Champion Olympic skater and certified surgeon, Debi Thomas, reveals she is now broke, living in a bed bug-infested trailer and has lost custody of her son
Olympic bronze medalist and orthopedic surgeon Debi Thomas has given a new interview revealing she has hit rock bottom, now broke, unemployed and living in a bed bug-infested trailer in the Appalachian mountains after losing custody of her teenage son.
The history-making figure skater, who became the first African-American athlete to win a medal at any Winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988, retired from the sport and went on to get an engineering degree at Stanford and become a doctor.
She then opened her own private surgery in Richlands, Virginia. However the 48-year-old says she has now lost everything, and has turned to Iyanla Vanzant – a life coach with a show called Iyanla: Fix My LIfe that appears on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) – for help. Thomas explains that her “serious financial dire straits” came after two divorces, The Huffington Post reported.
She was subsequently forced to close her practice and live in a trailer park with her fiance, Jamie Looney – who is battling an alcohol problem and anger issues – and his two sons.
She also lost custody of her own 13-year-old son, Christopher Jules ‘Luc’ Bequette.
Thomas now lives with Looney and his sons in a trailer that she says infested with bed bugs.
In a promotional video for the interview, Vanzant asks Thomas about her circumstances, and she responds that she’s “frustrated”. “Frustrated?” Iyanla repeats.
“Not sad, not angry, not ashamed?”
“No,” Thomas responds.
“Not guilty that you’ve got a man, two kids and a bedbug infestation in a trailer?” Iyanla continues. “Frustration is what you feel? Nothing else?”
Thomas then breaks down in tears.
Thomas says her money problems are rooted in her two divorces, and that her second resulted in the loss of her entire “nest egg”.
Before opening her practice, Thomas lost two jobs over what she says were disagreements with colleagues. She said this was due to her own high expectations as a surgeon. Before turning to Vanzant and the OWN network, she started a Go- FundMe account, pitching a variety of start-up businesses she hoped to receive donations for.
In a video embedded on the account, Thomas says she developed it as an “emergency fund” for her family with the aim of restoring “financial stability after severe sudden financial losses over the past couple of years associated with a combination of financially crippling life challenges”.
However, after 10 months, she has raised only $2,000
Thomas, who grew up in San Jose, California, was five when she started ice skating. At nine she won her first competition and her career was born.
She attributes most of her success to her mother who sacrificed to drive her over 100 miles a day between home, school, and the ice rink.
She was studying for her engineering degree at Stanford when she won both the U.S. and World Championships.
Though she stumbled during her routine at the 1988 Olympics in Calgary – where she was pegged to take the Gold medal – she took the Bronze instead, before graduating, going to medical school and focusing on her career as a surgeon.