Before creating RehabforKaty.org, I had a blog hosted by Blogspot called Believe in Miracles. Through my blog I was able to keep non-Facebook followers updated on my progress as well as vent my frustrations, educate about spinal cord injury, inspire and motivate, express my emotions, and share my story with everybody. My sister, Kristen, originally began detailing my progress and updating my family and friends immediately after my accident through the website CaringBridge.org (if interested you can find that here). A few months after returning home from the hospital, in February 2011, I decided to start Believe in Miracles as it was a new “chapter” in my recovery. It is now March 2012 and so much has happened in the last year that I can barely keep up! So I’ve decided to create RehabforKaty as I start on my new journey of selling my artwork, finally going back to rehab (at the Shepherd center), and regaining my independence as much as possible. I will keep the main page strictly for my updates regarding fundraisers, upcoming events, anything newsworthy, etc. But on this page, my Journal, will be for my lengthier blogs and will be more personal than just basic updates. I find it very healthy to be open, honest, and candid about my life, my injury, and everything that entails. I hope you continue to follow my story and take time to read my journal to allow yourself to learn more about spinal cord injures, facing adversity, and what it takes to overcome obstacles.
A Heavy Heart // October 11, 2012
Not only do I use my website to keep people updated on my recovery, but to vent my feelings on all parts of living with a spinal cord injury- the good, the bad, and ugly. Lately my heart has been heavy thinking about the future. It is so hard to fathom how I’ll be independent. I know it can be done, and I know I will eventually do it (though it may likely take years to achieve), but man, some days it just seems so impossible. Forget the wheelchair; think about everything you use your hands for! Having absolutely no finger function is by far the hardest thing I’ve had to overcome and is a daily struggle. I definitely found many ways to adapt and improvise, my motto for the last two years, but there are some things that I’m not sure I will ever be able to do.
I never knew what I wanted to do with my life. Previously, I attended 3 years of college to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public relations, but I never felt passionate about what I was doing. I was simply going through the motions and getting a degree, that’s what you do after high school, right? After three years I realized it was too much time and money to waste if I was not serious about what I was doing. I enjoyed my job as a waitress; I made great money, had great hours, and honestly, was damn good at it. It was not something I wanted to do with the rest of my life but knew college would always be there when I was ready for it. So I dropped out of college and lived a carefree, happy life without the weight of responsibilities that adulthood brings. I figured this was the time in my life to do it and have no regrets.
Now I am preparing to go back to school in the spring. Since my injury I realize I want to work with children with disabilities. I am not sure what facet, whether it is advocacy, counseling, social work, or therapy. I just know in my heart this is something I feel passionate about and would love nothing more than to a make a difference in a child’s life. To me, this is an example of how everything happens for a reason. Had it not been for my accident, I would’ve never come to this conclusion.
Although there are many unanswered questions about my life and what my future would hold, I knew one thing for certain: I wanted to be a mom. Those who know me personally know I am so blessed to have such a wonderful mother. In fact, you can read about her here. She was a stay-at-home mom to me and my six siblings, which was definitely a full-time job! She is the kind of mom I want to be. She was there for every sports game, band competition, and awards show. She was always my rock and even more so in the last two years since my injury. I know without a doubt I want to be that type of mom. I can think of nothing more fulfilling then raising a great child, my own flesh and blood. But now, the one thing I always knew for certain, is very questionable.
First there is the thought of being pregnant in the wheelchair. I have seen the TLC show “Paralyzed and Pregnant” as well as personally know women who have gone through pregnancy while paralyzed. There are obviously many complications and risks involved. For my level of injury, the primary concern would be autonomic dysreflexia. It is also likely that I would be on bed rest for quite a long time and at high risk for pressure sores. Although I know women who have conceived naturally, although paralyzed, it would more likely be a C-section. But it is not the pregnancy that concerns me the most.
If I could barely care for myself, how would I ever care for a child? How can you change a diaper without finger function? How would I get up in the middle of the night to tend to the child? Granted, I’m sure I would not be doing it on my own, but it is still hard to think about how I can provide for a child when I can hardly do for myself. It was the one thing I was always sure that I wanted and now it’s a question of whether or not I have the ability to do it. I would be lying if I did not say it anger me. That is the one thing I knew without a doubt and my injury has taken that away from me. For the last two years I have tried my best to understand that everything happens for a reason and that God has a plan for me, I just wish I understood what that plan was. I feel like I have sacrificed so much but that is one thing I do not want to have to give up. But is it selfish of me? To bring a child into this word when I’m not able to do 100% of what needs to be done to care for that baby. Would it be fair to that child? I think I know the answer, but I don’t like to say it out loud.
This is obviously nowhere in my near future. Heck, I think the hardest part will be finding a decent guy first. It is just something that has been heavy on my heart. It hurts me to think that my plan may not correspond with God’s plan and I’m trying to learn how to accept that, but it’s hard. Of all the obstacles I have had to overcome, this is the one that is most upsetting. Can I really do it? The injury has taken so much away from me and I refuse to let it take that too, but that may just be out of my control. Like I said, it is so far into the future and anything can happen between now and then, but it was something I needed to get off my chest now.
Words, words, words… // March 22, 2012
I just want to take a moment and talk about how touched I am by the support I receive virtually and in my community. Today, I had an appointment to meet with a spinal therapist. I’m trying as hard as I can to straighten my back up from the scoliosis that developed during the first year after my injury. The curve in my spine is now my biggest enemy in regards to becoming more independent in life. But that is a whole other story entirely. Back to today- As I was leaving, I was approached by not only one but two women who knew of me or knew me. It was a small interaction, they told me they were praying for me, continue to follow my progress, and that they have heard nothing but all these great things about how strong I have been throughout this journey. It is so touching and sometimes surreal for me to think about how much support I do have. It is such a blessing and I cannot believe I am as lucky as I am to have all the people in my life that I do, whether I may know them or not. I want nothing more than to give back to everybody who has given to me. Even if all you did was send me a message to let me know you’re thinking of me. It is the small gestures; the people who reach out to me do so much more for me than I probably could ever do for them. Honestly, no words can describe how incredibly blessed I feel to have people who want to help, who want to follow my progress, who pray for me, who think of me more times than I probably ever imagine. It pushes me to work harder, keep believing, and stay motivated and positive. This is exactly what I’ve needed…
We’re all human. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. But do you learn from those mistakes? When something goes wrong, do you immediately give up or do you try harder? When things are frustrating and stressful, do you start complaining or accept defeat? No. No, you do not stop, you do not give up, and you learn from your past. We all have bad days. We all have something bad that will happen to us, however big or small that may be. It’s inevitable. It’s life. We will all suffer loss, sadness, anger, all sorts of negative emotions at some point in our lives. But you cannot let those thoughts or emotions defeat you. You have to learn to let go of control of your life because, honestly, as much as you would like to think it, none of us are in control of our lives. Sure, you can decide where you will live, what you want to do, who you want to be with, and how you want to live your life. Those are pretty much the only four things you can control (we will skip breaking down categories such as you can decide what to eat and drink etc. we could be here for days). But you can’t control things that happen to you, you can only control how you handle it. Sometimes, life seems like nothing but one long domino effect. They say everything happens for a reason, and on most days, I say I would have to agree. Sometimes I’m not sure if I’ll ever know the reason for some things, but I’ve learned to accept that. Because really, what can I do about it? And I also hold onto the faith that there are great things in store for me; that this happened in order to bring me to where I need to be and to do what I need to be doing.
This is something that I’ve been thinking to myself this past week or two. I have no qualms about being very open, honest, and candid about my injury, my life and my recovery. Lately, things have been tough. Sometimes I question if I bit off more than I can chew: beginning the T-shirt fundraiser; working on making the prints; painting the original canvases to make prints and to have for the art festival; driving evaluation; going to Oxford; and preparing for Shepherd. But now that I’m finally starting to get over having yet another UTI, things are starting to look up and not seem as overwhelming. I feel like some people need to understand that I am only a 25-year-old average girl who had an accident. A life-changing accident that I had no idea I would handle the way I have. At the time of my injury, I was 23, living in New Orleans, working as a waitress, in a serious relationship, a group of best friends, and a dog. Then in the blink of an eye, everything changed. Despite having such a catastrophic injury, and a whole new lifestyle, I still enjoy a full and happy quality of life. To me, there is no other option. Although, here lately I have found myself getting frustrated, upset, angry, and just exhausted with everything I have going on and in combination with the side effects of living with a spinal cord injury. It is so much more than just walking. But I continue to remind myself of my blessings, keep my head up, and ‘practice what I preach.’ Sometimes, that’s all you can do. And for now, that’s all I have to say. God bless.
My Letter to Drew Brees // March 15, 2012
Since some people might be unaware of the situation, let me give a brief background. I started seriously painting after my surgery was canceled in January 2012. I was so upset and stressed from the cancellation after months of anxiety leading up to what was supposed to be a major bladder surgery. So I started to paint as an outlet and it transformed into something beautiful for me. It is my physical therapy, occupational therapy, and mental therapy that have really changed my life. I never imagined I could paint, never mind that I do not have finger function, but I was never particularly artistic or have any previous experience or knowledge of art. Doctors told me I would not move past my biceps and here I am painting decent works of art (people say they are good, but I am my own worst critic, so I will say what I want). The “Hoo Dat” Owl was my third painting and represents the journey I’ve been on. I will talk more about that in detail in the letter that I’m about to describe. I have been trying to get this painting to whom it was inspired by: Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Call me crazy, but I want to personally give him my painting and include this letter for him as well. I have a few leads, it’s been a work in progress, but it is a dream of mine that I think I can make come true with the help of others and if Drew Brees considers meeting with me. I hope one day that he will be reading the following letter. If you’re curious why he is my hero or what my paintings mean to me, you can read the following letter that I intend to get to Drew Brees one day:
If this is in fact Drew Brees reading this letter then I have already proven that dreams do come true. My name is Katy Blake, I’m 25 years old and I’m from Pascagoula, MS. I was born and raised a Saints fan and was fortunate enough to be living in New Orleans when you led us to and helped us win our very first Super Bowl. I can never describe what a magical night that was for me, to be living in the city when my favorite football team made history. I have even had opportunities to meet other Saints players while I was working at Slice Pizzeria on St. Charles.
But this is not what this letter is about. My reason for wanting to contact you is not for any personal gain or notoriety, but just to let you know how you inspire people without possibly even knowing it. You were my inspiration for the painting of the Saints “Hoo Dat” owl. For me, personally, this painting represents the journey I have been on since June 13, 2010. On that particular day, I was on a canoe trip with a group of friends in Hattiesburg, MS, when I dove in the water and broke my neck. At 23 years old I was confined to a wheelchair with the diagnosis that I would never move past my biceps, and most certainly not walk again- but I refused to listen. I had many obstacles and setbacks during the four months I was in the hospital and upon returning to Pascagoula to live alone with my mother. By the time I came home on October 6, 2010, I had just learned how to feed myself. Today, however, not only can I feed myself but I have found ways to adapt to do most of my own basic grooming, put on make-up, use my cell phone, use the computer, play the Wii, push myself in a manual wheelchair, and most recently, paint. I have found ways to do all these things that they told me I would never do again… And I do it all without any finger function.
Although the odds may be highly against me, I still believe I can walk again one day if I receive the proper rehab; because I know I have the drive, determination, perseverance, and faith that it takes. In the beginning of 2011, I was actually denied Mississippi Medicaid and left without insurance for almost 3 months. That’s when I decided to use Facebook to try to get help. I started “Help Katy Back to Rehab” as well as www.RehabforKaty.org. Through a simple Facebook page I have been able to inspire other people while continuing to be inspired by them; bring exposure and awareness to spinal cord injuries, especially water safety; and through the help of my community and people on Facebook, have been able to raise enough money for me to attend rehab for two months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA. It has also been through Facebook that I have been able to find somebody who could help me contact you so that I can make sure that you personally receive the painting and this letter.
I find your story very similar. Nobody wanted to come and play for the Saints and by the same token, nobody believed that you could turn the Saints into Super Bowl champions. But you always believed, kept the faith, worked hard, and persevered. And throughout everything you have remained extremely humble, gracious, and an all-around positive role model for anyone to look up to. You have proven that through actions, rather than words, that dreams can come true if you work hard and never give up. That is what I tell myself everyday as I’m still struggling to build muscle and learn how to adapt and improvise so that I can be independent again one day. By no means do I intend to have to live with my retired mother and be under the state Medicaid program my entire life. I know with a lot of work and even more patience, I will get to where God intends me to be. Just as your Super Bowl ring reminds you of your accomplishment, my paintings symbolize my journey and accomplishments in the last year and a half. Once upon a time I could not move my arms. Today I’m beginning to sell my artwork to raise more money to help with the expense of living with a spinal cord injury and to get the proper rehabilitation I need to recover. My paintings symbolize that dreams do come true if you work hard and keep the faith.
I just wanted to let you know that you have touched my life without even having ever met me and I have no doubt that you have done the same for many others. Your faith, determination, humble attitude, and positivity shine through your actions and words. Thank you so much for being who you are and taking the time to read this. I hope that my painting of the “Hoo Dat” owl reminds you of many things: your time in New Orleans; your adoring fans; your accomplishments; how your character inspires others; and to never lose hope and always believe in yourself.