Earlier this year when I decided to try updating this blog on a more regular basis, I wanted to give it my sense of reality on things. I guess it sometimes comes across as mostly negative and that has not been my intention but it is hard sometimes because so much of this stuff is just that way right now.
At times I do try to make myself reflect on everything and do want everyone to know that I realize that despite how much this sucks that I am blessed in many ways. I know there are a lot of people that this happens to who do not have the motivation--and more importantly--the means and support to be proactive about a recovery. Like everyone's family, I think mine is a little crazy, but I know that I am lucky to have a supportive one. I am lucky also to have my father in my corner and though we may not agree on everything and may do some things a little bit differently, he will fight this with me as long as he can and as long as I want to. I have even become closer to my sisters. For the first time since going off to college, I talk to at least one of my three sisters about everyday.
Also, I am very fortunate that a facility such as Race to Walk opened a few months after my accident just 25 miles away from Charlotte. There are only a handful of places like this in the country (For those that do not know, RTW is a nonprofit facility founded by a family who had a horrible boating accident and wanted to do something about it. Rather than uprooting the whole family to go to another facility out of state for therapy, they decided to open up their own.). How Andy, the founder, works his real job and oversees things at RTW is just amazing. I do not think he ever sleeps. I also have to say the staff there is great; they are a positive group and have grown accustom to and tolerate my constant sarcasm on a daily basis. I do not know what I would be doing and where my head would be if I did not have that place to go to during the week.
It is also funny how things work out sometimes. I know I was fortunate that Coach Sendek and his staff thought enough of my abilities to invite me to the NC State basketball program as I was finishing my senior year in high school. My overall experience there with them was a great and real positive one. I have a lot of great memories and made some of my best friends during my years at NC State. When I arrived on campus Fall 1998, I came in with three other freshmen that I got along with really well. Recently, I have reconnected with former teammates, Carl Lentz and Adam Harrington, which has been a really good thing. Carl was actually just recently down here from Virgina Beach and we saw each other for the first time in over nine years. Out of the three of us, I think Adam is the only one doing what I would have bet on when we met years ago. While I roll around in a wheelchair trying not to think about how a third grade girl could beat me up simply by pushing me over (I know, but I do.), he is playing basketball professionally. Carl is currently a pastor at Wave Church. I recently watched Carl do his thing and it was pretty cool to see. He knows the Bible well and incorporates a lot of the personality I remember into sharing its message. I have always wondered what would have happened if we had all stayed together on the team, I am pretty sure we would have stayed really close. I hope we will do a better job of staying connected in the future.
At times I have second guessed my decision to go to NC State over a smaller school, because I loved the game of basketball and wanted to have a larger role. However, I have come to realize that without my experience at NC State, I would not be getting anywhere near the support I am now. Many of the positive emails, encouraging cards, and generous donations I have gotten are from people who may not have known me on a personal level but just knew of me through NC State basketball.
The connection to NC State has also led to the golf tournament being held for me on May 19th in Raleigh. We have gotten such a great response from sponsors and people playing in the event. In fact, we just learned today that the tournament is full! I have also talked to a lot of former teammates that are planning on attending. Although I am still uncomfortable being out and about in the shape that I am in, I do look forward to seeing a lot of the wonderful people I have not seen in awhile.
I also cannot say enough about Dave McGee, who organized this event to benefit my recovery efforts. Office Dave McGee has been around NC State basketball and football for over twenty years. He retired as a Lieutenant in the Wake County Sheriff's Department a few years ago but continues to work with NC State football and basketball while doing some private investigation work as well. I actually did not talk to him that much while I was at NC State but the year after I was done with basketball we started talking since we were going to the same gym and since then have become really close friends. I am thankful that he thinks enough of me to do what he has done for my family and me. Dave is always on the go and involved in a lot of things, with a lovely wife and two BEAUTIFUL daughters (I know firsthand his wife can take the credit for their looks and look out--I hear he does frequently remind boyfriends or boyfriend wannabes that he does have guns.). While his wife gets the credit for the beauty in the family, I have to attribute Dave's ability to do so much to his mustache. I really think its got to be what gives him his power.
Since the accident, I have gotten a lot of really nice letters and emails and continue to get some to this day. When NC State basketball raised money for me at the Red Rally last fall, I got about 60 or so emails from people that just wanted to wish me well and it meant so much that I emailed everyone back and tried to thank them. I even email back and forth with a few of them still today and continue to be amazed at the support. Recently, I received a very nice letter, donation, and Gloria Estefan CD from a wonderful NC State alum in Florida. We have emailed back and forth several times and he mentioned that he and his wife have become close friends of the Estefans through a lot of charity work. He sent me the CD because several years ago, Gloria was in an accident on her tour bus that almost left her paralyzed though she recovered. Some of her songs were written and inspired from her accident. He said he did not expect to change my musical taste but thought it may be worth a listen. Honestly, I did listen to a good bit of it last week with Eliana (Since they are both Latina, I thought it made sense to wait for her to come by before I listened.). I have even spoken with this gentleman on the phone and he has even discussed my situation with her. It is support like this that makes me motivated to stick with things and not give up. Through my own experiences and meeting people with similar injuries and even worse it is good to see that there are a lot of good in people like this individual and I am sure we will continue to communicate about my progress.
One of the more interesting things recently I also wanted to mention was a book sent to me by Adam Shepard. He is a few years younger than me and is from Raleigh. I believe he went to a small school in Massachusetts to play basketball and after graduating he took $25 and a bag of clothes to Charleston, SC and wrote about his 365 days and his search for the American dream. Inside the book's cover, he wrote a really nice note saying we did play pickup basketball against one another one time (I will just take his word on saying I dominated him on the court). Admittedly, I am not a big reader but it sounds like a pretty cool idea and I plan on reading it during my upcoming stay in Baltimore for therapy.
As I have mentioned before one of the toughest times in all of this was being told by one of the doctors that there is a 5% chance that will ever walk again. As time has gone by I have realized that this is pretty much standard thing that they say to everyone with an injury similar to mine. I would like to point out that Dr. Wise Young, one of the leading spinal cord injury researchers in the world, has said that even Asia A spinal cord injuries have a 10-15% chance of walking unassisted (They classify injuries on an Asia scale A-D with A being the worst, which is what I was told I have.). I take his 10-15% and see my percent immediately going up because my injury is lower then some and I am still relatively young in the world of spinal cord injuries. I also know that at the time of my accident, I was in better physical shape than most, I am used to working out, and most importantly I have the ability to be proactive and go after gaining function. Traditional therapy has a mindset of teaching you to adapt and live out of the wheelchair and while regaining function is not a brand new idea, nobody's insurance covers these attempts. Without the support I have gotten from you all, I would have had to give up my efforts months ago. I know that a lot of people in my situation do not have anywhere near these advantages and that is why I can see that despite these difficult circumstances I am blessed and I just cannot thank everyone enough.
May is going to be an exciting month with the golf tourney on the 19th and I start therapy up in Baltimore on the 23rd. I look forward to seeing a lot of people at the golf course and hope to be able to write to let people know about my experience in Baltimore.