A couple weeks ago I needed to pick up a prescription refill, so I drove myself to the drug store. This was the single most freeing event I’ve had since becoming paralyzed. For the first time in nearly two years, I didn’t have to ask someone to do my boring chores. For the first time in nearly two years, I didn’t have to wait until someone wasn’t busy. For the first time in nearly two years, I went somewhere BY MYSELF.
I don’t think I realized quite how much I missed my old self until I could drive again. I used to love driving! I loved making last minute plans or meeting up with friends for lunch. If I needed to go shopping or pick something up, I could just drive myself to get it. I’ve missed that freedom.
Getting hand controls installed in my car was the final piece of the puzzle. I’m still working on getting my chair in and out of my car and some other logistics, but that will come with time. It’s taken longer than I’d hoped, but I’m finally feeling like myself again.
Hey there! Since the GoFundMe that was graciously created for me has been up and running for exactly one year now, I think it is time to find a new medium to keep you all updated on what I’m up to. I invite you to follow me here on my new blog. I’ve had such a great support system and truly appreciate all the love I’ve been shown, so come along for the ride if you’d like!
As today is the 1 year anniversary of the collision in Idaho Falls, I’d like to reflect upon where I’ve been and how far I’ve come since July 13th, 2016. This past year has been interesting- nothing I could’ve ever prepared for.
In my last GoFundMe update, I had just moved back to Michigan and everything was still so new. I was getting the hang of things, for sure, but it’s SO much better now. Therapy was kicking my butt and I slept 10-12 hrs a night- often with a nap in between. I was still trying to figure out the easy way to do things like rolling over in bed or getting up the ramp into my house. (Side note- ‘ADA compliant’ continues to be a phrase that gets me started. In my opinion, the requirement rarely means wheelchair friendly, and often still requires me to ask for assistance. I don’t want to have to wait for someone to walk by to open a heavy door for me. But I digress…)
The holidays were fun! I was able to pass out candy on Halloween and host Thanksgiving dinner (I let Dad take care of the 14 lb turkey). It was nice to do the ‘normal’ things I loved doing before, and with very little modifications.
December was rough. I was in and out of the hospital a lot and met the floor a couple of times. All of my siblings were in town for Christmas this year and I was supposed to make Christmas Eve dinner. Unfortunately I came home from the hospital 3 pm that day, but everyone did their best to make everything as normal for me as possible. It was a good day, albeit exhausting!
In January, a few of my teammates visited and learned just how terrible having a metal chair in the cold Michigan tundra is! I’m so grateful they’re always up for a challenge and go the extra mile to make me comfortable. I introduced some of them (from Kentucky) to coney islands and Tim Horton’s. I saw The Lumineers again in concert, which was a definite highlight! The venue was indoors and super accessible. I was also able to try out Rewalk- a robotic exoskeleton that allows me to ‘walk’. The machine stands me up and takes the steps for me. I would control it using a watch- deciding when to stand up, walk, and sit down. It was fun, but really hard for me. I was still working on my body tolerating standing at the time, so I was worried about my blood pressure dropping. I had a hard time finding my balance and had to put in a lot of effort to stand up in the machine. I love trying new things in therapy and this made for some great sessions.
In February, I gave adaptive skiing a try. I wasn’t ready to sign up for the lesson, but Michigan Adaptive Sports let me jump on one of their biskis before the session began, and someone skied me down the bunny slope a few times. It gave me a feel for the sport, and I’m so anxious to actually do the lesson this winter! Skiing is something I’ve always wanted to do, but never found the opportunity. I had never realized that paras could still go downhill solo! It looks super difficult, so it’s a good thing I’ve always loved a challenge. February 11th would have been Anne’s 23rd birthday, so my teammates and I decided to do 23 miles in her honor wherever we were at the time. We invited the rest of the Bike & Build community along, and it was awesome to see all the love for Anne and her family. I don’t have a handcycle yet, but I was able to roll 2.3 miles in my chair down the city’s great path system. It was unseasonably warm for February in Michigan, so it was a great day for celebrating Anne! Dad and my dog enjoyed the walk with me!
A 2.3 ride for Anne!
March and April were slow months for me- just lots of PT and OT to work on getting stronger. At the end of March, all my siblings came up to see my dad get married! It was a fun weekend of expanding the family and seeing my siblings!
May was fun, busy, and overwhelming! I was approved to move into my own apartment as part of a rehab program! I was so excited, but going through all of my stuff was a process. I’ve moved so many times since starting college, but these past couple moves have been hard for me. It’s really difficult relying on everyone else to do all the lifting and moving for me. One of the hardest parts of the first year of being paralyzed is having to constantly need help. I’m doing much better at both not needing lots of extra help, and also not getting myself into situations where I would need extra help. I’m much more aware of what I am able to do, and I’m learning that the list is infinite. I really can do everything I could do when I walked; I just have to do more problem solving than I used to. Living in a place designed for wheelchairs is great! I can cook and bake all I want again, as the kitchen is fully accessible. The difficult parts about being on my own are the same as they were when I left for college years ago. As part of the rehab program I’m in, I’m working with OT to get more independent in my own home. I’m also doing fitness and vocational therapy. I like to keep busy!
June was fun! I started using KAFOs in PT. They’re basically braces that keep all my leg joints locked. I’m learning how to put weight through my legs to hold me upright and balanced. It’s a lot of fun to be at everyone’s height. My body is much more used to standing now than when I tried Rewalk, so it’s great to not have to worry about passing out and such! I’ve started trying to ‘walk’ in the KAFOs by shifting my weight, but I don’t have the logistics completely figured out yet. Baby steps.
I also took my shot at handcycling in June! I didn’t get to do a full ride, but took the bike around the block and was sized for the one I’ll want (I picked a pink one, obviously). I’m super excited to dive into handcycling and am anxiously awaiting it’s arrival! It’s no secret anymore that I want to finish out my route from last summer, and this bike is the first step to doing so! I’d like to head out to Idaho now to get started; patience has never been a strongsuit. I did finish out June by heading back to Idaho Falls to support Mr. & Mrs. Davis. It was so good to finally meet them, even though I already felt so connected. We mourned Anne’s death; we celebrated her life. It was a very emotional few days. I was able to reconnect with some of my nurses, therapists,
So, I guess you could say that I’ve been keeping busy! What’s next? Well, my new bike should be coming in soon, so that’ll be exciting. I would also like to get back to driving here. That will be a whole process, and I would like to get started on that as soon as I can. Moving out on my own is also on the horizon. Plenty of things to be excited about!
Thank you so much for all the love and support you’ve shown my family and I over the past year. I cannot begin to express enough gratitude to everyone who’s been in my corner praying, encouraging, listening. I thank God for bringing all of you in my life, and I know He has a lot in store for me. Bring on year 2!