- I am a incomplete quadriplegic.
- I have no control of my bodily functions.
- I have sketchy sensation all over my body.
- I am like a cold blooded animal, unable to control my body temperature.
- I am capable of having sex and being intimate.
- I am wheelchair bound.
- I am unable to dress myself.
- I am able to feed myself.
- I have spasticity.
- I have a weakened immune system.
- I have to use bed chucks in my pants in case of accidents.
- I suffer with chronic UTIs.
- I have one metal bar, one plate, and six screws holding my neck together.
- I can wiggle my big toe on my right foot.
- I can brush my hair.
- I have breathing trouble due to how high my injury is.
- I have skin issues.
- I am stronger than this injury and this injury doesn’t define me.
- I cannot put my contacts in myself.
- I have severe nerve pain.
- I have a donor disk as my C4 vertebrae.
- I fatigue easier than an able bodied.
- I do my own makeup.
- I take prescription medication.
- I have to rely on others for basic tasks.
- I cannot use my triceps.
- I have to do a bowel routine.
- I have to stretch daily to maintain range of motion.
- I have to watch my weight.
- I have to be turned every two hours.
September is spinal cord injury awareness month and I really haven’t said much about it. I wanted to list 30 things about my spinal cord injury.
When I got home from Houston I had a big box waiting for me. I couldn’t imagine what could be inside of the box because I had not ordered anything online that could have been shipped while I was away. When I opened it I found a backpack to you and adaptive equipment specialized to my injury level. It was all provided to me free of charge from the Woody Foundation, it’s called the Woody Pack. It’s for people with limited hand function.
The Woody Pack was created after James “Woody” Beckham suffered a spinal cord injury in 2011 playing rugby. Inside my,, Woody Pack was all kinds of assistive devices that could potentially be the difference between being independent or dependent. I was so surprised at everything that came in it! There’s so much I could use. My favorite things are the Velcro cup holder and the sixth digit. If you suffered a spinal cord injury or know someone who has had a spinal cord injury I would highly suggest you requesting the Woody Pack for them. It could help them regain some independence.
Independence is something so many of us with a spinal cord injury strive for because we had it ripped away from us. When my accident happened I was only fourteen and had not yet started to gain much of my independence but that independence I did lose was horrible. There are so many adults that completely lose the independence when they suffer a spinal cord injury and something like The Woody Pack could help gain a sense of independence.
Wednesday August 29, 2018
I travelled to Houston Texas to start my second driving evaluation at Strowmatt Rehabilitation. The first time I went I was unable to get my certification to safely be able to drive. This time I was determined to get it. Jessica, Kelly, Addison and myself hit the road about eleven o’clock but we didn’t get out of Alexandria until after one o’clock. We ended up getting to our hotel at about seven o’clock that night. We checked in, got freshened up and went back out to grab something to eat. Kelly, who is Jessica’s sister in law, has a gluten intolerance so we have to make sure that anywhere we go they have a gluten-free menu. We decided to have Chinese food, she had found a PF Chang’s restaurant with a gluten-free menu. Normally it’s hard to find a Chinese restaurant that has anything gluten-free. We ate dinner and then went back to our hotel.
As a quadriplegic, I cannot control my body temperature, which basically means I will take on the temperature around me. Think of it as being cold blooded. I always refer to it as being like a reptile. Typically I freeze my butt off even in the hottest environment. Today was no different. I froze my butt off the entire time. I didn’t get much sleep because I was freezing and I was anxious about driving the next day. This is something that I have wanted for so long and it would crush me if I was told there was no way I could drive.
Thursday August 30, 2018
We all got up and moving at about seven thirty, though I had been up for several hours. We got dressed and headed out of the hotel room. We left just in time to get there by nine thirty. Chad is such a nice guy. He told us to follow him to the park, Bear Creek Pioneer's Park, where I’d be driving. So we followed him and got me into the white van. He has to set everything up so I can drive and that took him about an hour and a half. You can imagine how boring it is just sitting there. I was trying to stay awake mostly. Once we had everything set up we got to move out of the parking lot.
I had to drive around in a big parking lot to make sure that all of my setting and the equipment was correct. It took quite a while because we would have to stop and adjust everything to make sure it was correct. Kelly, Jessica, and Addison went to do some stuff while I drove so they didn’t get bored. Normally I would have preferred them to stay with me but I know with a two-year-old staying in a parking lot the entire time with nothing to do would have been hard. After about two hours in the parking lot, I got to drive around the huge park. Chad was telling me that the water was ten feet deep for six weeks after hurricane Harvey hit last year. It was beautiful because everything was green, it was kinda hard to believe it was once covered with water. We stopped for lunch at twelve thirty and I had a salad.
While we were eating lunch Jessica and the two girls played in a playground that was on the other end of the park. Addison had so much fun! It was nice to see her with such a big smile on her face. She’s been going through such a difficult time since she lost her father July 12th. I can’t imagine being in her shoes or Kelly’s shoes.
At about one o’clock we went back to driving and drove until about three o’clock. I got a tattoo in 2016 that had faded over the course of two years so while I was in Houston I wanted to touch it up. It needed to have some life breathed into it. So once we were finished with my first day of driving we went to the Electric Chair Tattoos and I got my tattoo touched up. As I watched the tattoo come back to life I couldn’t help but smile. I got my two hearts filled in. One heart is colored in with red, for my mom. Red was her favorite color. The other heart was filled in with lime green. It’s the color of the spinal cord injury awareness ribbon. Now that I look at it it’s the Christmas colors but I know what the colors mean and that’s all that matters.
After I got my tattoo touched up, which didn’t take a whole fifteen minutes we decided to go to Outback Steakhouse. It has a gluten-free menu. I didn’t like the restaurant before that night but it was actually really good. I changed my opinion. I got a chicken fried steak and it was huge! There were two steaks on the plate. Jessica was not very hungry so she didn’t order anything and let me tell you; it’s a good thing because there was sooo much food. By the time dinner was over, Addison completely exhausted and fell asleep on the ride back to the hotel. We all got in bed fairly early that night but unfortunately, I woke up at 2 AM again and could not go back to sleep. I was having really bad pain for an unknown reason.
Friday August 31, 2018
The next morning I felt like shit. Whenever I got into the van to drive I was fine but as time went on I was unable to drive very far. For some reason, I could not reach the break and gas. It was obvious to both Chad and I that it was clearly the way I was sitting. Later I found out that my chair cushion was completely flat on one side which made me lean to the right. That was why I could not reach the gas with my left hand. After a while, I started getting tired because I was fighting against the curvature so we stopped. We went back to his office and I paid him for my visit and got my certificate of completion! I was so excited that I completed this part of my journey for independence by driving. The next step is he will have to come to Louisiana in order to train me in the vehicle but first I have to be able to get some modifications done to my wheelchair. He will have to train me for about 40 hours which is going to be about $7000 and that doesn’t include the travel expenses for him. I am thinking about doing a fundraiser in order to try to raise some of the money for this next stage in my independence.
We left Houston around 1 o’clock that afternoon but did not get out of Houston until about four. I kept having technical difficulties with finding food that was gluten-free for Kelly. We made it home about 10 o’clock that night. I ended up getting food poisoning so we had to stop a little more than we would have liked too.
Here is the steps that I have to take in order to get my independence with transportation:
-Training (40 hours)
-Do drivers modifications
We are having to get a hold of the DMV in order to find out exactly what we need to do in order for me to be able to take the drivers test so it’s going to take a little time to figure out exactly what needs to be done but we are working on it diligently.
Paralyzed from the neck down after an ATV rollover at 14, April Otwell is beating the odds the doctors gave her. She's a blogger, fantasy writer, college student, sugar glider guardian and spinal cord injury survivor. She's even writing her first fiction novel!