Laural is confined to a specially designed grav-chair, and to strangers, she may at first appear frail. Although her build could be considered fragile and wiry, she is stronger than she looks. Her most striking features are her bright blue eyes and ready smile.
Laural “Laura” Corynn Witley was born on to Hannah Marie Witley, a former Starfleet nurse, in the city of Janaran Falls on Betazed. Laural has never met her real father, a Starfleet Security Officer, with whom her mother had a brief romance. Though most of what Laural knows of him is sketchy, her mother has told her he was married at the time of their relationship. After only a few months, their relationship ended when he refused to divorce his wife and marry Hannah. Shortly after the breakup, Hannah learned she was pregnant and decided to keep her child, despite the stigma of being an unmarried mother in Betazed high society. To protect her former lover from scandal, who had by now reconciled with his wife, Hannah never divulged the name of her daughter’s father to anyone.
For the next seven months, Hannah continued to work as a nurse at Betazed Memorial Hospital. The work was difficult and Hannah suffered from complications throughout her pregnancy, almost losing Laural several times because of stress and high blood pressure. When Hannah gave birth to Laural prematurely she and her newborn daughter suffered serious injury. The difficult delivery had weakened Hannah’s heart significantly and post partum hemorrhaging forced the doctors to perform an immediate hysterectomy. Though Hannah was devastated that she could have no more children, she knew she would have her hands full with the seriously ill Laural. Her daughter’s severely underdeveloped lungs and low birth weight were just the beginning of her problems. Although doctors felt confident they could repair the damage using gene therapies and other medical advances, Hannah, who was intimately familiar with what could go wrong with such procedures, refused to take the chance, also preferring to allow Laural to develop on her own, without outside interference. Despite Hannah’s conviction and strong faith, Laural sustained extensive brain damage and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The doctors told Hannah that they wouldn’t know how extensive Laural’s impairment was until she got older and at the time, they told her it would be a miracle if she survived the night.
Hannah refused to give up on Laural, and as a result of Hannah’s nurturing, Laural thrived; though the cerebral palsy left her confined to a gravchair. Though Laural has some physical limitations, it was clear she had no such difficulties mentally. Laural did well in school early on. She especially loved medicine and she would spend hours after school watching her mother work. Her mother worked during a great deal of her childhood, though she was always a very caring and loving mother. It was always important to Laural to make her mother proud, so she tried always to focus on the things she could do well rather than the things she could not.
Laural longed to join Starfleet as a Medical Officer but there was some doubt as to how receptive Starfleet Academy would be to cadets like Laural who could not walk and experienced difficulty with some of life’s basic tasks. Never before had someone in a gravchair attempted to join Starfleet. Laural’s teachers advised her not to apply, lest the intelligent girl be discouraged, but Laural applied anyway and was turned down. Though frustrated and angry that her physical limitations could so overshadow her determination to succeed, she vowed then and there not to let her first failed attempt be the end of her dreams. She studied harder than ever and was given the opportunity to enter the early admissions program at the Betazed Academy of Medicine upon completing the honors program in general education, affiliated with the University of Betazed.
Laural jumped at the opportunity and entered the nursing program. The Betazed Academy proved to be the first of many trials for Laural but she was determined to complete the program. Also majoring in psychology was at first only an after thought for Laural but she knew the basic skills would help her to better relate to her patients. Her academic advisors felt mental health would be a good fall back career for her, should her “physical liabilities” impede her success as a nurse. Her fascination with the field grew and soon she was on her way to becoming a certified mental health professional - a much more “sensible” occupation for someone like her - according to the dean of the ursing program. Not wanting to be railroaded into one career or the other just because it seemed the most attainable to everyone except herself - including her mother, Laural’s competitive nature took over and she was dead set on mastering both fields.
It was not an easy road but with the help of specially designed medical equipment created just for her use and her dedication to her studies, Laural was able to master the skills needed to become a registered nurse and to gain a degree in psychology, After graduation, Laural went to work at Betazed Memorial Hospital to help support her ailing mother who sadly, died of congestive heart failure in August after her graduation.
After her mother’s death, Laural applied for a position as a nurse on the USS Nightingale - deciding that a chance to work on a starship was what was most important to her - even if she never got to Starfleet Academy. Her application was accepted and she was delighted to work as a nurse and a junior counselor aboard the Ambassador Class Medical ship. Laural soon proved her worth, gaining recognition as a cool under pressure, strong willed medical crewman who cared a great deal about the ship and crew. She frequently filled in for the Head Nurse, proving she was capable of leading others. When it was announced that Starfleet Academy had created a program for students with disabilities, the Captain of the Nightingale gladly put in a recommendation. Laural was both shocked and excited to learn she had been accepted, and she decided to set her sights on a loftier goal – completing medical school. After a year aboard the USS Nightingale, she was once again a student.
Starfleet Academy proved to be challenging both academically and personally. Since she was one of a handful of disabled students, all eyes were on her and the others in her program. She, and the other disabled students, became something of a celebrity at the Academy - but that brought its own pressures. Not everyone was supportive and it seemed as though there were people just waiting to see her fail.
During her days at the Academy, Laural managed to maintain a positive outlook and continued to work hard - constantly trying to prove herself to her critics and more importantly to herself. While at the Academy, Laural met her best friend, Karyn Dallas, who was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy and confined to a gravchair. Besides having this in common, the two had similar personalities and the same determination to thrive. Both also majored in clinical psychology, sharing a strong desire to help others and to remain as independent as possible.
For the first time since before her mother died, Laural was able to talk about not having a father in her life, while Karyn discussed what it was like to live with a father suffering from alcoholism. The two looked to each other for support and together the two redheads took the Academy by storm. While at the Academy, Laural earned a new nickname - Wit - that was not just a play on her surname, but resulted because of Laural’s tendency to use sarcasm and humor. Laural’s refusal to be denied anything earned her a great deal of respect from her classmates and soon she gained a close circle of friends.
Together Karyn and Laural established the Students With Disabilities Council, which focuses on making the Academy accessible and provides services for the handicapped. Karyn and Laural seemed joined at the hip, becoming members of the debate team and drama Club. Laural graduated with highest honors.
Karyn went on to serve as a counselor on the USS Galaxy, while Laural went on to Starfleet Medical. Laural chose to specialize in psychiatry and family medicine, believing the former would give her a unique perspective on what she had already learned, while the latter would serve her well aboard a variety of ships and bases.
Upon completion of medical school, Laural was finally ready to start her first duty assignment as a commissioned officer. She got that opportunity in the form of the Intrepid class USS Windsor, assigned to a three year deep space exploration mission. The assignment was a trial by fire for Witley because she was one of a very small group of counselors, and none of them were in reach of Starfleet Medical should problems arise. Laural learned a great deal about learning to think on her feet while on the Windsor. When her superior had to return to earth unexpectedly for a family emergency, Laural was offered a promotion to Chief Counselor. Nervous, but also anxious to prove herself, she accepted.
After serving aboard the Windsor for three years, Laural was reluctant to leave her good friend, Captain Genevieve St. Claire, but also ready for something different. When she was offered the chance to serve as Chief Counselor aboard the much larger and much more conventional USS Miranda, she welcomed the chance. She served there for three years under the courageous and intelligent Admiral Victor Murdock, getting an opportunity to not only counsel the crew, but also serve as a diplomat at times, and command advisor. Unfortunately, she also had plenty of opportunities to see the crew through the aftermath of various skirmishes, and after three years of watching the destruction and not feeling as though she was doing enough, she longed for a chance to get back to her humanitarian roots.
When she learned the hospital ship, the USS Caduceus was looking for a Chief Counselor, she decided it was the perfect opportunity to do what she loved. As quite a few of her colleagues warned, however, serving six months on a medical vessel equaled a two year tour anywhere else. Though Laural loved the work and had an opportunity to hone her skills by interacting with a variety of medical and counseling specialists, who were in constant demand, after a year of maintaining a grueling schedule and staying hyper-vigilant, Laural once again decided it was time for a new challenge.
Serving aboard a station associated with the Federation Bureau of Prisons was the last thing she expected to consider, but after conducting her own research, she realized the Bureau was in dire need of mental health professionals. Never one to go for the conventional assignments, Laural realized it was another opportunity to put her skills to good use and to explore a different and exciting venue for her skills.
Working with inmates provided every bit of the challenge and variety Laural most enjoyed, but it was also a position in which she saw a lot of heartache. A good number of inmates were resigned to their lives of crime, and were too acclimated to prison life to find the motivation to change. Others were too damaged and scarred by the past to respond to the help that came too late. After two years, Laural knew she needed to move on, and the chance to get back to exploring again and contributing to science appealed to her greatly. She accepted a posting on the USS Leviathan as Chief Counselor, not knowing fully just how unique that opportunity would be.
Known affectionately as “Wit” by close friends, Laural has never let her disability stop her, and she is just as driven now as she was when she went to school on Betazed. She has a quick wit and frequently uses sarcasm and jokes to break the tension. She is an ambitious young woman who is a loyal friend and is cool under pressure.
Laural will follow orders but she isn’t afraid to open her mouth and fight for the greater good. She takes her duties very seriously and is skilled at seeing the big picture in situations as well as the finer details. She is an experienced and well-trained clinician who is capable of offering expertise in a variety of settings, including forensics and advanced medical facilities.
Laural will talk about her disability openly but prefers to be independent and only asks for help when absolutely necessary. She wears more of her heart on her sleeve than is generally advisable for healers dealing with tragedy on a regular basis.
Laural’s greatest ambition is to be a wife and mother someday, though she realizes her career makes those goals more challenging than they might otherwise be.
Interests: Drama (acting), singing, mystery holo-novels
Laural can be direct and plain spoken at times, particularly when she feels the need to be assertive or is especially passionate about something, but generally speaking, she chooses her words thoughtfully and with the emotional needs of the listener in mind, as one might expect from a healer.
Languages: Federation Standard, some familiarity with early Betazoid language
Medical and Psychological History:
Despite her physical challenges, Laural is considered to be in good physical health, suffering only the usual childhood illnesses and the occasional cold.
Psychologically, Laural is considered to be well-adjusted, experiencing normal grief at the loss of her mother.
Betazed Academy of Medicine (Nursing and Psychology Studies)
Nurse/Counselor, USS Nightingale
Starfleet Academy (Ph.D. Clinical Psychology)
Starfleet Medical Academy (Psychiatry and Family Medicine)
Assistant Chief Counselor/Medical Officer, USS Windsor
Chief Counselor/Medical Officer, USS Windsor
Chief Counselor/Medical Officer, USS Miranda
Chief Counselor/Medical Officer, USS Caduceus
Chief Counselor/Medical Officer, Starbase Redemption (Bureau of Prisons)
Chief Counselor, USS Leviathan
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