going, breathing for her," said her mom.
Katy and her mother would soon learn Katy was paralyzed, unlikely to ever walk again.
"In fact the doctor even said, shortly after, he didn't think I would move past my biceps," she says, holding her arm.
Katy lay in ICU, not sure of what the future held in store for her.
At the same time, her hero, Drew Brees, was doing something that would have a profound effect on her life, and it wasn't on a football field.
Drew Brees was publishing a book.
It's called "Coming Back Stronger," and it chronicles the setbacks and challenges the New Orleans quarterback battled throughout his life and career.
It was a gift from Katy's brother.
It was a perfect read for a young woman facing the challenge of her lifetime.
But not right now. Right now, she couldn't even turn the pages.
The next 12 months were filled with finding ways to adapt to her new life.
With no insurance coverage, Katy's state supported rehab ran out after four weeks.
"I was at a point where I wasn't going to rehab, I was having to raise money myself to go, which seemed like an impossible goal," she says, "and I was just, kind of at a point where things felt kind of hopeless."
And that's when, thanks to an iPad, Katy rediscovered Drew Bree's book.
"One of my favorite quotes is, through adversity lies opportunity," Katy recalls, "and he let his challenges, he let great things come from them and he didn't give up when things got tough. And he found opportunities that he wouldn't have had otherwise had it not been for the adversity that he faced. So I found ways to use that in my own life."
One of those ways? Katy discovered painting.
And with the help of family, friends, faith and facebook, she began marketing her art, earning the cash she needed for more and better therapy.
And one of those paintings was that of her Hoo-Dat owl, a play on a favorite phrase of her beloved New Orleans Saints.
One, she decided, would be for Drew.
The network of support that had grown around Katy clicked into action, and then came the invitation. She would get a moment with Drew, after practice, before the Falcon's game!
Now, Katy was wheeling herself down the ramp of her mother's van in Metairie, Louisiana as the Saints took the practice field.
Katy would have to wait.
But while she was waiting, remember that day in Lee Circle when Katy stood in the cold and watched that Superbowl trophy pass by?
This time, it stopped, for Katy.
A Saint's employee took it off a pedestal and placed it into Katy's lap!
And moments later, when practice was over and the team had cleared the field, one player stayed behind for Katy.
"Thank you so much! I really appreciate it!" said Saints quarterback Drew Brees, accepting Katy's Hoo-Dat panting, an owl with Drew's famous number nine.
It was a challenge, but Katy did get to give her Woo-Dat Owl to her favorite quarterback.
The meeting between the artist and the Saint went by so quickly.
But for Katy Blake of Pascagoula, her minutes with Drew Brees will provide inspiration for a lifetime.
"I want to walk again! I want to recover, I want to be independent!" says Katy, "I want to have my own life, I want to give back to the community for what they have done for me. I have a very, very long way to go. And I'm just getting started."
Katy Blake is selling her artwork at local festivals to pay for her physical rehab.
In fact, you can help by purchasing her new 2013 calendar, featuring her artwork and favorite inspirational quotes.
To learn more about the calendar and Katy, go to http://www.rehabforkaty.org