Blessings in Disguise

For those of you who know my story and have previously followed my blog, welcome back! For those of you who aren’t familiar, thank you for stumbling upon me (in blog form) and I hope you find some inspiration or at least learn a little something from my shared experiences!

PSA: There will be profanity in this blog, so if you’re not a fan of an occasional curse word or threethis might not be for you.

My ultimate goal in recreating my blog is to be a little more candid with my readers. Also, and more importantly, I want to inspire others in similar situations to mine to become more independent and share some tips on how I survive in the big, rough city of Chicago on my own! I will share everything from my morning routine to what the nightlife is like for us gliders, how I get all glammed up, making new friends, traveling with a SCI and so much more! Before I get into all the fun stuff, I must first explain how I got to where I am today. It was a very bumpy road but it led to great things!

While I was writing my old blog, although many would say it was pretty raw, I was going through an extreme amount of personal obstacles that were hindering my mental recovery immensely, and I was hiding it from everyone. These hardships made it impossible for me to be motivated myself, let alone motivate others with my words. I never let my readers recognize there were any truly deep problems going on, besides the fact that I suffered a spinal cord injury. I know there are hundreds of thousands of other people suffering from spinal cord injuries, in fact there are almost 370,000 in the U.S. alone, who would benefit from me sharing my stories and experiences.

When someone goes through a traumatic injury it affects their entire support system. Your parents, siblings and friends are going to be severely distressed and overwhelmed. My situation, like most, was pretty uniquely devastating for everyone involved. But I want people to see the silver lining in all the suffering and extract the blessings in disguise. My last blog was cut short due to the personal difficulties I was facing. Now, over a year later, I’m finally ready to share this with my following.

About a year and a half ago I had gone from being told I would never feed myself again to walking with a walker. I was beating every odd. The doctors and surgeons who had told my parents I would never be an independent young woman were dumbfounded by the progress and strides I was making, and so quickly. Walking again was my main focus and goal in life. It’s practically all I ever thought about. All the anger and frustration I had built up inside of me was taken out in the gym during physical therapy. I was working with some of the best therapists and trainers in Chicago and boy was it paying off! But even though I was making all this progress and supposedly inspiring so many people, I was rapidly falling into a dangerously deep depression.

A month before my life altering accident my mother asked my step-father for a divorce. A security deposit was put down on a lovely 3-flat in the city. My mom, brother and I were all set to separate ourselves from the family that had been built for over 10 years. And then BOOM… I break my neck and become paralyzed. I was under my stepdad’s insurance at the time, so the divorce was temporarily put on hold while I recovered. This created a huge divide in my support system, not to mention a toxic environment for my grieving family. The negative energy in our home made it unbearable at times. It was going on 2 years of being bedridden unless someone helped me into my wheelchair. So, whenever there was an argument or screaming match going on in the house I was forced to lay there and endure it. The only person I blamed for this hell-hole was myself. I’m the reason they had to stay together, I’m the reason they’re struggling so bad with money, I’m the reason my family is dealing with depression. These were the thoughts that haunted my mind for years. I went from blaming it on myself, to taking it out on myself.

During those fights I withstood I would hit myself, scream and cry while telling myself it would have been better if I died. Usually my brother would be there to console me. He would put me in his truck and we would just drive, but he moved to my dad’s house in Michigan. My dad got very ill, so my brother moved there for a while to help out. His absence really affected me, especially during those loathsome times. We’ve always been extraordinarily close and not having him there really added to my depression. Not to mention, my best friends were starting to drift away from me as well. Most of my friends were the same age as me (22), so they were at the height of their party days. Having to help with the wheelchair and the occasional bathroom trip proved to be too much, and this made me feel like I wasn’t even worth being friends with anymore. I could count on one hand the amount of times I was invited out with my friends and their friends. I don’t want to make it sound like there was no effort ever made on their part, but any time we did something I was usually the one initiating it. In the beginning it was new and exciting and we were kind of having fun with it, but after a couple of years, taking me out became more of a chore than anything. And who wants to do chores while they’re out trying to have fun? So, at the time I really didn’t have anyone to talk to and it really started taking a toll on me. Horrible thoughts creeped into my mind constantly… What was thpurpose of me surviving? Why would God do this to me? What did I do so wrong in my past that I deserved this? Am I ever going to feel happiness again? And most importantly… How the fuck am I going to get out of here? 

A long-time friend of mine saw the limitations when it came to my independence. Mainly because getting out of bed was something I still couldn’t do alone. I needed someone to lift me up and sit me down. My friend’s sister is disabled as well and had an electric scooter that she wasn’t using or planning to use in the future. So, they donated it to me, and it changed my life! I could get myself on to it and just go! I would ride down the block and sit by a small pond and just be so thankful to be alone and not be afraid. I could take my dog on walks and not have to worry about him getting loose and running away, because his leash attached to the chair. This totally lifted my spirits and made me much more independent. Most importantly, I taught myself how to transfer on and off the toilet, which eliminated the need for adult diapers. How freeing is that? It doesn’t get much better than trading in Depends for cute Victoria Secret panties! This alone helped immensely with my confidence. Being able to go to the bathroom alone, shower alone and get out of the house on my own were some of the most freeing barriers I’ve broken.

Some say that before things get better, first they get worse. Whoever came up with that saying deserves a big ass fucking award, because my God is it true. One night I was tidying myself up for bed and after I was done brushing my teeth I went to roll through the doorway in my electric scooter. Just as the first set of wheels hit the threshold bump my right foot slipped off the footplate and got stuck between the door frame and the chair. Most people assume that because I’m paralyzed I don’t have any feeling, but I have complete sensation. My tibia (shin) was broken and it hurt like a bitch and a half. Luckily it was only broken ¾ of the way, so no surgery was needed. Are you fucking kidding me? How will I do therapy now? All the sweat, blood and tears that I shed during my recovery were all for nothing. 

The broken leg was followed by a very scary complication with my IVC filter. An IVC filter is a little contraption that looks like a mini head scratcher that keeps any blood clots from traveling to the lungs or heart. Here’s a picture. This filter was put in when I first sustained my injury. The filter broke in several places and two pieces of the metal actually completely detached and migrated so far into my liver that they surgically cannot be removed. The first surgeon I went to told me there were a couple more pieces that could break off and migrate at any time, but she refused to take it out because it was “too risky of a surgery”. This scared the shit out of me because all I could think was what if it punctures a lung or my heart? This thing could kill me at any second! Thankfully I found someone who specializes in taking them out. He’s actually the only surgeon in Illinois who does this type of operation, or at least he was at the time. It was a very complicated and challenging surgery. They predicted it would take about 45 minutes, but it ended up taking over 5 hours. He showed me the filter afterwards and it literally looked like a dog had chewed it up. This shit was inside me in order to PREVENT injuries?! Now I see why that other doctor was like uh-uhhh! But it was out, and this was such a relief!!

Throughout the 2 weeks I spent in the hospital because of the filter I only had a few friends come to see me. Friends that I’d had for several years hadn’t even sent a text asking how I was doing. The ugly truth really showed itself then, and I realized I’m the only one who’s going to get me through this. People who I thought would never leave my side had suddenly vanished. I worked so hard to keep my friendships alive after my accident. I let a lot of things slide that I normally wouldn’t have. I let some of my best friends use me in order to better their own lives. Who was this doormat? The old me would have dropped someone so fast if they pulled this shit. I could understand how me being depressed would affect my friends. But aren’t friends supposed to make those tough times a little less terrible? Stick by your side when shit gets rough, not just leave you. At this point I hadn’t made any new good friends since being chair bound, so I think not being confident in that aspect kept me from cutting people off. For the longest time I thought nobody would want to be friends with me because I was in a wheelchair. You know what? I don’t need this, fuck them! The friends that truly matter are still here, and that’s all I need. If you’re not going to stick by my side during the bad times, then you’re not worth the good times.

Due to my broken leg I was removed from physical therapy and told not to bear any weight (stand) for 3-4 months. Because I did not get consent to return to physical therapy from my doctor, I was put on a year-long waiting list to return. This would diminish all the improvements that I worked so hard for. The last 2 years I completely dedicated my entire life to recovering and within one second all of it was taken away… again. If you’ve ever heard the saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it”, well that applies to this situation perfectly. I had the use of my legs taken away from me twice now, and my optimism for the future was starting to diminish. I thought to myself.. What happens if I overcome this broken leg and dedicate my life to therapy again, and then something else happens? I could be going to school, living life and just moving on in general. It may sound like I gave up, but really I just wanted to get on with my life. Every day for the past two years all I thought about was therapy and upcoming doctor appointments. I wanted to travel, go to school, make new friends, move out on my own. I wanted to be a normal 22-year-old, well as normal as possible. At that point I could really care less if I walked again or not, I just wanted to be happy. Making a new life for myself was my new main goal, so that’s what I did!

Reaching Goals

Over the last three weeks I’ve been training with the parallel bars. My last blog was actually written about starting this new step in my recovery. It was a very different feeling from walking with a trainer, which I was doing prior to the parallel bars. It took more effort in my lower back and trunk to find my center of balance and keep it as I took each step. When I would walk with the trainer they would help out with balance. Needless to say, it was harder work. The one thing that was a big challenge with walking the bars is that the bars themselves are very thick and hard for me to grip. This got me thinking that if I can stand by just holding onto something, I could probably walk with a walker and electrical stimulation on my right leg (that’s my weaker leg that still needs help from an e-stim).

When I went to physical therapy Thursday I bought up my idea to my trainer. He also thought it was a great idea, so we tried it out. Turns out my idea was a pretty good one. It was so much easier to grip the smaller handles of the walker. It also was a lot easier to balance myself with the walker, which I wasn’t expecting, considering there’s wheels on the walker making it less steady.

This was a big lesson for me to start taking more risks with this recovery. I’m always nervous to take the next step, because of the uncertainty of what the outcome will be. If I just do it and don’t worry about failing I will heal faster. Either way this new milestone in my recovery has bought me a great feeling of relief that things will continue to get better, and that this hard work is indeed paying off. At times that can be a huge struggle, the feeling of working and not seeing immediate results. It can really test your belief in yourself and recovery. But by pushing forward and seeing past the doubt, goals can be and will be achieved.

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.


Somedays, like today, I feel like my life is a never ending battle. Once I accomplish one of my goals there are 100 more that need to be faced. It’s as if I take one step forward and 5 steps back every time. The type of injury that I have affects EVERYTHING, and that makes it extremely hard to stay positive everyday. Infact, it makes it damn near impossible. Although I have beat the odds in some people’s eyes, I still feel trapped. I see all of my friends going to college and starting to build their lives, while I have to fight to scramble mine back together again.

As a 21 year old, I should be going out all the time and living life to the fullest. These are supposed to be the best years of my life but so far they’ve been the worst. I’ve lost all my freedom and lately (well actually ever since my one year mark after the accident) I’ve been grieving that a lot. When I’m not at physical therapy or a doctor appointment I’m usually at home, in bed, bored. Granted I do occasionally go out with friends, and when I say occasionally, I really mean it. In order to hangout with someone outside of my house they have to know how to get me in a car, onto a toilet, back into my chair, etc. This not only limits me to who I can hangout with but also makes me feel more like a job than someone’s friend.

People say I should get out more and do more but honestly when I do go out I feel like such an outsider. People are constantly staring (which by the way if you ever see someone in a chair, do not stare, that’s one of the rudest things I’ve ever witnessed). It makes me feel like I’m not part of society anymore. Not to mention I have to constantly look up to see people which eventually brings me more neck pain. Things are not the same anymore, at all, which makes it really hard to enjoy doing them.

Eventually this all has to pass, I know nothing lasts forever. I know I have to learn to accept the way things are now. I just wish I didn’t have to sacrifice every last drop of what made me the person I am just to be alive. I’ve lost a lot more than just my body and its really been getting to me lately.

Sorry if this blog was a Debbie Downer, just thought I should share how I was feeling the last week or so..

Pain Management

Imagine spraining both ankles a day before you had plans to run a marathon. Now, imagine having no choice but to still run that marathon. Even though your doctor told you that all you should be doing is relaxing, you have no choice in the matter.

Now, it’s the day of the race and your ankles are swollen and in excruciating pain just barely baring any weight on them. How do you find the the encouragement to still race? Every step you take feels as if you’re going to collapse on the floor. This type of struggle is where you’ll truly find out how much inner strength you have.

Over the last year my biggest struggle in this recovery has definitely been my neck/back pain. Because I have to compensate for my lower extremities with my upper body so much, the pain in my neck has gotten to an all time high. Any physical activity I participate in causes neck pain. You’re probably thinking.. Well just go take a pain killer. Touché. But when I do take pain killers it numbs my body, leaving me unable to move my legs. So me being the stubborn human being I am, I would rather not take them and endure the chronic pain just to be able to participate in therapy and continue to make noticeable progress.

That didn’t have such a great outcome. My neck pain got so bad that my doctor told me to “take it easy for a week or so”. The first day or so it was nice to just relax in the cool air conditioning but after that any person would go a little stir crazy. Before the accident I was always on the go. Rarely would I spend a whole day laying around doing nothing, it’s just not the type of person I am. During my downtime in the last week I’ve looked into a lot if different pain management options. The best option for my pain is steroid injections into my cervical spine. Let me just say I am not a fan of needles. But if it will help the pain like the doctors are saying it will then it will be worth every tear I cry when the needle (which is the same size as an epidural) pokes into my most tender spot.

If I have learned anything in the past year, it’s that nothing lasts forever. I’ve faced many of my fears throughout my recovery process, and this is just another one of my fears that is meant to be overcome. Once my pain subsides, I personally think that’s when we’re all going to see some incredible progress. Once the pain is gone there literally will be nothing holding me back from reaching my full potential. Although I’m afraid of this whole process I know it will be worth it!



As a child and young adult I’ve always loved the water. I was on a swim team for four years when I was younger. My grandpa practically raised my brother and I on the lake skiing and tubing. On the day of my accident I experienced one of the most horrific things a person could imagine; drowning. It was the scariest moment of my life and will always be. Needless to say water and swimming is a touchy subject to me now. I have gone in water twice since my accident, both times I floated on a raft. As much as I put on a brave face and tell people “I’m fine” every time I see the water I have a playback of that day. I feel my body floating. I feel the waves sucking me in as I have to helplessly endure that terrible moment once again. I’ve been told by quite a few people that I need to get over my fear and move on. The best way in my mind to do that is by reconnecting with the water through therapy. If the water starts to help my recovery then maybe my memories in it will change for the better?

Next Friday I have an appointment at St. Joseph Provena Hospital (where I had my surgery and was hospitalized initially before starting inpatient rehab) to meet with the aquatic therapy director. They will be taking me on a tour and evaluating my therapy needs. Hopefully this will help a lot, I’m nervous but also excited to move onward with this subject and gain more confidence in the water once again.

God sometimes takes us into troubled waters, not to drown us, but to cleanse us.


First Blog

Don’t be fooled by your emptiness, there’s so much more room for happiness

Hello! First blog, a little nervous. I’ve been wanting to share my story and day-to-day life via blogs for a while now, but in all honesty I wasn’t mentally ready to talk about it with the world until pretty recently. But I’m finally ready and excited to start putting it out there, because I don’t think people can fully grasp or even try to understand the gravity of this type of injury without hearing it from someone in that situation in that exact moment. So, hopefully my blogs can not only inspire other SCI patients but give more understanding to others who aren’t very familiar with the injury.

Here is my story in my own words from about 6 months ago :

“On Saturday, June 9, 2012 my life was forever changed. Prior to my accident I worked as a cocktail waitress every Friday and Saturday night until 3 am for 2 years straight, so when I had one of my first Saturday’s off in years I planned to have as much fun as possible. I was going to go spend my beautiful summer day boating with some friends. We arrived at the Kankakee river at 1:00, dropped the anchor, and started enjoying our day. When it came time to leave the owner of the boat realized that somebody had run over our anchor line. So, in the midst of all the chaos to try and find the anchor I got the sudden urge to take one last dip in the river. Throughout the day everyone had been exiting the boat from the back, but I thought it would be a good idea to dive off the front. Not one of my brightest ideas.

My head hit the bottom of the lake with so much force that my body automatically went into shock. I remember floating face down unable to move any part of my body, fighting to move my neck enough to the side to take a gasp of air. I was unsuccessful. As odd as it sounds, I was at peace. Within those couple of minutes of drowning I went from a state of sheer panic to complete acceptance of death. I was going to die. I started thinking of all the people that were going to be devastated when they found out I was gone. I started praying. In that moment I saw a bright light in the distance, and until this day I’m not sure whether it was heaven or just the sun. Suddenly I was out of the water and in the arms of my friend Kevin.

Before I knew it I was in a hospital bed surrounded by friends and family. My surgeon broke the bad news to me. “You broke your neck”, he said, “both your c5 and c6 vertebrae are fractured and you need immediate surgery.” The seriousness of my condition still hadn’t hit me. “Will I ever be able to walk again?”, I asked with desperation. He looked down at his feet, then back at me. He didn’t even need to say anything at that point, I saw the answer in his eyes. “I don’t know”, he replied. That’s when it hit me, I started bawling uncontrollably. My life was over.

The next few days following my surgery were a blur. All I really remember was crying. I cried for days, pleading with God that if He made all of this go away I would do ANYTHING. I also remember meeting a doctor who would turn out to be my mentor and give me more hope than ever imaginable, Dr.Cheema. After two weeks of being in intensive care I was transferred to Illinois Masonic for inpatient rehab, where I would get the basic treatment to relearn how to sit, balance, feed myself, etc. I would soon be introduced to a new found outlet of hope.

It was after a month of being in rehab when I was spending time with my mom and friend, Ewelina. They were giving me a pedicure when all of the sudden my little toe wiggled. This would bring me the one gift that would keep me fighting with all my might, hope. Once a person gets a little glimpse of hope it gives that person that much more reason to fight as hard as they can, and so I did. Before I knew it I was moving both legs. I loved showing off my new movement to my therapists, nurses, and most of all my doctor. They couldn’t believe it, this in their eyes was not supposed to happen and especially in that short of time. A month later I was discharged from the hospital.

After returning home I began outpatient rehab at RIC, where I would participate in a more intense level of therapy. It has been a month since I started at RIC and I can proudly say that I have given it my all, and then some. It has definitely paid off, because on September 14, 2012 I took my first step. Something that seemed nearly impossible three months ago is now my biggest achievement in life.

If I can pass any sort of message on to others, it would be to never lose hope. No matter what obstacles stand in your way, hope is the one thing that will always guide you through that obstacle. I’ve been to the depths of hell and had to climb myself out. I’ve had numerous doctors tell me that I will never walk again, and I can proudly say that I proved them all wrong. Although I have had my bad days, and may I say there were A LOT of bad days, I kept fighting, and I will continue to fight every second of every day for the rest of my life.”

Since then, I have continued my physical therapy at Next Steps Chicago, which has been one of the best experiences of my life. They are truly amazing there and I would recommend them to anyone looking for a very intense level physical therapy rehabilitation center in Chicago! Anyway, since starting at Next Steps I have seen major improvement. Which for me to say that is pretty big, because its harder for me to see my progress than others, since I live it every day. For example, I have much more upper body strength. (I could barely even push my own chair when I first began therapy there). I’ve gotten a lot more function in my legs from weight barring and am now, 6 months later, walking with just one person guiding my hips and right leg! Doctors and therapists say that my progress is incredible and that I should be so happy for all the return I’ve gotten thus far, and don’t get me wrong I’m beyond grateful for how far I’ve come, but in my mind I’m not nearly as close to where I want to eventually be. I have always had very high expectations for myself, and that clearly hasn’t changed!