1. How did you become paralyzed?
This is probably the question I am asked most frequently. People always want to know what happened. They want all the gory details. I will write more about it on my blog soon.
The short version is that I was involved in a car accident almost 12 years ago at the age of 28.
I took off my seat belt while my husband was driving and climbed over into the backseat of the car to change my baby's nappy. Moments later the car in front of us came to a sudden halt causing a chain of events which led to our vehicle landing up on its roof. I hit my head on the roof of the car as it overturned, breaking my neck and injuring my spinal cord at the 4th cervical vertebrae.
At the time of the accident, I was a young, active, independent woman, wife and mother. I had a successful teaching career and was a talented sportswoman. I was happily married, had a beautiful baby boy (10 months old) and filled with the joys of life as I made plans with my husband, our friends and family to live out our dreams.
Not only did I lose the use of my arms and legs, my privacy, my independence, my career but I also lost my home, my husband (we were divorced a year later) and most tragically I lost custody of my son. My entire world fell apart
2. Can you move your head?
Yes. I can move my head from side to side, up and down. I can shrug my shoulders but need to rely on gravity to bring them down again. That is the sum total of my physical independence so in essence I am paralyzed from the neck down. If you really want to put me in a box (which I hate) I am classified medically as a C4 quadriplegic – and still human. Yay! I guess that makes me more unique than most. When I was younger I always wished to be different. One should be careful what you wish for.
3. How and what do you eat?
That's easy, I eat with my mouth and chew my food with my teeth... just like you do! *laugh*
Somebody has to feed me. Usually my care assistant is tasked with that job when I am at home. Otherwise, friends and family take over when I'm out with them. On the rare occasion that I am out with a HOT guy then he has that privilege on the first date already. Mmmm... very romantic!
4. What does your body look like after years of inaction?
After Sam's challenge and reading Meagan's touching letter to her body, I am very reluctant to diss mine. Let's just say I'm slim. Ok, I'm very slim. My body doesn't look too bad with clothes on. It's amazing what one can hide underneath clothes. Naked, I am probably the envy of every anorexic walking the planet. OMG I am never going to get a date again after revealing this truth. But luckily beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
My muscles have completely dissipated sadly. But hey, I still have two arms and two legs. And for that, I am grateful.
Oh, and I have dream feet. As soft as a baby's bum. No pedicure in the world can achieve the same result. My nails are always beautifully manicured. It helps not to have to do the dishes Doll! So, there are many advantages to being differently-abled. Yeah right!
There was a time in my life when I had a beautiful, sexy body. I hated it! I constantly complained.... my boobs were too big (I mean really!), my bum was too fat (all size 32 of it!), my legs were too muscular (calves to die for! The guys were so jealous!) etc. I should have been walking around on my hands at the time (and I could have because I was a good gymnast in my day). But I was self-conscious and always covering up. Opportunities lost!
I didn't appreciate what I had until I lost it!
5. How do you manage to look so well groomed?
Three simple rules:
#1 I shower and wash my hair every single day.
#2 I dress to kill – if you look good, you feel good.
#3 I always wear lipstick no matter what.
I stay true to who I am – always. I never compromise on my grooming. I take responsibility for my own well-being. I made a conscious decision not to allow my disability to define me. I will not use my physical limitations as an excuse to become sloppy. My femininity is important to me and I aim to look good and presentable at all times. It gives me confidence to face the world. I need people to see me, first as a woman, before they notice my wheelchair or disability.
I have an incredible support system of hairstylists, a beautician and wonderful friends who help me take care of my beauty routine. I not only live in one of the most beautiful places on the planet but I am surrounded by people with the most giving, loving and beautiful hearts.
My care assistants have been trained to take care of all my physical needs as well as hair and makeup. I'm probably the most pampered woman in the world.
I've learned that my body deserves to be cherished and loved. It is my duty to take good care of my entire body. My body is the only one who will travel my entire journey through life with me. My body never ceases to support me. My body loves me unconditionally, even when I have hated it or wanted to swap it. I have abused my body endlessly yet, it is always here for me carrying me through life. If I had treated anyone else as badly or taken them for granted as I have done to my body, they would have abandoned me a long time ago.
6. How does your son deal with this?
I think the greatest blessing is that my son has never known me any different. He was 10 months old at the time of the accident. I think it was more difficult for me to adapt to not being able to hold my baby than for him to adapt to having a mom in a wheelchair. To him, I am simply Mom and I need to get on with doing that job. Children have a unique way of keeping things in perspective. Luckily for me, he is an extremely affectionate boy (even though he is almost 13) and he has never been ashamed of me (that I am aware of).
7. Did your husband support you?
The accident was an extremely traumatic experience for two young people, in the prime of their lives to deal with. There is no manual that one can follow, no real advice, no true support structure to help one deal with something so extreme. The situation left us, our families and our friends all reeling. None of us knew what to do or how to handle the predicament. We both made many mistakes and probably have many regrets. But, we can't go back. We can't change the past but hopefully we can make a difference to the future.
My ex-husband is an excellent father to our son and that is all that matters.
8. Do you miss sex?
Absolutely, I do. Even more so, I miss intimacy – a deep and profound connection with someone special. I miss kissing and cuddling the most.
Most people automatically assume – wrongly – that because I am paralyzed I am unable to have sex. That is because society has fallen into the classic – and all too common – trap of defining intimacy between two people who love one another deeply as "sex" which in my mind is "animal-like genital intercourse". The reason I feel the need to be so explicit about this is that many people simply take it for granted that I would not be able to fulfill any man's sexual needs and therefore would not make a suitable life partner. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've heard of many relationships that fall apart because a fully functioning partner has the inability to connect physically with the other. Thus my abilities – or seemingly lack of – hold no relevance.
Generally, society does not like to associate themselves – particularly not romantically – with people who do not appear physically whole. Ironically, I consider myself to be a far more whole person now than what I ever was. Sadly, the odds are that I will probably end up living my days on this earth – ALONE. The reality is – as harsh as it may sound – that special guys who have the ability to not only see differently, but to look differently do not come along very often.
9. Have you ever contemplated suicide?
Yes, many times over, especially in the beginning. I'd say that the first four years were the most difficult. The most frustrating thing for me was the fact that I had been stripped of that choice. I cannot commit suicide very easily without help. No one has been very willing to help me in that regard. I thought many times of driving my wheelchair in front of a truck or a bus. The only thing that has stopped me from going through with it is the fact that my selfish act has the potential to ruin other lives by killing or maiming people on the bus or the driver of the truck.
Thankfully, I have learned that nothing is worth taking one's own life. I can now live out my life with dignity and hopefully my son can be proud to call me Mom.
10. Do you walk/run/dance in your dreams?
In my dreams I am always a fully-functioning, able-bodied person who is extremely physically active – running, jumping, dancing wildly – never just walking. In my dreams I have never seen myself in a wheelchair. I think it is indicative of my mindset where I have consciously decided that I am NOT disabled. I never allow myself to think that I can't do something. I can do everything (and more) that you can do. The only difference is that I need a little more assistance. I injured my spinal cord, not my abilities.
Found this interview inspiring? Read Tracy Todd's blog and continue being touched by her positivity.