Oh Happy Day: Declaration for my Independence

There is something therapeutic about exfoliating with a sugar scrub. Removing the old, tattered skin and revealing the newer, brighter you makes your skin glisten and warms your spirit.

While shedding last week’s layer in the shower this morning, I decided to resurrect my first post-injury published piece as today’s post. Talking about my spinal cord injury has never been a real “issue” for me, but looking at the hospital pics always trigger a negative, physical response. My body shuns it.

Anyway, I have decided to share it all with you guys to shout my testimony all over this blogosphere. I hope you gain something from it. And if you did, please share it in the comments below. And if it didn’t, you can tell me that too! Happy Fourth everybody.

Declaration for my Independence
July 4, 2006

Red blood. White lab coats. Blue surgical masks. I’m sure this is not the red, white and blue you were thinking of on this Fourth of July. I just can’t seem to envision a firework display that is brighter and louder than the piercing glare of emergency responder floodlights or the squealing cries of a MedEvac helicopter. While many of you celebrate the official independence of the United States of America from Britain with festive barbeques and dazzling fireworks, I will pensively commemorate the gift of life as my independence was redefined nearly 18 months ago.

My sea green, jacquard comforter seamed to float as I tossed it over the balcony during a summer renovation – too lazy to carry it down the stairs. Peering over the banister, I stood in a combination of amazement and fear of heights. The distance between my feet and the ground seemed like miles away. Little did I know that a freak accident would drive me to take the same flight as my linen on December 19, 2004, falling 30 feet from the very spot where I stood.

The ER doctor rattled down my laundry list of injuries as if she were announcing roll call in an elementary school classroom: a severely broken leg, possible internal bleeding, respiratory complications, spinal injury, and many more. It seemed to be all too much at once as I then took a brief departure from this earth before being resuscitated. Fracturing my neck proved to be the most significant of my injuries, but not insurmountable by the medical staff of the nation’s only trauma hospital, R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, Maryland. After undergoing several stabilizing surgeries, I gave my doctors an affirmative nod when asked if I was ready to go to the rehabilitation hospital. Although I was unable to speak due to the incision along my windpipe for more comfortable breathing, I looked forward to beginning my new life on the first day of the new year.

Every rehabilitating patient had a wheelchair, walker or cane at Kernan Hospital. Even after being assigned a wheelchair for mobility, I never really comprehended the extent of my injuries until my orthopedic surgeon vehemently stated, “There is a 99 percent chance she will never walk again.” Just like that. No sugar-coating or gentle delivery. I was served the hardcore, scientific prognosis. These words echoed in the halls of the hospital for the day, but I soon replaced them with more powerful words from the Bible: “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed (Isaiah 53:5 KJV).”

Each day of my four month stay was a challenge. My hands appeared oiled as every item slid through my grasp. Successfully brushing my teeth or eating without assistance required weeks of strengthening. It later became more physically (and mentally) challenging by learning how to move my body without the use of my torso or legs. Determined to prevail, every ounce of frustration was circumvented with a prayer of thanks for God’s salvation.

Living with a spinal cord injury is a life-long fight that requires immense perseverance to achieve as much independence as possible. The dawn of each day brings new challenges, along with new opportunities to overcome them. So today, on this Independence Day, I reflect on that which makes me unique, acknowledging He that provides me strength and celebrating life come what may. Accepting my condition as “differently-abled” provides a sense of liberation, knowing that I can only handicap myself by placing limitations on my own abilities. Because I use a wheelchair for mobility, I often encounter environmental barriers such as curbs and stairs. Yet, these are merely small hurdles unlike the mountains I must climb when correcting narrow-minded attitudes towards the disabled community. I am not crippled, handicapped, or wheelchair-bound. I am Justice – a spirited, unbiased thinker that chooses to live and not simply exist. You see, independence comes in many forms. Your body may be full-functioning, but is your mind free?

Keep it Moving!