Hi everyone! I am currently in Grand Rapids, MI competing for the title of Ms. Wheelchair America 2019. I want to share a little bit about my story and platform – Stand for Life.
As a young child and teenager I could never have imagined that “paraplegic” would be a word used to describe me, or that I would be wearing a tiara and speaking publicly about disability rights and the importance of standing.
I have had a spinal cord injury since the age of 19 as a result of being the victim of a random armed robbery 30 years ago. The majority of the time that I have been in a wheelchair I have worked hard to blend in and live a “normal” life like all of my walking friends. I wanted to be a social worker, get married and raise children. I taught Sunday school, served as room mom and many other things I considered “normal.” I did everything I could NOT to call attention to my disability. Although I was not ashamed to be in a wheelchair, I wanted the focus to be on me and not the chair.
I accomplished my goals of having a fulfilling career and raising three great kids. My youngest child graduated from high school this year and we suffered the tragedy of losing my husband two years ago. My amazing job at Numotion keeps me busy. Through my work, I have been able to advocate for others with disabilities, which is right up my ally as a licensed clinical social worker. My passion has been advocating for my patients for 20 years, and I am really enjoying advocacy on a larger scale these past few years.
I have known about the Ms. Wheelchair America organization for many years and didn’t think I would ever be brave enough to put myself out there like that. Until, I realized, I have a very important message to share that few people are talking about. The message that pushed me to become an independent delegate is the importance of standing, electrical stimulation and other technologies that keep people with SCI healthy!
Fortunately, I learned about the health benefits of standing and keeping muscle tone on my legs at Mississippi Methodist Rehabilitation Hospital. Keeping my legs in shape was important for many reasons. First, I was a young woman and I wanted to wear skirts and keep my legs shapely. Yes, I was vain then but I am still motivated to keep my legs in decent shape! Second, I knew that someday science would come up with a cure for SCI and I wanted to have the bone density and muscle to possibly take advantage of that cure. And last, but most important, I wanted to live a long and healthy life. I want to be active and travel all over the world! I want to hang out with my grandchildren one day and take them to do amazing things. I want this for all people living with SCI! It is my belief that the medical community has done a disservice to the SCI community by not stressing the importance of prevention by standing and using other technologies. The Ms. Wheelchair America organization has given me the opportunity to spread my message all over Louisiana. Hopefully, having a positive impact on others with disabilities in my state.
Ms. Wheelchair America is an organization that was founded to promote the accomplishments of women with disabilities. I am so proud to be representing Louisiana and sit alongside the other accomplished women from all over the United States. I am so excited for the opportunity to share my message with others at the competition, and I feel like I’m representing all of my amazing co-workers at Numotion too! Wish me luck!!