Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Another Interview

I had an interview with a guy from the Sun Sailor (a local newspaper) today. They're going to run a story on me about Ms. wheelchair Minnesota and the Ms. wheelchair America pageant. It's great to have another article written about the things I've been doing. I'm really just so honored to be featured so that everyone can see the amazing abilities of people with disabilities. I will post the link as soon as it's published!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Sitting in a Chair

I am a C-1 C-2 quad paralyzed from the neck down and I can sit in a chair without the support of someone else. This is a pretty amazing feat for someone in my situation. I was told by my physical therapist that not many people like me would be able to hold themselves up and have somebody take their hands away. I'm also able to sit up on the edge of my bed in a similar fashion without support.

I have physical therapy three days a week and manual therapy and massage therapy once a week. Therapy is one of the most important things in my life today. Some of the benefits I get from it are pain management, movement, relaxation of muscles, and building stamina. It's important for people to know that I wouldn't have the ability to do some of the things I do without it. Just being in my wheelchair for 8 to 10 hours a day would be difficult without managing the pain I have and building up stamina so that my body can tolerate it. Also through physical therapy, I've learned how to tighten and move muscles that I probably otherwise wouldn't have.

When I sit in a chair, my physical therapist first holds on to me for a little bit so I can get in the right position. Then when she lets go, it's up to me to use my abdominal and back muscles to keep myself sitting straight. If I start to lean a little one way, I have to tighten the muscles on the opposite side to bring myself straight again. That goes for forward, back, left and right. I work very hard during these sessions and it does wear me out afterwards, but it is definitely worth it. Although it may look easy from the pictures, the strength and energy it takes for me to do this can be compared to running a marathon.

I'm very proud of myself for accomplishing such great things. It would be easy for me (as it is for many) to just say "no thanks, I don't need therapy" but I know different and so does my body. I hope that others see how important physical therapy is and that it can bring about a better quality of life for people.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Starting School Again…

Classes for fall semester at Normandale community college start next week. I'm excited because then I'll have something to do but on the other hand I'm still enjoying my break. I signed up for Introduction to Kinesiology (exercise science) at Normandale and World Religions (philosophy) online. I went to the school today to pick up my books and find out where my one class was.

Intro to Kinesiology (the study of movement) is the only lecture exercise science class they have. My other choices were Canoeing, Exercise Walking, Swimming etc. I thought about taking one of the above or something like it and just tell the teacher that "I'll try my best but not sure how much I'll be able to do" and maybe they would give me an "A" for effort. Ha ha don't know how that would've gone over. I guess if not, just to see the look on the teacher's face if I rolled into Exercise Walking!

I'm taking World Religions because it meets two goals that I have to complete for my Associates. I also think it will be an interesting class because I like to learn stuff like that. I did take Psychology of Religion a couple semesters ago but was told that they were completely different classes. I'll be able to check it out online starting tomorrow so we'll see.

Hope everything goes well this semester! I only have a couple more to go before I'm finished; then I'll have to decide what to do after that.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

My Flight to Michigan

The trip to Michigan was my first flight since my accident. We had to do a lot of planning and arranging things ahead of time to make sure everything went smoothly. After booking my ticket, I called the airline to let them know that I was traveling. I told them that I was on a vent and would have batteries with me. They put all that information in the computer under my ticket.

Traveling with me on the flight out was my sister, mom, two nurses and physical therapist. In the middle of the week (Thursday), the nurses that were with me flew home and two more flew in. Luckily, we were able to get most of the tickets covered by donations, frequent flyer miles from big companies, and through Delta.

It took a lot of time to pack all of my supplies. I think I had at least eight carry-ons which included my backpack with nursing chart and Doctors orders, a portable oxygen concentrator, backup ventilator with extra tubing, medications, emergency bag, suction machine etc. I also had a few bags that I checked with more supplies and my clothes. That doesn't include my entourage's personal luggage. Then I was all set to make the journey.

One minor detail about the plane that was flying on. It was the smallest plane they had, which I didn't know when I was booking the tickets. As it got closer to the time I was leaving, I was contacted by someone at Delta regarding my wheelchair and the plane. I gave him the dimensions and he told me that my wheelchair wouldn't fit down below because of the size of the plane. He wanted to switch me to a different flight where the plane would be larger, but none of the other times worked for me. The only other option was to go to the airport in a manual wheelchair and fly my power wheelchair out at a different time. That's what I decided to do. Key medical, the supply company where I got my chair from, came to my house the afternoon before, dropped off a manual chair, picked up my power chair and brought it to the airport for me. It went out on the 6 PM flight that night.

When I got to the airport I was met by a woman I had been in contact with from human resources at Delta. She helped escort us through the check-in, baggage claim, security checkpoint and then finally to our gate. This made the process go a little quicker which was good considering that we got to the airport a little later than expected and only had a short amount of time to get to the plane. I did hold it up a little but I think it went okay for the first time.

Once at the gate, I went down towards the plane and then my therapist, Nicole, and my mom transferred me to an aisle chair which was just big enough for my butt to fit on. Then they wheeled me onto the plane and to the bulkhead (the first seat on the plane) and transferred me over. We put my vent on the floor in front of me the where it remained the whole flight.

It was extremely important to have my therapist with me. She was able to teach us how to do the transfer which made things go a lot easier, both on me and everybody else. She also stretched me during the flight and while I was in Michigan. This helped keep my spasms, muscle tension and pain down to a tolerable level. I can't stress enough the benefits of physical therapy and how much it assisted in me being able to do all the things I did.

On the way back we had the same type of plane so I went to the airport in the manual wheelchair again and my power chair flew out at 6 AM the next day. I did get to the airport a lot earlier and so things went a little bit smoother. I learned a lot through this whole experience and I'm so glad that I had the opportunity to do it. I would definitely take another trip in the future and this only reassured me that I can actually pull it off. The one thing I would do differently next time would be able all the luggage!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Ms. Wheelchair America Contest 2012

I got home from Grand Rapids Michigan on Sunday where I was competing in the Ms. Wheelchair America contest. It was a very long and exhausting week but definitely worth it. I learned my limits but also how far I can push myself. The days were packed with activities and workshops along with judging sessions and speeches. Here are a few highlights from the week. I arrived on Monday after a first ever plane ride since my accident. We got to the hotel and all settled in then had dinner that night. I met a lot of the contestants and learned about my upcoming week.

Tuesday was a fun day. Although it started off a little rocky for me. The power went out in the whole city at 5 AM that morning. I hadn't quite prepared for something like that. Because of it, I didn't get a chance to meet with everyone else at the Ford Museum for a tour. I did catch up with everybody during a scavenger hunt of the city. Unfortunately, there was a heat index warning and I got heat exhaustion afterwards. That was also the time that there was a picnic lunch outside the museum. We were supposed to have swing dancing on the town that evening but it ended up raining so it was canceled.

All ready for the day in my MWA T-shirt!
Lining up on the bridge over Grand River for a group photo

The judging began on Wednesday. Workshops also started and in between that there were five-minute question and answer sessions. Dinner was on the town that night and then we went to a concert in the middle of the city.

At the Blues on the Town concert in the middle of Grand Rapids, Michigan

Great music!

On Thursday the workshops and judging continued. The sessions were twice as long with twice as many questions. That night we all watched the documentary "Defining Beauty" which was about the Ms. Wheelchair America contest in 2010.

Judging resumes

We had judging and workshops again on Friday. It was the day of my third and final interview session with the judges. That night we all gave our speeches on our platform and ate dinner together.

All done up on speech night with my sister, Kristen

Saturday was the big crowning. We had a break from activities during the day and were able to just hang out. In the afternoon I slipped into my gown and then got my hair and makeup done. That evening we all lined up on the stage and waited for them to call the top five. I was very excited when I heard my name called to be in it! We each answered two questions from a judge (one serious and one lighthearted) and then they tallied up the votes. I ended up getting fourth runner up! That means I was number 5/26 contestants; a huge accomplishment in my book. I was so excited and proud.

Getting beautified

Me and Ms. Wheelchair America 2011, Alex

The top five! From left to right: third runner-up-Monica, Ms. Wheelchair Maine 2011; second runner-up-Luticha, Ms. Wheelchair New York 2011; winner-Josie, Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania 2011; first runner-up-Sharina, Ms. Wheelchair Michigan 2011; fifth runner-up-Jenni, Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011

We had a farewell breakfast Sunday morning and then said our goodbyes. We left Grand Rapids and I was very relieved once we landed. It definitely felt good to be home.

I've been spending the last couple of days adjusting. I will write more posts about individual activities and things along with some good stories. Just wanted to give you a lowdown of my amazing week. Even though I didn't come home with the title, I still have the rest of my reign as Ms. wheelchair Minnesota. I promise I will do my state proud!

If you have questions, please comment and ask them. I would love to answer them.