I’m Karen Roy, a T10 complete paraplegic. I’ve been in a wheelchair for more of my life than I haven’t. I had a really “normal” life until age nineteen. But it only took one moment for that to change. At the beginning of my sophomore year at Louisiana State University, my boyfriend and I went on a date to a blues club. When we went back to my car after the show I felt someone grab my shoulders from behind and hit me over the head with something. They took my purse containing all of two dollars and shot me in the back. The bullet left me paralyzed from the waist down. I had a punctured lung. I almost bled to death on the street. I remember waiting for the police and the ambulance to arrive, struggling to breathe. I was sure I would die that night.
Thanks to the amazing first responders and medical team at Our Lady of the Lake Trauma Center, I’m still here! But my path to embracing a new lifestyle wasn’t easy. It was a struggle to regain a new normal as a full-time wheelchair user, but I was persistent. I continued my recovery at Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital in Jackson, Miss. There I learned how to live life using a wheelchair. I remember the pain and the difficulty with every small task like bathing, dressing and transferring to the bed or a car. I slowly gained strength in my upper body so I could move my body and push the wheelchair long distances and over obstacles. I learned to get my wheelchair in a car and how to drive with hand controls. Each day these activities became easier and after six weeks I was discharged home. The learning and strengthening continued for months at home, until I eventually became independent with all aspects of my life again. As much as I loved my parents, I was determined to as independent as the other college coeds. I am a total people person, but I have always needed my space to spread my wings and fly! Luckily my whole family was on board with that plan.
My Uncle A.C. gave me a wallet sized card soon after I was shot and it had a huge impact on me. It was something he had in his wallet for years and it was well worn. He wanted me to have it as a reminder when I became tired, frustrated and over whelmed. Printed on the card was a quote from Calvin Coolidge, “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The semester after being shot I went back to LSU and finished my undergraduate degree in psychology and my Master’s degree in social work. I got married and gave birth to three healthy kids. I became a medical social worker at a rehabilitation hospital. I worked intimately with people who were newly diagnosed or recently injured. I was determined to not only live my life, but to help others.
I even took my story national and became Ms. Wheelchair America 2019 in an effort to help inspire other men and women embracing life in a wheelchair. I’ve traveled to more than 20 states promoting the benefits of standing. It has truly been life-changing connecting with others who are working to be seen, and heard, in an effort to live life to the fullest.
Today, my role with Numotion provides me an opportunity to share my story and my experiences to help others. I am passionate about living a healthy, independent life for myself, but also sharing with others how they too can take control of their lives to make it what they want.
Over time I hope to hear your stories about what keeps you healthy and how we can fight together for better access to what we all need and deserve. Part of the reason I strive to be healthy is so that I can enjoy activities with my family, travel and seek adventure. In future blogs I hope to share these adventures, as well as interviews other dynamic people in the disabled community. Let’s connect and together we can live our best LIFE POSSIBLE!