20 Years Paralyzed: What I’m Most Thankful For

Every year we in the United States had a little holiday called Thanksgiving. Some other countries like to make fun of us for it, thinking it’s all about gluttony, but really it’s all about thanks; giving thanks for everything we have and we celebrate by eating thousands of calories with family and friends. What’s wrong with that? 🙂

And when you have a disability, giving thanks for everything we have is a big deal as a citizen of the United States. First and foremost, we have a little thing called the ADA. I am hugely grateful for this, as we all are. I can’t imagine what it was like before it was enacted. The feeling of helplessness a person with a disability felt must have been so strong. Luckily, I was injured two years after the ADA was signed into law.

Another thing I’m grateful for may seem a bit obvious, but it’s a necessity all wheelchair-users must rely on – my wheelchair. When I was stuck in bed for a month after first breaking my neck, I got a good taste of what life is like without a wheelchair, and it wasn’t pretty.  My power chair is my freedom in more ways than one.

I’ve had a lot of power wheelchairs over the past 20 years too, and my current one is my favorite yet – an Action MK3i SPJ powerchair with an elevator seat. It zips really fast, gets me where I need to go easily and the elevator seat is a godsend – helping me see around people at concerts and sit at bars with my friends.

If you’re not grateful for your wheelchair yet, try donating to Wheelchairs for the World, a non-profit that delivers thousands of wheelchairs to people worldwide.  Many people in other countries would give anything to have a wheelchair, let alone one that is powered, and they spend most of their days in bed, not truly participating in life. My wheelchair to me used to represent a symbol of weakness, but I now see it as a symbol for my legs and for getting around independently. Never forget how lucky you are.

Good friends and family are another important thing in my life. I’ve had so many friends and boyfriends come and go over the past 20 years that it can make you feel a bit dizzy; hardened too. So many able-bodied people have a hard time getting used to our disability; that’s the truth of the matter. So if you have even one friend that loves and supports you 100%, don’t forget how lucky you are either.

The same goes with family. Not all of us hit the family jackpot when we’re born, but if you did like me, don’t ever forget to count your blessings.  A family that is there for you when you need them as a person with a disability can make such a difference in one’s overall happiness. My mom, dad, sister, brother; I can call any of them if I need help, and I love them for it.

I’m also thankful for my van. After years of riding Metro Mobility, a local disability transportation service, as well as riding the city bus, I finally got my own van and learned how to drive in 2005.  Hands down, getting my ramp van and driver’s license has been one of the greatest things to happen to me as a quadriplegic.  Being able to go where you want, when you want is HUGE if you’re paralyzed.

I also can’t forgot one more thing – good health.  If you’re not battling any skin issues, UTI’s, weird rashes or whatever else a person with a spinal cord injury might encounter, don’t forget to count your blessings in this department too.

Good health is the most important thing at the end of the day.  Always has, always will be. Be thankful for that first and foremost, and you’ve got your thankful ducks in order.

What are you the most thankful for this year?

Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

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