Saturday, January 31, 2009

Public Speaking Class

Hello all.

I have been enjoying my public speaking class. I'm actually learning more than I thought I would. Our first speech was an introductory speech. We had to select a song that was representative of our life, personality, interests etc. We could either play part of the song or read some of the lyrics. We then had to tell why the song was special to us along with some information on our background, life, career and academic pursuits, etc. I chose to read some of the lyrics of the song "We Live" by Superchick. I posted the lyrics a couple posts ago. I then explained what had happened to me and where I am today.

Tuesday I gave a speech with a partner on one of the chapters in our book. We were supposed to make really dry material seem fun and interesting. I think we did a pretty good job speaking and getting the material across without making it sound too boring. I think we need to actually practice the speech for the next one. We will be presenting a news event to the class. I'm not sure which one we're going to do yet but I know it has to represent a "social" issue.

The last five speeches after the news event one will be on our own. Three of them will be videotaped and we will have to critique ourselves. That should be fun. I learn a lot from watching myself and others speak; like what to do and what not to do during a presentation. I am excited to use the new skills I've learned in upcoming speeches. I will keep you updated on my class and the speeches that I do.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Exciting News

I finally got my electric wheelchair back yesterday. My mom went and picked it up at the company because otherwise they wouldn't have been able to deliver it until this morning. I have an extremely busy day today. I will probably be gone for six hours. They wouldn't have been able to drop off my chair before I leave at 11 AM to go to school. After school, at 2:30 PM, I'm going to get picked up and go to the hospital for a doctor's appointment. My appointment is at 3:30 PM and I probably won't get home until five o'clock or so. I couldn't imagine being out in my manual chair and having to be pushed for that long.

I am so excited to not have to be in my manual wheelchair anymore. I was grinning all evening knowing that I wasn't going to have to be in it today. My butt, back, neck and anything else you can think of is hurting because of it. I have also lost some independence by not being able to move my wheelchair by myself. I just got my electric wheelchair back but it feels like I got a new car. Anyways, I'm hoping that nothing goes wrong with it for a long long time because I don't ever want to have to go through what I've been through the past week and a half.


"Of any stopping place in life, it is good to ask whether it will be a good place from which to go on as well as a good place to remain."
-Mary Catherine Bateson

Monday, January 26, 2009

Meet Logan

This little boy is a true believer. His faith is like no other. He called in to a radio station to share his beliefs about God. I warn you, this is a tearjerker.


Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mall of America

Today we went to the Mall of America. It is the biggest mall in the United States. It doesn't seem that big to me because I've been there so many times, but to first-timers it's huge. When we go we usually make a day out of it because it takes a while to get to the stores we want. When we went today, we ate lunch first which only gave us a little time to shop. I ended up only going to three stores, all of which I could've gone to at the mall down the street from me. Oh well, it's the whole atmosphere and experience of it all that matters.

Sometimes I get claustrophobic in places with a lot of people. It was quite crowded at the mall today. It is hard because I can't just walk away from the situation. The accessibility in stores also bothers me. I end up rearranging the store when I go into it. They tend to put clothing racks so close together that we have to move them to get through. It doesn't bother me to move them; what bothers me is that I should even have to move them. I even know one store at the mall down the street from me that has stairs to enter the store. I wouldn't shop there anyways but that's not the point. They have shutters on each side of the door that I could possibly fit through, but they have tables and racks of clothing in the way. Don't get me wrong, I love shopping, but some things need to change. At least I don't avoid going out to places because of poor accessibility. I like to stay active and get out of the house; even if that means becoming an interior decorator for clothing stores.

I had a little challenge because I am still in my manual wheelchair. When I go places it is difficult not being able to be independent in moving. When I wanted to look at something I had to ask someone to turn me towards it. I am hoping my electric wheelchair will be ready by the end of next week.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Life As a Quad I: The Basics

In the first post of my new series I would like to start off with the basics and some history.

Types of Paralysis - Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) and Paraplegia

When a person suffers a spinal cord injury, information travelling along the spinal nerves below the level of injury, will be either completely or partially cut off from the brain, resulting in Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia) or Paraplegia.

The body will still be trying to send messages from below the level of injury to the brain known as sensory messages, and the brain will still be trying to send messages downwards to the muscles in the body, known as motor messages. These messages however, will be blocked by the damage in the spinal cord at the level of injury. Nerves joining the spinal cord above the level of injury will be unaffected and continue to work as normal.

Quadriplegia / Tetraplegia

Quadriplegia / Tetraplegia: is when a person has a spinal cord injury above the first thoracic vertebra, paralysis usually affects the cervical spinal nerves resulting in paralysis of all four limbs. In addition to the arms and legs being paralyzed, the abdominal and chest muscles will also be affected resulting in weakened breathing and the inability to properly cough and clear the chest. People with this type of paralysis are referred to as Quadriplegic or Tetraplegic.


Paraplegia: is when the level of injury occurs below the first thoracic spinal nerve. The degree at which the person is paralyzed can vary from the impairment of leg movement, to complete paralysis of the legs and abdomen up to the nipple line. Paraplegics have full use of their arms and hands.

Level of injury (Lesion)

The level of injury, otherwise known as a lesion, is the exact point in the spinal cord at which damage has occurred. The levels are determined by counting the nerves from the top of the spine downwards, and these nerves are grouped into four different area’s. These are the Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar and Sacral parts of the spinal cord.

These area’s are important in defining quadriplegia and paraplegia, as damage to the spinal cord as these points directly determines how groups of muscles, organs and sensations will be affected.

How the spinal cord has been damage is also a consideration when evaluating a spinal cord injury. There are two types of lesion, these are a complete injury and an incomplete injury. Someone with a complete injury will have complete loss of muscle control and sensation below their level of lesion. An incomplete injury is where maybe only the muscles have been paralyzed, or where there is impaired sensation.

*This information was taken from

According to, quadriplegia is "paralysis of all four limbs or of the entire body below the neck". In other words, to be labeled as a quadriplegic may not mean complete paralysis of the body. Some quads have limited or almost full use of their arms. It just means that they have some type of paralysis in all four limbs. I know some quadriplegic's who have paralysis in just a couple of muscles in their arms and are able to drive with their hands.

I am labeled as a quadriplegic. I broke my neck at C-1 C-2, the highest vertebrates of the spine. The norm is that the higher the injury is on the spinal cord, the more paralysis the person will have. My injury to my spinal cord is incomplete. I am mostly paralyzed below my neck, however, I am able to move some things. I can move all of my toes and five fingers. I can also bend both of my wrists, elbows, and knees. There are other muscles I am able to flex and move with assistance. I also have feeling everywhere, some places better than others. Because I injured my spinal cord at the highest point, I am unable to breathe on my own. I am dependent on a ventilator to breathe for me, and I have 24/7 nursing care.

After my accident happened, I was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center. I spent three weeks in the ICU, before transferring to Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare in St. Paul where I spent five months rehabilitating. Because I broke my neck, I had to wear a halo, which is an orthopedic device that was used to immobilize my head and neck. It consisted of a mental band placed around my head and screwed into my skull with metal pins. It was attached by metal extensions to a plastic vest that I had to wear. I had my Halo on for three months before I had surgery to remove it and to fuse my neck bones together because they weren't completely healed. Since then I have had many other surgeries at Gillette that would help me either at that time or in the future.

My journey to where I am today has not been an easy one. There have been complications, near-death experiences, overdoses and withdrawals on medications, etc. These experiences have been minor bumps on my road to recovery. Despite my challenges, I am thriving as an individual and moving forward with my life. The remainder of the posts in this series will mostly contain information on my current situation and the things I am doing to maintain my life these days.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Day to Remember

Today is a day to remember. Today is a day where change comes tomorrow. President Barack Obama took the oath of office as the 44th president of the United States. He gave an amazing inaugural speech in front of 2 million people live and millions more watching from home, school, work etc.

Let us remember today because this day will go down in history.


Monday, January 19, 2009


I have good news and bad news. The good news is the guy from Reliable Medical (the place I got my wheelchair from) came today and found out why my wheelchair won't recline back up. The bad news is that it's a part that they have to order and it will take up to two weeks. What a letdown that news was. I guess the actuator went bad, whatever that means. It was still in a reclined position when he took it away back to the shop. If he would have been able to get it into an upright position, I could have still used it and just not reclined back. I'm going to have to use my manual wheelchair until they can get my electrical one fixed. This last week has really made me appreciate what little independence I have. Every bit counts, including being able to drive myself around. I'm hoping everything goes okay on my outings when my nurse has to push me.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Science Museum

Today we went to the Science Museum of Minnesota again. This time we went to the Omnitheater. The movie that we saw was Grand Canyon Adventure: River at Risk. It was amazing. It was about the Colorado River and the difference between now and 30 years ago. It also talked about ways we can help protect water resources for generations to come. The Omnitheater is huge and at times can give you the sensation that you're moving. I have to admit it was a little scary flying through the Grand Canyon and going down the Colorado River on a raft. That's the idea behind it; to make you feel like you're actually there. I hope to go see the next one called Titanica coming in June.


"The greatest revolution in our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives."
-William James

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wheelchair Troubles

This past week has been a little hectic regarding my wheelchair. On Tuesday, the battery for my Tongue Touch Keypad (how I run my wheelchair) ran out. It would have been okay if I had had my other one here. I have two Tongue Touches, however, a couple weeks ago I sent my other one to California to get the battery replaced because it had run out. So Tuesday, when the other Tongue Touch battery ran out, I was stuck having someone else drive me around using the joystick on the back of my wheelchair.

Well, I received my first Tongue Touch that ran out of battery Friday afternoon. That would've been great news, however, earlier that day I went to a doctor's appointment and had some more wheelchair trouble. For one of the procedures I had to recline my chair back. I also have a tilt mechanism that I wasn't using at that time. When the procedure was finished, I went to have someone recline me back up but it wouldn't go. I was stuck in that position. We had some people from the hospital try working on it for a while but couldn't get it to go. I also had someone from the company that I got the chair from come to the hospital to see if they could fix it. No luck. I had to call for a ride home and asked them for the biggest van possible. They said it was 45 minutes away. Needless to say I was away from home for seven hours and stuck in a recline position for most of the time.

I am now using my backup manual wheelchair. It is extremely uncomfortable. I can't believe I used to use this thing. I went from being independent and using my Tongue Touch Keypad to get myself around to having someone drive me with the joystick and then ultimately having someone push me around. I am miserable but I am surviving. Reliable, the company that I got my chair from, is supposed to be coming out on Monday to pick up my wheelchair to see if they can fix it in the shop. I'm hoping they can get it done soon so that I don't have to use my manual chair anymore. It isn't fun having to be pushed everywhere. Oh well, what can I do. I guess I can make some light of the situation. At least I have a wheelchair at all and I'm not stuck in bed.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

We Live

This is my favorite song. It is called "We Live" and it is sung by a Christian band called Superchick.

"We Live"

There's a cross on the side of the road
Where a mother lost her son
How could she know that the morning he left
Would be the last time she'd trade with him for a little more time
(so she could say she loved him one last time)
And hold him tight
But with life we never know when we're coming up to the end of the road
So what do we do then
With tragedy around the bend

We live, we love, we forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love
We live, we love, we forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love

There's a man who waits for the tests to
See if the cancer had spread yet
And now he asks why did I wait to live 'til it was time to die
If I could have the time back, how I'd live
Life is such a gift
So how does the story end?
Well, this is your story and it all depends
So don't let it become true
Get out and do what we were meant to do

We live, we love, we forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love
We live, we love, we forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love

Waking up to another dark morning
People are mourning
The weather in life outside is storming
But what would it take for the clouds to break
For us to realize each day
Is a gift somehow, someway
And get our heads up out of this darkness
And spark this new mindset and start on with life cuz it ain't gone yet
And tragedy's a reminder to take off the blinders and wake up
(to live the life)
We're supposed to take up
(moving forward)
With all our heads up
Cuz life is worth living

We live, we love, we forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love
We live, we love, we forgive and never give up
Cuz the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love

The reason I like this song so much is because it talks about life and to live it to its fullest. It also talks about the fact that anything can happen at any moment and that every day is a gift from above. I have had many near-death experiences and it has taught me to never give up and to live every day like it's my last because we never know what's going to happen tomorrow. I look forward to reading your comments on this song and what you think about it.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Hope and Margaret

Hello everyone.

I would like to take this post to share with you two precious little girls; both fighting hard to recover from separate tragic automobile accidents. They need lots of prayers, and I'm hoping by sharing their stories that it will help in the speed of their recovery and the awareness of their accidents. Both girls have a CaringBridge website documenting their hospital stay and progress.

This is Hope Johnson. This is her story, taken from her CaringBridge website:

January 6th, Hope was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident in Nebraska. She was life-flighted to Aurora Children's Hospital where she now is. Her injuries include a broken back, resulting in severe spinal cord injuries, 2 fractures in her left leg, and her face has fractures on the right side.

This is Margaret Romph. This is her story taken from her CaringBridge website:

Margaret Romph, age 5, was in a severe car accident on Friday, Jan 2nd, 2009. She was life-flighted to the University Hospital in Columbia. Prognosis is unknown at this time. Please welcome her and her family into your prayers during this difficult time.

Please keep these girls in your thoughts and prayers. You can also keep up with their progress by clicking on the links above to visit their websites.


"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
-Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Another New Record

Today I went into the standing frame again. It took me about 10 minutes to get to 90°. My blood pressure didn't even drop on the way up. I was very careful to go up slowly so that it wouldn't. Once I got up to 90°, I stood for 33 minutes, beating my old record of 28 minutes. I know it's only a difference of five minutes, but when I'm fighting fatigue, sore muscles, and my blood pressure, every minute counts.

I am so excited to have the opportunity to stand. Many people are unable to get medical equipment because of expenses. I know what it's like to go through the process of trying to get something paid for and then getting a denial saying that they won't. I just keep on trying. My ultimate goal is to start a nonprofit organization for people with disabilities who need medical equipment and are unable to get it paid for. For example a wheelchair, stander, bed, shower or bath chair, or any other type of supplies they may need. My non-profit organization will also include funding for house remodeling, physical or occupational therapy, voice activation devices, or any other type of equipment or service that may make someone with a disability more independent or their life easier. It may be a long way out, but I know it will happen and I am determined to help others in need.


"To the world you might be one person, but to one person you might be the world."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back at It

I recently did a post on me painting and how I hadn't done it in a long time. I talked about how I thought that the reason why was because I didn't want to hassle with taking it all out and then putting it away again. I also thought maybe I was just in a painters block. I was right. Yesterday, I took the time to take all of my painting supplies out and finally did it! I painted and it felt great! While painting, I took pictures to document my experience and show others how I do it.

The picture above is a of me setting up for painting. I'm covered in towels because I use watercolor as my medium and it can get a little messy. While setting up, I have someone wet the colors that I am going to use and soak the paper in water for five minutes. The reason I soak the paper is because I mostly do abstract paintings, and when the paper is wet, the watercolor runs and bleeds together nicely. The picture below is of me painting. Someone puts the paintbrush in my mouth and then holds the board for me. I have not found an easier or more independent way for me to paint other than someone holding it. I have thought about using an easel but my neck just isn't strong enough for me to be moving it all over the place. That's why I have someone else move the painting for me wherever I ask them to.

I am almost always happy with the finished product. I don't ever have a plan in mind when I start painting. I just let the colors go where they want to. However, this one turned out a little bit too light for me. I think I'm going to go back and add some bright colors over a few parts of the top of what I have done so far. Or maybe I should just leave it the way it is. I'm not quite sure yet. The picture below is what the painting looks like now. I am planning on trying to paint once a month. I have left my painting supplies out so that I don't have an excuse. I really love doing it and expressing myself.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

This I Know

This I Know

My body is paralyzed. By gods strength someday I will be free. When that day comes, I will be filled with joy. This I know.

I haven't walked since the day I was born, on the warm backs of my parents and brothers and sisters, I can go anywhere. This I know.

I am unable to speak. I cannot speak gossip or speak harsh words. This I know.

In the midst of sorrow and pain, there is joy and happiness. In the midst of this, I am alive. This I know.
-Kumi Hayashi

This poem is one of my favorites. It reminds me of something I would write about myself. It is interesting to know how others feel, how they live, what they go through, and their outlook on life. It is also inspiring. That is why I think my blog is so important. I want people to know not only who I am but what I'm about and believe in. It is a miracle that I am alive. I am here for a reason and that's all I needed to believe in for me to start this blog and show others that there are other people out there; other people with lives different than their own. Thanks for reading my blog.


"Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved."
-Helen Keller

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Ready to Go Back

I am excited for school to start next week. I went to the college today to get my book for my Public Speaking class. I have had a good break, but usually after the first week I start getting bored. I like keeping my mind busy and getting out of the house. I am ready to learn all there is to know about speaking. After all, it is my passion.

I am working on the first post post for my new series called Life As a Quad. It is taking a while to complete the first one. I really want to portray what it's like to be a quadriplegic. This series will be complete with pictures and videos so that others can actually see my life. Hang in there; you can expect the first post within the next week.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Meeting a New Friend

I am so excited! Today I met my new friend Karly. I did a post on her December 7 called Inspired by Love. She also has a blog by that name. Karly and I have been chatting through e-mail for a while now. She lives about an hour away from me. Today I went to her house and met her for the first time. She is an amazing person. It is especially interesting to see the way she copes with her disability called Rett syndrome. I am honored to have her as a friend.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Sisterly Love

The picture above is of my sister, Kristen, and I. She is 19 years old and also attends Normandale Community College. She works part time at a daycare and babysits when she can. She also plays softball in the summer and is very good. Kristen is responsible and very mature for her age. She is planning on going to St. Cloud College this fall but is not quite sure what she wants to do for work at this point in time.

I have written Kristen a letter to show her my gratitude and love.

Dear Kristen,

I am so proud of you and love you for who you are. You are one of my heroes. You have been there for me through everything and continue to stay positive. You help me with my cares, sit with me when I need a friend, listen when I have something to say, drive me places I want to go, and love me for who I am. I greatly appreciate your presence and I thank you for being there for me. I am grateful to have a sister like you.

Thanks for everything Kristen. I love you!


"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
-William Arthur Ward

"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time."
-Clara Ortega