“I am a wild, unbelievably happily married, 29-year-old dog mom who will forever be a kid. My life story had a huge twist on November 28, 2016 at 11:55, 5 minutes before my husband, Jacob’s, birthday. We were driving home to Chattanooga from Baton Rouge after just celebrating Jacob at a dinner with our family. Little did I know I gave my last standing hug at that restaurant to my mom and now sister-in-law, Taylor.
30 miles South of Meridian, MS, Our car hit a puddle, hydroplaned, flipped three times and hit a tree. The tree crushed the roof of the car into my head and compressed my spine burst, fracturing my C6 vertebrae which punctured my spinal cord— leaving me paralyzed chest down.
Jacob talks of that night and the reality of how nightmarish it was. When he came to, my head was dripping blood and he thought there was no way I could still be alive. I do not remember that night, but it was not just a nightmare as we still have not woken up. Thankfully neither Jacob or our dogs had a single scratch.
Unbeknownst to me, a spinal cord injury at that high of a level does not mean I just can’t walk. Some of the challenges I face are bladder and bowel incontinence, loss of sensation below injury level, inability to regulate body temp, crazy muscle spasms, 24/7 constant pain of a level 6+ over my whole body, no finger dexterity or movement, no triceps on my right side, loss of all core/lower extremity function, blood pressure issues, dysfunctional diaphragm, inability to cough, loss of sexual function, lack of circulation to heal wounds well below injury level, etc.
This huge list of lost functions is only a glimpse into how much life has changed, and the depth of loss I face daily. I have struggled with depression, inability to see purpose to life, felt burdensome to myself and others, and was frustrated at the simple tasks I can no longer do alone. I also am very conscious of the beauty I face—I am still here living, I am still deeply in love with my hubs, I have the best friends and pups ever, and my life is still an adventure— I want to make sure I am not ignorant. The things I have been able to do would not be so without the amount of privilege and opportunity we’ve been offered. Many in my situation are stuck, not sure if they have a way to get out of their house today or tomorrow, or do they have the care we need. I believe as someone who has had a spinal cord injury, it is most important to use my voice for those who are unable to have their voices heard. The more awareness those of us with class, race, and location privileges spread, the more the minority community can rise to be heard together.
I was an avid camper, hiker, trail runner, road runner, dog trainer, painter, piano player, gardener, fitness lover, adventurer. Grieving these losses is extremely complex. I have found adapted ways to do several of these things. Since my injury I have been camping, hiking with my husband, skydiving, tubing, water skiing, jet skiing, scuba diving, kayaking, played on a wheelchair rugby team, was the first wheelchair user to title my dog in a protection trial, went white water rafting, and have been to over 20 new-to-us states. We take our dogs on 2-4-mile walks daily and we’re planning on getting an adventure van to travel the US with. I do love adaption and bringing awareness to accessibility needs. I love finding new ways to still experience life. While I have found new loves, I know these things will not make the grief that comes with the loss disappear. But I am thankful for the outlet of opportunities, and the fact that there are opportunities for others in my situation to still thrive and live life adventurously. I hope that accessibility awareness continues to grow world-wide.
I am so fortunate to have a HUGE support system in my husband, my family, my friends, and fellow quadriplegics. We make sure to laugh at least once a day, and I have SO much to be thankful for. Many look at my life and have said to me ‘I don’t think I could live the life you live.’ The only thing I say is that, I used to say the same thing before I was injured, and I really believe most people would surprise themselves. We are resilient creatures and every day we are faced with a choice. Will you choose to just survive today, or will you choose to thrive, no matter the lemons or curve balls that are thrown at you? The choice is yours.”
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