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I wrote a book.
Some of you might know my story already, and hopefully more who don’t know. This book takes you from the weekend before I was in a Jet Ski accident in 2005 – leaving me with a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and a wheelchair I can’t get rid of – to nearly present day. I’ve experienced some really cool things since then and I’m excited to share them with everyone.
Also you’re going to learn some things. Writing this book and these stories has given me opportunity to express feelings I hide from people, some I haven't had a chance to give voice to, and others I didn’t know I had. It is absolutely a raw perspective on everything from how people treat me differently; to my learning how to navigate in and through an inaccessible world; to just trying to make the best of a crummy situation.
More importantly, though, I’m working as hard as I can every day to prove to myself that I can overcome this disability, no matter how many times my doctors tell me I can’t. I want to WALK. I want to FEEL my toes. I want to control MOVEMENT of my legs. Greater Things is my story of getting there.
I'm not the first person to write a book like this. Instead of making it all about me, I laid this book out to share some of the cool experiences and perspectives I've had in this time since my injury. These are the stories you'll see in my book:
· Children’s Hospital Inpatient · Reverse Trick or Treating · Project Walk · SCI Step · Woodrow Wilson · Skiing · Wounded Warrior · Dog Sledding · Rowing · Children’s Hospital Outpatient · Lacrosse · Crutch Walking · Awakenings · Surfing · Kennedy Krieger · Dominican · Open Sea · Randolph-Macon College · New York Marathon · Achilles Jones · Marine Corps · The Shamrock
Purchase a copy of Greater Things here and I'll sign it, stamp with an original illustration, and deliver/mail it to you same or next day. Plus, free shipping!
Date Me! Buy it here and I'll deliver/mail the book same-day or next-day. SNAG IT. (Read more about the book below) I'm very excited about this.
The PayPal button does not allow me to give an option to purchase multiple copies in one transaction (annoying).
I do have a Venmo (search "firstname.lastname@example.org"). I also accept checks, credit/debit card transactions over the phone, and cash.
Let me know what works best for you and we'll work it out.
I'm young, single, and in a wheelchair. In most people's minds, my wheelchair seems to define me; people are either scared of it or think it's a bigger deal than it is. But I'm just a normal girl. I'm a young, single woman who happens to be sitting down.
Still, for better or worse, my wheelchair sets me apart. In dating - it's for worse. In meeting new people - it's for worse. In maneuvering around the city I live and grew up in - it's for worse.
But there are benefits.
My wheelchair placard gets me great parking spots, I skip lines at theme parks like I'm royalty, I occupy the biggest bathroom stalls, and my college dorm room was legally and exceptionally larger than my peers. As for dating and finding a man who loves me, that'll happen when I least expect it - at least that's what people say. Good thing I'm not in a hurry.
Date Me tells the stories of my crazy family; the unique and often lousy ways people interact with me because of my disability; and my attempts, often failed, at dating in a wheelchair with a strained, but ongoing determination not to give up.
For my first year in high school and into the summer before my sophomore year, I was on top of the world. My grades were slightly above average, I was active on 3 competitive sports teams, and I got along well with my family. Freshman year had been the best year of my life, and summertime only exaggerated that. I had tan skin, an athletic body, and more friends than I could count on two hands. I was invincible.
The end of August came and Aubrey invited me to her house in Lake Gaston. I was less than one week shy of turning 15 years old and school started on Monday, so it was our last chance at summer. I’ve known Aubrey since we were kids in Sunday School, but we’d only just started hanging out outside of Sunday mornings.
“Mark is coming, too” she said. “I don’t think you know him. And you remember Feild.”
I recognized Mark from school, and I’d just met Feild on a church youth-group trip a couple weeks before. Aubrey introduced us in the church parking lot and I liked him immediately after meeting. Feild is tall with light brown hair and a smile that’s contagious. I remember positioning myself in the line loading onto the church van so that “natural” order would lead me to sit next to him. When my plan didn’t work, I squished directly behind him and to the edge of the seat, balancing uncomfortably for the whole ride. I was trying to stay close as I could without appearing as captivated as I felt.
The day was mix of roller coaster rides, hot dogs, and theme park games and, by the time we loaded on the bus to go home, I was crushing hard. Feild was easy to talk to and made me feel comfortable. He made me laugh and that’s the biggest reason I liked him.
Now, one week later, I was invited to spend an entire weekend with him. I couldn’t wait. A lot was riding on that trip. I bought a new bathing suit, packed my cutest summer clothes, and washed my hair. It was my chance to show off to Feild. He would realize our mutual attraction, ask me to be his girlfriend, happily ever after—or at least until homecoming.
Aubrey’s lake house sat on a hill with a yard that led to a dock covered by a boathouse. I don’t remember many details about the weekend, but I remember climbing onto the roof and jumping into the water below. I remember hearing Feild’s laugh before I hit the water and I remember how excited I felt when he smiled at me. I was on my best behavior, just hoping he would like me. I remember trying so hard.
On our last afternoon of the trip, Aubrey’s Dad gave us permission to take out their two jet skis tied at the end of the dock: Feild driving Aubrey and Mark driving me. We chased each other around the lake and bounced across the waves with my arms tightly wrapped around Mark’s waist. The only thing to slow us down was a No Wake Zone through an area where people were swimming.
As we pushed past the swimming area, Mark slowed our Jet Ski to a crawl before accelerating into the waves. I heard Feild and Aubrey’s ski coming from behind us so I turned to look in what turned out to be my last moments of consciousness. Their ski accelerated and slammed into us from behind, landing on top of us.
One second is all it took.
My consciousness returned to me in flashes – much like flipping through the photo album of a stranger. My short term memory loss started to fade in mid-October of the same year. It was a gradual and extremely tedious process that required a lot of patience from my family and friends that surrounded me. At that point in my life, I had a lot of friends to surround me.
Every day of the week from the time of my accident until discharge from the hospital, I had people wanting to visit me so often that they had to be limited to 2-3 per day to avoid over-stimulation of my brain. When my memory was still fleeting, Mom took a picture of every visitor that came. She posted the pictures on the walls surrounding my hospital bed so I could always be reminded of the people who loved me, whether I remembered their visit or not. In most cases that’s all they were- pictures. My memory was weak and in recovery for years after my accident.
I have few memories of my time in the hospital and even fewer memories of the month before my memory started coming back in October. There are a few, though. I clearly remember a Speech Therapy session with my therapist who I don’t remember the name of. I remember her fingers pressing on the top of my tongue and her telling me to resist movement and push them off. She did the same thing from every angle and for every direction of my tongue. I was told those exercises were meant to strengthen my muscles, but I remember just thinking it was gross.
To this day, more than 10 years later, I’m haunted by memories of my feeding tube and trachea. By the time I returned to consciousness I was already eating and breathing on my own, so I don’t have memory from when I was still dependent on them – my memories begin when I had “place holders.” They were shortened, plastic tubes that stuck into my body to fill openings in my stomach and throat where the feeding and breathing machines used to be. They just looked like large, plastic castles sitting 2-3 inches off the surface of my skin. My doctors were gradually shrinking them in size to help my body heal and close, leaving 2 heavy scars in their wake.
Those plastic castles sticking out of my body were always in the way: when I took a bath, when I lay in bed, pulled a shirt over my head, anything I did. I remember a crust that would form, again and again, between my skin and the plastic. My skin was extra sensitive around it but I remember scraping the crust off with my fingernails anyway. It was a little bit painful but I couldn’t resist. It was like a hangnail that kept snagging, and snagging, and snagging.
Then my memory blacks out.
My journey began in Carlsbad, California two weeks after I was discharged from the hospital in December, and I suspect will continue for the rest of my life – long after I’m able to walk. In one second I went from a confident teenager on top of the world and with no clear direction, to a struggling young adult with an unsolicited purpose to better myself and use my story as testimony to others. I was robbed of the opportunity to mature with my peers, and instead expected to adapt and cope with my situation more smoothly than most adults are able.
Along with flipping my lifestyle on its back, death’s close proximity put my life in a unique perspective that’s hard to grasp by someone who hasn’t experienced tragedy of similar magnitude. Without admitting that I don’t care about a lot of things anymore, I will say I’m more forgiving and patient than I ever was. The tragedy of Mark’s death was a wake-up call for me to never, ever take anything for granted and cherish every second with every person in my life. Like I learned in the worst way possible, life isn’t fair and sometimes people’s lives end sooner than they should. That’s just the way it goes. The best we can do is trust God and use that pain to develop and mature ourselves into better adults.