Washington, D.C., Sept. 22 – My life flipped upside down and changed forever on an August summer day in 2004. I was 18 years old when a wave lifted my feet off the ground and slammed me head first against the ocean floor. I remember hearing a loud crack in my neck and could not move my arms or legs. I later awoke in a hospital bed paralyzed below the shoulders, and unable to speak because of a ventilator in my neck helping me to breathe. For four weeks I could not say a word or speak my mind. Eventually I weaned off the ventilator and found my voice again.
Since regaining my voice, I have dedicated my life to letting each and every word be heard with purpose. Whether with my voice or with my powerful power wheels, I try to be a force for good through civic engagement by bettering my community and others living with significant disabilities. I have faced many obstacles compromising my ability to live safely and independently in the community outside of a nursing home. Numerous times I was denied vital government-funded community supports such as attendant care and nursing care. Luckily every time I faced one of these scary challenges, I did not have to face them alone.