Back to the Basics: Blogging my Brain

I just finished my final article for the Press. Talk about severe writer’s block. As much as I’ve enjoyed it and as blessed as I am to have had the opportunity, I find relief in having it finished. I will of course continue to keep my blog on here regularly updated, but without the stress of watching my words or finishing a deadline. My writing is raw and I will not sugarcoat my emotions or my mental state as I recover from this life changing injury. With that being said, coming home was hard. It has only been a week, but what a long seven days it has been; being very sick and under the weather has not helped either, but I digress. While at Shepherd, I felt like I was home, in my element, and never once felt like I was looked at any differently. I was surrounded by so many others just like me that I never felt like people only saw my wheelchair; instead, they saw the young woman who was sitting in it.

Man, what a harsh reality the real world can be.

It is unfortunately a world of some rude and ignorant people who have a tendency to stare at somebody if they’re in any way different, which is what I have encountered since being in a wheelchair. What used to cause great anxiety is still a bother to me. After living in Atlanta for a month, and immersed in a new life that was catered to my needs and filled with other people in wheelchairs, I became accustomed and comfortable in my wheels. However, coming home has been bittersweet. I am no longer one of the many; now I am one of the very few, if not the only, young, blonde woman in a wheelchair in my neck of the woods. Needless to say, with the popularity of the articles and news stories, there are few places around my small town that I can go without feeling like I am noticed (even with sunglasses and a hat, I have found the chair makes it hard to disguise myself). Sometimes, it’s unnerving.

I do not want to sound ungrateful for all the media coverage; heck, I am the one who orchestrated most of it and agreed to do it. But, despite what some may think, I don’t do it for the attention. I do it for the help. For the first year of my injury, I did nothing to help myself and I made absolutely no progress. Then, I started the Help Katy Back to Rehab Facebook page and my life has not been the same since. The page brought me hope, joy, and a chance at a better life. Because of that page, and an amazing support system, I have been so fortunate to raise the funds for additional rehab, medical equipment, and others procedures and products not paid for by Mississippi Medicaid or Vocational Rehab. I quickly learned that I cannot just sit back and wait for things to happen for me. With no shame, I put myself and my story out there and prayed for miracle. And slowly but surely, they began to happen. I don’t want the fame or the notoriety; I just want my own life back. If that means constantly putting myself in the public eye as much as possible, then that is what I will do. I will not stop until I get to where I need to be. So, watch out world…

For My Mom: Happy Mother’s Day

Preface: It is 1:30AM Sunday morning as I’m writing this, just so that you understand why I’m talking about tomorrow, (though technically today). Although by the time you’re reading this, it either IS Mother’s Day, or it has come and gone. Regardless, here it goes.

There is not much I can do for my mom this Mother’s Day. I an unable to go buy her anything without her assistance (she probably would not let me anyway); I don’t have the complete tools, set up, or function to cook dinner, clean the apartment, or somehow lighten her load as my primary caregiver; and I highly doubt she would want to go out to eat on one of the busiest days in the restaurant business, in what will presumably be bad weather, and let me pay. Instead, I have her in a city she does not particularly like, cramped in a small apartment, and sleeping on an air mattress for thirty days. So, I will do the only thing I know how to do best: write about how amazing she is.

For those who are unaware, my dad passed away in 1998 from cancer when I was just 11 and mom was left with seven kids to raise. Fortunately, we are spread out in age and I’m the youngest, not to mention I am incredibly blessed with a large and loving extended family. Despite those circumstances, for the last 14 years, she has filled the role as both mom and dad to me and my siblings; and she has done so with incredible strength, grace, faith, dignity, and love. There are plenty of times in my adolescence where I did not make it easy for her, but her love and support for me, or any of my siblings, never faltered.

One of my immediate thoughts after my injury, as I lay paralyzed on the sandbar, was how this would affect her life. I never questioned if she could mentally handle it, I already knew she could, but I was never one who wanted to be a burden to anyone of any sort. At 18, I moved out on my own and lived independently for five years before my accident. Then, suddenly, I was 23 and completely helpless. Finally, at a time in her life when all of us were grown and independent, she was suddenly my primary caregiver- a full time job. There was never any question or doubt I would go home to Pascagoula to be in her care; she would not have had it any other way.

The first thing I did after I was pulled out of the water was to tell my friends to call my mom. From the night of my accident, after immediately leaving Pascagoula to come to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, almost 2 hours from home, my mom never left my side. For the first few weeks, Mom, along with some of my siblings, slept in the ICU waiting room and never missed a visit. We were very fortunate that some generous friends let us borrow a camper, which Mom slept in for the three months that I stayed in the hospital. My mother was never the camping type and after living in a trailer for nearly a year post Katrina, it was not something she was eager to do; but she did so, without hesitation or complaint.

The next move was living in Jackson, MS, almost four hours from home, for four weeks, while I attended Methodist Rehab. The purpose of this month long rehab was actually considered a “Caregiver’s Program”; teaching and training my mom how to take care of me. Spinal cord injury (SCI) goes far beyond just being unable to walk. There are bowel and bladder issues, skin checks, temperature regulation, autonomic dysreflexia, medications… The list goes on and on. Everyday, Mom attended therapy with me to learn about SCI and slept in the same room; which meant being woken up every two hours as the nurses would come in to do weight shifts to prevent any pressure sores. At that point in my recovery, just four months post injury, and with my high level of injury and complete lack of finger function, I was basically helpless. By the time I came home, I could barely feed myself.

Then, just as sudden as the accident had happened, we were discharged and sent back home into the “real world.” — no more nurses to help, no more doctors to ask questions, no more therapists to do my daily exercises. Mom was now solely responsible for my 24/7 care, a rather daunting task in the beginning; but, just as I mentioned earlier, she did so with strength, grace, faith, and love. As hard as it was for me, I cannot begin to imagine how hard it was for her. I tried as best as I could not to be too “needy” or cause any additional stress, but at that time in my recovery, I relied on her for everything. As much as you love someone, especially a mother to her child, I know it was exhausting and stressful; but she rarely let that show. In addition, she also modified her home for me: adding ramps, redoing the bathroom, and letting me take over the sunroom (her favorite spot) as my studio/office/gym area. She altered every aspect of her life to accommodate me.

From day one, she has been my biggest advocate and supporter. Times when I was denied proper care, such as Medicaid and Vocational Rehab, she was the “mad mama bear” who fought my battles for me. I get so much of my strength (and stubbornness) from her; since 1998, she has been my rock, my hero, and now, my best friend. We don’t always get along, and I am the first to admit that I’m guilty of purposely pushing her buttons, but she has never given up on me. People always joke they are turning into their mothers, and I would have no qualms with that. Sometimes, I think we’re too much alike anyway (ie, stubbornness).

Days when I feel like my injury is too much for me to handle, I think of her struggles and see how her strength and faith have carried her through. When I have a hard day and feel like I can’t go on, I remind myself that I’m not only doing this for me, but I’m doing it for my mother. I am forever grateful and forever indebted for all that she has done for me, I don’t think I could ever truly “repay” her. I think the greatest gift I could ever give her is to regain my independence, make something positive out of my life, and to one day walk again; therefore, proving her right and making her proud.

But until then, I write this blog in honor of her, how much I love her, how much she inspires me, and how much she has sacrificed for me. I know it’s not much but it’s all I know to do. It breaks my heart that I know people whose parents abandon them to a nursing home after their injury. I obviously would not be here without her; but regarding my recovery, I truly would not be here without her. So, despite the fact I will tease you and give you a hard time, please know how thankful I am to call you my mom and how much your character, morals, and values have shaped me into the person I am today. Thank you Mom, I love you, and Happy Mother’s Day.

NMEDA Reminder- ONE MORE WEEK!

The end is in sight!! Only ONE MORE WEEK to vote for me in the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) contest!! My goal is to reach 10k votes.. Can y’all PLEASE help me get 1250 more votes in the next 7 days??? This would not be possible without all your support! Remember, promo code 973 (first your first vote) AND you can vote from computer, phone, and tablet to get additional votes! God bless!!
Xxooo – Katy

You can vote here!