What I Now Know
You don’t know this yet, but life is about to throw you a giant curveball, and it’s going to hit you right in the face. The date is August 16, 2014. You are in North Carolina visiting your boyfriend and after enjoying a beautiful summer day together, and you are about to make the most tragic mistake of your life. Tonight, you will haphazardly run around the side of a swimming pool that is unlit and unmarked diving headfirst into the shallow side of the pool breaking your cervical spine in multiple pieces and damaging your spinal cord resulting in paralysis from the shoulders down instantly… and forever. Life as you know it will now be forever known as: before… and after. It’s like a massive line is going to be drawn in the sand and as you step over this line, your legs and arms no longer work; you will be sitting in a wheelchair for the remainder of your life. This new life will be full of giant obstacles as large as Mount Everest, with sadness and depression as deep as the Pacific Ocean. The first few days turn into months, then anniversaries of one year, two years, and before you know it you’ll be approaching your five year anniversary wondering how and why all of this has happened.
You won’t be able to be a physical therapist anymore because you can’t use your hands or stand up. The days of throwing a pair of jeans and a couple T-shirts into your backpack, hitting the road, jumping on a flight and traveling solo will come to an end. Endless hours swimming laps in the pool, hitting the trails running and cycling in preparation for your next triathlon will be a distant memory. The dream of having a family and a large set of kids sneaks away like a mist disappearing over the San Francisco Bay. Yet when the fog clears, there is light, there is life, there is clarity.
You will begin to write, not only to express yourself but to help change the world’s view of how a wheelchair user lives, breathes, travels, struggles, and continues forward from such a difficult place. You will teach, not only to up and coming physical therapy students like you once were, but also younger kids to bring exposure to the disability community. You will become an advocate, never allowing the naysayers to win the battle, for you have a voice and brain to not only help yourself but others that do not have such a strong voice. You will become a mentor, not only for new injuries coming through Craig Hospital in Denver where you will rehabilitate, but you will also be a mentor on a national level helping others in different states that you probably will never even meet, but might exchange text messages and phone calls. You will become a leader, a voice, and a dauntless spirit that now lives by the mantra that anything is possible… And it is.
The struggle will be real and there will be days when “fairness” doesn’t apply to you; there will be physical, mental and emotional difficulties that will push you to the brink. Yet, as you grow and develop into a totally different kind of human being, you will realize this is happening for a reason. You are strong enough to handle this, you will change others lives by your own journey and even though you didn’t ask for this, you will be able to leave this earth knowing that there was a reason why you were here. And that’s all you really wanted in the end anyway, is to make an impact, change the world and leave a legacy for those to follow in your tracks. Good luck, stay strong and I will be there every step of the way.
The New You