Thursday, April 28, 2011

Day at the Capitol

Yesterday I went to the state capital to introduce myself to a group of medical suppliers and lobbyists that were having a meeting there. It was put on by MAMES (Midwest Association for Medical Equipment Services). They wanted to meet Ms. wheelchair Minnesota and say their congratulations.

Last Saturday my sister came to the door and surprised me. She had flown home from California (she's in AmeriCorps) for six days and didn't tell me. I was very shocked to see her, especially because she had been telling me all week that her and some of her teammates were going to the beach. She even texted me a picture of the beach saying she was there, but it was really from one of her teammates. Very clever!

She ended up driving me to the capital. When I got there, I went into the meeting room and introduced myself. Then I was introduced to everyone else in the room, who were all from different supply companies. Then I spoke telling everyone a little bit more about myself, my situation and what my plan is as Ms. wheelchair Minnesota. They were all very pleased to meet me.

After the meeting, my sister, nurse and I went on an hour long tour of the state capital. I had never been there before and thought it was really interesting. The tour guide took us all sorts of places and explained the architecture, artwork and designs. He even talked about all the different marbles that were used to build it.

During the meeting, I was told that all of the funding has been taken care of for me to go to nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan the first week in August. This is great news! Also, there were many requests for my appearance and speaking. This included Duluth, Minnesota in May or June and Nashville, Tennessee in September. I'm not quite sure about the latter yet; I still have to figure out how to get to Michigan. Duluth might be interesting to stay there overnight because it would be like a trial run before I spent five days in another state. I don't know yet, we'll see.

Also when I was there my coordinator, Anne, received an e-mail from a local newspaper saying that they want to do an interview with me. It is the Lakeshore weekly of Minnetonka. They e-mailed me 10 questions that I'm to answer and send back by tomorrow and they will put it in the paper next week along with my picture. This is the first news coverage that I've gotten since being crowned April 11. We're hoping to get lots more!

Other than that, schools been going well. I'm looking forward to the end of the semester in the middle of May. After that it will be mostly doing things for Ms. wheelchair Minnesota, like making appearances at different events and speaking to different organizations. I know I keep saying it but I'm so excited for this opportunity and ready to dive right in. I'm sure this summer will go by very fast.


Friday, April 22, 2011

"Like It"

I developed a page on Facebook called Ms. wheelchair Minnesota 2011. It is there that I'll post all of the events that I'll be attending and places I'll be speaking at. I will also post pictures from places that I've gone to. If you have a Facebook and want to keep up with my schedule click here to visit my page and click "like".


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

50 K

Just wanted to inform everyone that my blog has now had over 50,000 visitors since I started it October of 2008. That's so amazing! Every day I think about the thousands of people that are impacted by me or what I've written. It makes me feel good to know that I can help and educate others.

Thanks again everyone!

Upcoming Events

I've taken the last week to recover a little bit from all the excitement. Other than doing some assignments for school, I've just been relaxing as much as I can. This whole thing has been very overwhelming for me, not to mention stressful. However, I'm grateful to be in this position and ready to get started.

My first order of business is to make an appearance at the state capital next Wednesday, April 27. There will be politicians and legislators there that I will be able to meet and get a chance to talk to. This is a great opportunity to represent people with disabilities.

At the end of May I will be talking to a group of 75 third-graders about disability awareness. Then in June I will be appearing at a walk/roll a thon. There's many other things I'll be doing in between all these but they haven't been planned quite yet.

If anyone in the area has a place they want me to come visit or speak at just e-mail me or leave me a comment.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

My Big Day

I'm now officially Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011!

Here's how my day went:

5:00 AM-woke up
8:00 AM-washed my hair and got dressed
9:00 AM-massage therapy
10:15 AM-got into my wheelchair
10:30 AM-blowdried and styled hair
11:15 AM-ate lunch
12:15 PM-got back into bed to rest and do range of motion
1:00 PM-got back into my wheelchair
1:15 PM-put my final outfit on
1:30 PM-professional makeup artist came
2:15 PM-finish makeup session
3:15 PM-left my house
4:00 PM-arrived at Running Aces Harness Park
5:05 PM-private interview with judges
5:20 PM-finish interview
5:30 PM-ate dinner
6:00 PM-doors opened
6:15 PM-gave two-minute speech to the audience
6:35 PM-comedian
6:50 PM-live local band Machine 22
7:15 PM-first runner-up announced
7:20 PM-winner announced (that's me!)
7:21 PM-billion photos taken and socializing
8:15 PM-leave
9:00 PM-arrive home
9:20 PM-get back into bed
10:00 PM-remove makeup
11:00 PM-fall asleep

As you can see I had an extremely busy day. It was also out of my routine. I usually get up in my wheelchair between 9 and 10 AM and get back into bed around 5 PM. That day I had to get back into bed for 45 min. in the middle of the day to stretch because of the long night ahead of me.

The professional makeup artist who came was a friend of my therapist, Nicole. I don't wear makeup very much but I think she did a great job. It took about 45 min. to do but she made it look really natural. I'll definitely have to get my makeup done again soon.

It took about 45 min. for us to get the place. My 15 min. question and answer with the judges was supposed to start at 4:30 PM, but one of the judges (Mrs. Minnesota) was a half an hour late. I didn't end up doing it until a little after five. Then I had just under an hour to cath and eat dinner. Right when I got into position at the table they started announcing so I cut it pretty close.

I was the first one to give my two-minute speech to the audience. Four people followed me and then it was time for the judges deliberate. The interview was 70% and the speech was 30%. While the judges talked amongst themselves, there was a comedian and a band to keep us entertained. After that they announced the first runner-up and in the winner.

I was so excited to hear my name being called. When I went up there tons of people swarmed in front of me with their cameras. By the end of the night I couldn't see straight from all the flashes. Mrs. Minnesota put a sash around me and then crowned me. After the initial shock and congratulations, I mingled a little bit with everyone who was there while being photographed.

I had a long drive home and even though I usually fall asleep when riding in vehicles, I couldn't because I was so anxious and excited. When I finally got home all I wanted to do was get back into bed to relieve my back pain. At that point, the neighbors and my aunt Sandy came in my room to congratulate me. Once I laid down I did range of motion because I was extremely tight and my spasticity was high due to the day. I was exhausted and delirious also.

I had a lot of fun though and am happy. I'm grateful for this opportunity to educate people and be an advocate for others with disabilities. Now I'm going to be very busy for the next year doing appearances and speaking all over. Also, I get to go to nationals in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The Ms. wheelchair America contest is the first week in August. This will be my first time on a plane since my accident. I'm excited to take a trip but a little nervous because I don't know how it will go. They said they wouldn't affect me if they could get me on a plane so I trust them completely.

Below are some photos of the event.

The band
One of my fan tables with my friends and dad

Me and the judges

 If you want to view the professional photos that were taken you can click here.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crowned Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011

Last night was the Ms. wheelchair Minnesota contest, and I won! I had an amazing time and am so excited for this opportunity. I know I can do great things and educate many people. I will post pictures very soon. Thanks to everyone who supported me along the way.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More Questions Answered

This is a comment I got a while back from someone anonymous. I decided to answer all the questions at once.

Hi Jenni, I stumbled upon your blog the other day and have been enjoying reading about your life. I have so many questions! I don't mean to pry, but I am curious about your life. It looks like you did a segment where you answered questions. Maybe my questions can be part of a segment like that.

1. Does it get annoying having a nurse 24/7? Do you manage to get alone-time or is your nurse with you all the time?

I wouldn't exactly say it gets annoying. However, it is difficult to have somebody by you constantly or at least an earshot away. Sometimes I get frustrated that someone always has to be with me. I am able to get alone time in my room if the nurse is sitting at the desk in the other room. But that's about the extent of it. If something were to happen to me, for example, my tubes popping off, there would need to be a person here that could put them back on so I could breathe. That person may be my mom, dad, sister or a nurse. If I get sad, frustrated, mad or even annoyed, I just remember that they are my hands and that they are here to help me not hurt me.

2. After the accident were you angry at the driver of the car or was it a type of accident that was purely accidental?

I have never once been angry at the driver. I have forgiven them completely and in my view it was just an accident.

3. Do you still have the same friends from before the accident? Has it been difficult to maintain those friendships since you might not have the same things in common (basketball, other sports, etc)?

I still have some of the same friends as before the accident. Some I talk to on a regular basis and see frequently and some call or come around when times are convenient. Yes I would say that it's definitely more difficult to maintain relationships with friends because I'm unable to do a lot of the same things. Most of the times my friends have to come to me to hang out and send me going to them or meeting at places. But as long as they're willing to adjust then it usually works out okay.

4. Is it tough to make new friends as a quad?

I think it is tough sometimes to make new friends, but it isn't impossible. It seems hard for others to approach someone with a disability because people are afraid of the unknown. I guess I would say that it is harder to find new friends who are able-bodied versus disabled because I have more in common with someone who has a disability. I have made many new friends since my accident including past nurses and people from school.

5. At school, how do you take notes about your professors' lectures and take exams and things like that?

If it's a class that requires a lot of notetaking, someone will come in from the office for students with disabilities (OSD) at the beginning of the semester and ask if someone in the class would be willing to take notes on carbon copy. That way I can get a copy of the notes without someone having to write twice. If the tests are online, I can do them myself using speech recognition software. However, if I have to take them at school then I usually do it either outside the classroom with my nurses' help or in the OSD with help from the staff.

6. How are your nurses and other things paid for? Does your family pay or are they covered by insurance, or some other method?

Everything that I utilize or use that needs to be paid for first gets submitted to my insurance company. If they deny it, which is very common, then I have Medical Assistance that takes over. This includes nurses, PCA's, medications, and all the supplies and equipment that I require.

7. Are MN sidewalks difficult to navigate by wheelchair during the winter? Is a snowy and icy climate a tough place to be disabled?

Minnesota sidewalks are difficult to maneuver around even in the summer, let alone the winter. I don't usually go cruising down the streets when it's 0°F with a 30 below windchill. That can be a little cold. If I go outside in the winter it's usually from the house to the vehicle and from the vehicle to the place I'm going and vice versa.

It is somewhat difficult living in a cold, snowy place with a disability. Although I think there'd be challenges wherever I went. One of the harder things for most quads living in a cold climate would be temperature control, since it's hard for people with SCI's to regulate their body temperature. Luckily I don't have that problem very often since my injury is incomplete.

These are all great questions and I'm glad you asked. I'll most likely answer any question posed to me, with the exception of a few. If anyone else has questions or comments, feel free to share them below. If you'd like to, you can e-mail me with them instead. I look forward to what you have to say.