Feb. 14, 1995
I was born Alexandria, Louisiana to Jacqueline Otwell and Wesley Otwell. I was five pounds and six ounces, dark complected, pitch black hair, and beautiful blue eyes. Momma, Jacqueline, said I was the best Valentine's Day present she ever got! I grew up in the boondocks close to Jonesville, Louisiana. We were about 15 miles away from the nearest town either way so I grew up in the country. Most of my childhood was pretty normal despite my dad being away for almost eleven months out of the year.
I broke my left arm at seven years old on the day that I got my little 80 four wheeler. I was driving it around while my dad was putting together my trampoline. Within two hours of getting it home, I hit a hole and bounced off of the ATV. I had a cast all the way up to my shoulder. The following year I broke my right arm on a go cart when I was trying to see if my best friend and I would hit the tree. She realized before I did that we would clear the back tire, and took off. My arm got pinned between the bar and the tree, unfortunately my arm was the weak link and it snapped under the pressure.
Feb. 28, 2009
That cold February morning was just like any other, I was so tired from staying up almost all night talking to a friend on the phone. I had to get up, take a shower and get ready to go shopping so I plugged my phone up and set it on my bed. I went to the small bathroom between the bed room and living room of our one room cabin. There was a chill in the air but I was used to it already because of the cool air all year round. The water was warm and so inviting, I just wanted to stay there all day. Finally I was dressed, mom said Renita could go with us so I called her and she said she would get her dad to drop her off. So I put on my makeup while I was waiting for her to get there.
Once she got there I told my mom that while she got ready we were gonna go ride the four wheeler to dry my hair. She said okay just be careful. So we climbed on like so many times before, who knew it would be my last few steps I'd ever take. We headed down the small hill going really fast. That's the last I remember completely. I can remember the guy who found the accident lay me down in the shoulder of the road and I could hear Renita screaming wanting to know if I was okay. When I saw the picture of how the four wheeler landed I instantly knew what happened. We were going way to fast when we came around the curve and I went to put on the back brake but it didn't work really good and I panicked. I grabbed the front brake that threw me over the handle bars. I landed on my head in the middle of the road where I was found unconscious. The paramedics thought my friend was hurt worse so they airlifted her to the hospital first. I had no outward injuries besides a scratch on my left shoulder and some blood in my head from landing on it.
I broke my neck at the C3, C4, and C5 level that severely pinched my spinal cord. At first they told my mom that my spinal cord was completely severed but that was before they took me into surgery. Once in surgery to do a spinal fusion, the the doctors had to put in a donor disk, one plate, two bars and eight screws where the damage had been. They would not know how damaged the cord was until the swelling had gone down and I was out of spinal shock so they classified me as a incomplete injury. I woke up sometime after my surgery to find I couldn't move, I was a prisoner of my own body. A week and a half after waking up on March 11, 2009, my right lung collapsed and the right side of my diaphragm stopped working. The doctors put me on a bypass machine hoping it would inflate my lung again but when it didn't work they had to put a tracheostomy in instead on March 16, 2009. At night I had to be put on a ventilator but was able to come off during the day.
I spend one month in ICU at University Hospital in San Antonio. In that month I was able to start moving my left arm then my right arm. I was transferred to Christa Stanta Rosa rehabilitation hospital on March 30, 2009 to go start my physical therapy. While I was there I was able to regain better use of both arms, slight movement in my right thumb, and some abdominal muscles. The night before I left the hospital I was able to come off the ventilator for good, but I had to keep the tracheostomy in case I got sick or something happened. I spent two months in the rehab hospital then I was able to go home on May 5, 2009. Once I was home I attended physical therapy three times a week and I had a nurse come to my house to take care of me. It was close enough to the end of the school year that I did not have to return to school and the teachers decided to pass me based on the grades prior to the accident. Sometime that summer, I asked my physical therapist if she would check my legs for any movements as I've said that I could move my legs they were just too heavy from the moment I woke up. She said that if my legs did not move that they would not check again. Thank god that they did move slightly. After that therapy opened more and more doors. We got to the point where they had me in a lift and I was weight shifting to make my legs move like I was walking. It was amazing.
It all came crashing down when I moved therapy to a place that offered water therapy. Our thoughts were that if I could move my legs in a weightless environment it would strengthen the muscles. Things didn’t turn out as planned... I would beg them to work with my legs but no one would work them, even when I was in the water. I even went to Project Walk in Austin Texas at first they worked with my legs a lot but after one visit they would no longer work with them no matter how much I asked them too. They worked with my legs the first day but after all they wanted to work on was my curviture from my spasticity. By the end of my time in Project Walk, my spasticity was a lot better but that’s not what I went to them for anyway. It was a disappointment. I don’t down the Project Walk because it’s not their fault.
I stopped doing therapy after three years when we moved. I started feeding myself, brushing my hair, my teeth, and typing on my keyboard instead of using my laser dot. Once settled back in I started therapy for a while again. Now I'm no longer going to therapy because I cannot afford it. My insurance ends on the last day of June and I don't qualify for Medicaid. I got sugar gliders in 2013 and that changed my life! I was already able to use both arms, my right hand and wrist, wiggle my toes on the right foot, use some trunk control, abdominal muscles, and some leg movements. I was able to fine tune my fine motor skills from learning to play with my sugar gliders. I'm able to control my grip better so I don't hurt them, feed them by myself, water them, and they give me a sense of independence because they rely on me to take care of them. I've learned to cook scrambled eggs since getting them plus so so much more!
Jan 16, 2016
On January 16, 2016 my mom had had enough of the illness that was causing her extreme paranoia. While we were in Trout, LA visiting family when she committed suicide by a self inflicted gun shot to her head. It was very sudden and put our entire family in shock. Things seemed to have become a nightmare. She had been my entire life even before this accident so how was I supposed to learn to live without her? I guess this was the time to figure that out.
The coroner said she used her left hand which was odd because she was right handed. That was a way to say that she was not in her right mind when she made the decision to take her own life. The mental state had clouded the true personality so bad she could no longer see the reality versus the illness. She believed that she had no other choice and that was what was best for me.
We held the funeral on January 22, 2016. I had a meltdown when I was taken to see her because of course I knew what to look for and could see past the work and makeup done to make sure it was an open casket. In my opinion looking back on it I wish it could have been a closed casket.
On January 5, 2017 I went to Baton Rouge for two weeks to have it baclofen pump surgery which implants a baclofen pump into my abdomen to administer liquid baclofen straight into my spinal cord. It helps with spasticity which in the past year since my mom has passed away I've been experiencing quite a lot of it had to do something about it. The surgery went very well and I recovered within a few days. I had to stay two weeks to go to inpatient rehab provided by the hospital. I've done four hours of therapy a day! I've never felt better in my entire life.