Friday, January 20, 2012
When we were first introduced, I couldn’t understand a word a said and relied upon his attendant JoAnne to interpret everything for me. As it turned out, Don wanted me to speak at the ADA Anniversary rally being held in front of the court house in town square Greensburg, PA. I had never given a public speech and was thrilled at the idea.
So in July of 2009, on a rainy afternoon my speech notes on my lap under a rain soaked plastic tarp I was given in haste to try and keep me dry, I gave a speech. One that was from the heart not from my unreadable notes. I talked about what the ADA was, why it was enacted and how it was still more relevant today… how it kept a whole population of us disabled people in the work force and went on to add a personal story:
While I laid in the hospital bed, with a ventilator deep in my windpipe, half a dozen bags of medicine going into an IV AND an ng tube in my nose feeding me, I awoke to fuzzy, hazy kind of consciousness. I could hear my fiancée, Eric talking with the surgeons that had just fused my neck. They explained to him why they had to do the surgery and how they tried rather unsuccessfully to put my neck in traction. My vertebrae was too badly damaged and diseased with arthritis to hold together during traction, it just simply crumbled every time they attempted it. So they borrowed a piece of bone from my hip and fused my neck. They told him the injury to my spinal cord was very severe and that I would never walk again, use my own hands or go to bathroom by myself. Since my own family was unable or unwilling to help, the burden would fall squarely on his shoulders. The doctors told Eric there would be no shame on him if he put me in a nursing home. Eric was livid at te idea and told them both he’d rather die than see me in a home. He also told my family what he thought of them. Then he reached in a white bag he had been concealing and pulled out a large red teddy bear. He then placed it gently under my arm and bent down to talk to me. I had only seen Eric cry one time in 11 years, that was when his Gram died, but he was crying now. He told me not worry about a thing, we would start a new life and it would be fine. I was overwhelmed with love, regret, guilt, hope, depression, shock, happiness, sadness and confusion. I knew Eric was giving his life up for me.
I got a standing ovation for the speech. I suppose I pulled a few heart strings but the adoration was what just self esteem needed. And only two months later Don asked if I wanted to model adaptive clothing for disabled women in a fashion show being put on by the Three Rivers Centers for Independent Living in Pittsburgh, PA. I couldn’t have been more excited! When I came down that catwalk, every eye on me, smiles everywhere and camera flashes going off like Christmas lights I didn’t feel as if I was in a wheelchair. I felt like I was floating down atop a winged creature!
After that night I knew I had to share my story and metamorphosis. So now I write a blog dedicated solely to helping the newly injured regain their sense of self esteem, worth, image and confidence. To let them know that are still beautiful, sexy, athletic, artistic, intelligent, WHOLE individuals the same things they were and more before their injury or illness. That they can achieve ANY dream even if they have to do things a little differently. That they are not just handicapped, they are SUPERSTARS! And they don’t just sit in wheelchair, they ride in a CHARIOT!