About Katy

My name is Katy Blake, I’m 26 years old and I live in Pascagoula, Mississippi. On June 13, 2010, while on a canoe trip with a large group of friends on Little Black Creek in Hattiesburg, MS, a friend and I were horse-playing on the sandbar when he suddenly spit on me. Instinctively, I began running to the water to jump in and wash off.  As soon as I dove, I realized it was too shallow, but it was too late. I hit bottom and remained conscious while my body instantly went numb and lifeless. I lay face down in the water for what seemed like an eternity before the same friend pulled me out. I immediately told them that something was wrong and to get me to the sandbar. Although my exterior was calm and collected, on the inside I was panicking and thinking, “I cannot be paralyzed- I cannot handle this. What will my family do?” After a helicopter transported me to Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, it was determined that I fractured my C-5 vertebrae and “bruised” my spinal cord, leaving me paralyzed. I am now an incomplete quadriplegic. Doctors originally thought I would not move past my shoulders. From that moment, I did not listen to doctors about my prognosis and I am still determined to exceed every expectation in regards to my recovery. This has been my challenge since then.

While in the hospital, I encountered many setbacks: I stayed in ICU for a month and a half on a ventilator with pneumonia in my left lung; had a stage 3 pressure sore on my tailbone, which prolonged my hospital stay to nearly 3 months; various respiratory problems such as a mucous plug in my trachea that resulted in a Code Blue, which as a result, put me back in ICU on a ventilator for two more weeks; and a leaking feeding tube which led to an emergency surgery and 11 staples above my belly button, that unfortunately slightly split back open after surgery. It was a constant two steps forward, three steps back. Despite the struggles, I never let it get me down or stop me from working to regain any possible movement, sensation, or function. I eagerly participated in as much physical therapy and occupational therapy as possible and never stop moving as much as I could, hoping to regain anything I could.

The hardest part of my recovery has not been the physical therapy itself, but the financial means to get it. I had private insurance all my life until 10 months prior to my accident. After my injury, I received Mississippi Medicaid. After three months spent in the hospital, it was time to begin rehab. Although I really wanted to attend the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, a world renowned rehab facility for spinal cord injuries, Mississippi Medicaid would not pay for me to do so. I was sent to Mississippi Methodist Rehab Hospital in Jackson, MS. Medicaid was only willing to pay for two weeks of therapy for what was called “The Care-Giver Program.” The focus of these two weeks were to teach my mother, my primary caregiver, on how to take care of me. Gratefully, Mississippi Vocational Rehab paid for another two weeks, extending my stay for a full month. In 30 days, I was expected to learn how to cope with a lifetime of disability.

After returning home alone with my retired mother to the Gulf Coast, nearly 4 hours away from the only spinal cord injury facility in Mississippi, we were on our own. Although I began outpatient therapy at my local hospital, they lacked the equipment and therapists to treat somebody with a spinal cord injury. When I tried to go through government and state agencies to get financial assistance for additional specialized rehab, I was repeatedly denied. At one point, I was denied Mississippi Medicaid for three months, which stopped all outpatient therapy and left me paying full price for all my prescriptions, doctor’s appointments, etc. I have also had a difficult time with my first power wheelchair. It did not fit properly and because of that I’ve developed severe scoliosis, which was hindering my goal to be independent as well as poses health risks.  Instead of moving forward, I was being pushed back. I was constantly frustrated by my lack of resources, which meant lack of progress. I could no longer sit back and watch as life passed before my eyes but yet I remained the same. I knew I had to get back to inpatient rehab one way or another, no matter what it took. I had enough.

In April 2011, after 10 months of setbacks, struggles, denials, and disappointments, I began Help Katy Back to Rehab on Facebook.  In today’s society, social media can change and impact lives like never before seen. I thought if enough people, or the right person, somehow heard about my plight, that they could possibly help; and it became bigger than I ever imagined. That was when my new life really began and my new job, raising funds for rehab, specifically the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia, blossomed. I became my own self advocate, an entrepreneur, an artist, and a writer. Since that time, with the help of family, friends, and a wonderful community, I have had multiple benefits, two major T-shirt fundraisers (selling over 2100 shirts nationwide), was the recipient of a large benefit, called the Charity Bowl, by the Sigma Nu chapter at Ole Miss College in March 2012, and very recently began selling my artwork.

What an amazing journey it has been since creating Help Katy Back to Rehab. With almost followers, it has put happiness and hope back into my life and for society in general. I have met the nicest, most caring people who are inspired by me as much as I’m inspired by them. We were also able to do multiple fundraisers to raise enough money for me to attend additional rehab at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, GA, a top spinal cord facility in the US.

This is just the beginning. I truly believe I can once again lead an independent life and even walk again if I have the right therapy and medical care because I definitely have the drive, faith, willpower, and motivation to go further than the doctors ever would have imagined. And even if I am unable to walk again, I fully intend to have an independent, happy and fulfilled life, even without hand function, chair or no chair. But as they say, Rome was not built in a day.

I’m beginning to speak to children in school about spinal cord injury, safety, and motivation- to never give up and never give in. I also blog about my experiences to help raise awareness and increase knowledge on spinal cord injuries and what it entails , whether it be physical or mental. I feel as if I meant to share my story to help either prevent an accident, educate about treating people with disabilities as equals, or help inspire and encourage others to live their life to the fullest. My injury is not a tragedy, it was a blessing in disguise. Though I may have lost some movement and function, I can still think independently with my mind and love with my all my heart- things that truly matter in life. So much good has come from my accident that I do not live in remorse or bitterness. I live a new kind of normal but I’m still the same person I always was… Perhaps a little wiser. My spiritual faith has never been stronger. Miracles happen every day but you have to believe, and you have to work hard.

I am also organizing and coordinating different fundraisers to help raise more money to help with the high cost of living with this injury. You can check out my artwork for sale at the menu at the top or be sure and check the main page for important updates.

If you’re curious to see previous tv, newspaper, and radio interviews, please check out Media at the menu at the top. Through there you can also find my YouTube channel and the first, original journal/blog documenting my recovery.

I want to thank you again for reading my story and would sincerely appreciate you taking a moment to help spread the word by sharing this on your own Facebook page, email to others, twitter, or by word of mouth. You never know who you may reach and who may be able to help. I ask each of you reading this to please help me in spreading the word of my story. In less than 60 seconds, by simply sharing my page to others, perhaps more people will read about my determination to recover and hopefully reach enough recognition so that I may receive more help. The power of Facebook and online media in today’s society is an amazing tool to spread the word of a great cause. I’m not looking for a handout, I’m looking for a hand up. I graciously thank you for your support in helping me achieve my dreams, which is to regain as much function as possible, be an independent and functional member of society, and to try and walk again. God bless.

11 Responses to “About Katy”

  1. Jerri mowry says:

    I would the prices of your artwork. Especially when Olivia.

  2. Michael templeton says:

    My name is Michael and I got hurt about a few months before you and I am a c6 c7 injury. I hope things are going well in Atlanta, they are the best at what they do. When you get home I would like to arrange a meeting with you if that is okay. I got hurt in diving accident when I was 26, I am 28 and I am from poplarville and I would like to meet I will give you my email tempc7@att.net

  3. Myra Meade says:

    Katy, I am an artist from Hattiesburg. I would like to help if I can. Let me know if you would like to do a fund raiser here or on the coast with art sale. I like your spunk!

  4. Katy, I just received a link to this blog today from someone who has a wonderful heart and shares the best things with me. I am 57 years (young) and Disabled in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I was born with an extremely rare Liver Disease that has affected my muscle development all my life. I never new that part of the disease. I was in construction for over 20 years and could never quite keep up with the others. In 2000 I started to fall with no warning. It got more and more frequent. I would be walking to my truck and my legs just collapsed on me. I would drag myself to the truck, open the door and pull myself up and onto the seat. The doctors told me after a series of tests that i had the disease i was born with (Which I already knew) and if someone with it lives to 40″s their muscles start to dissolve! They gave me 1-1/2 years before I would not be able to use my Legs, Arms or Hands! They put me in a Power wheelchair and basically said stay home, watch TV and try to be comfortable. Like you I could not accept that as my future. I put a pool in my back yard with a lift and went swimming every day. In 2006 my Wife left me for another man , she didn’t want to be a caretaker. I lost everything in the divorce and ended up in a 30+ year old single wide trailer. After paying for the trailer I spent every cent I had left from my half or the house sale to remodel the trailer so I could get in and function. I had a 1981 Dodge van that I bought used from some guys that thrashed the hell out of it but it had a Lift in the back. I had hand controls put in and I drove myself back and forth to work. I had beat the doctors by 4-1/2 years already by then and remained working until September of 2009. I then went on disability and ran into the same problems you experienced. Today I can still lift my arms half way to shoulder height and lift a can of soda using both hands. I started to go to live music 2 or 3 times a week and one artist in particular, Shari Puorto, got me so moved and excited during her show that I actually stood up halfway before yelled, ” It’s a miracle!” It was only then I became conscious of being out of the chair and of course my legs went. But the point is the Live Music got my circulation going, got my heart rate up and eliminated any trace of depression. A little over a year ago I had to get rid of my Van, it was getting too old and too dangerous. So I have had to stop going to live music since then because the bus system in my county only runs till 9pm on weekdays and 7pm on weekends. Most shows don’t even start till 8pm. I found a church that I really enjoy 3 years ago and that has been my saving grace through all this. I need to replace my van with either another Van with a lift or a Trike that I can drive in my wheelchair. both are way out of reach financially. But I will keep on fighting. Thank you Katy,you are a real inspiration for me and I love you for that. God Bless you and godspeed towards your goals! And besides all that you are absolutely beautiful! If I wasn’t twice your age… well I am looking for a love forever and I am actively looking for a woman who is also disabled so we can share our adventures and understand each other’s struggles. Bill

  5. CHELSEA says:

    Thank you, I’ve recently been searching for information approximately this subject for ages and yours is the greatest I’ve came upon till now. But, what about the conclusion? Are you positive concerning the source?|What i do not understood is actually how you’re now not really much more well-liked than you may be right now. You’re so intelligent.

  6. Your story is truly inspirational!
    I wish you the best of luck!

  7. I loved your story so much I had to comment. At certian times in my life I have worked with and taken care of people with injuries such as you have and it’s very moving that you did not give up as so many people do in your situation do and wait to die… I had a childhood friend who went through a similar injury and regained enough mobility to actually be able to drive a van and get himself around. He was an artist and live up in Denver Colorado. Sadly, he died in an auto accident about 10 yrs. after he was confined to a wheelchair but he lived life to its fullest and the school he went to as a young man named the library after him when he passed away. I’ll always remember him as a person full of life and laughter no matter what challenges he faced in life. I will pray for you to be a successfull person in life and as a member of the “WHO DAT NATION”, GO SAINTS…

  8. Jim Havard says:

    May the Creator bless you always!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WALK IN BEAUTY AND PRAYER

  9. Vince says:

    WAW , you are beautiful …Good luck with the rehab too :) Best wishes from UK Vince

  10. Paul Hilbert says:

    Katy, as you probably know, a Tulane football player fractured his spinal cord playing against Tulsa earlier this year. His name is Devon Walker and he wore #18. I would like to commission you to paint something to be sold at a fundraiser for Devon’s rehab care. I would also like to commission you for something of my own. I would want to incorporate Tulane/Holy Name Cathedral/Streetcar/Fleur di Lys and Tulane’s colors (olive and forest green/sky blue). Please let me what this would cost.

  11. Kent Hurtado says:

    Hi Katy my name is kent and I would just like to talk to you about what should I do to help my father he was injured by falling from a tree and fractured his c-2,3,5 vertebrae l. It has been three weeks and he has also suffered from pneumonia and has shown no movement passed his shoulders is there anything you would have wanted when you where in the hospital or anything you liked. Please email me back at kennykh11@gmail.com
    P.s. I am 13