Accidents happen …
Three days before Christmas 1990, I was in a bad car accident while driving to my parent’s place for the Holidays. As my car went off the freeway and down the embankment, it tumbled over and threw me out the driver’s side window. Unconscious, I was finally found up in a tree. Put into a medically induced coma at the hospital, I survived a broken clavicle, several broken ribs, a fractured skull and several fractures in my neck without any lasting paralysis.
I had no idea how lucky I was.
After several months of in-patient and out-patient rehabilitation, I still had my job to go back to and was able to return to work.
But I returned to work at, what seemed to be, a snail’s pace. I started working only 4-hours a week — 2-hours a day for two days a week. Even at this pace, I was exhausted, both mentally and physically. My therapist advised me to not go too fast and slowly add more hours to my work-schedule. With the help of my friends, co-workers, therapists and physicians, I celebrated being able to finally work 40-hours a week before the end of the year (1991)!
Years later, I heard about the accident of the actor Christopher Reeve. Because of my own experience, I was sure that, with all his resources, he would also have a successful recovery. Sadly for him, he did not.
I wanted to learn more.
So, that’s exactly what I did: learn much, much more. Using my background in mathematics and the sciences, I began studying neuroscience. Along the way, I learned not only about nerve regeneration and paralysis, but also about the reality of living with disabilities. I became more interested in helping the mobility-impaired with their daily activities that the rest of us so easily take for granted. Although only a handful of patients may be helped with the latest, flashy research projects, there are few, practical services for the majority.
Another accident happened on the 16th anniversary of my own, only this time it was my sister. She was on her way to work at a small architectural firm. In the rain, her car slid down an on-ramp to the interstate and a semi-tractor trailer hit her car broadside. She was in the hospital for 2-months. Unfortunately for my sister, the small firm just could not afford to hold her position open for her. She was laid off and did not receive any additional health services.
I’ve come to learn that my sister’s experience is far more common: to have a traumatic accident and then be laid off without any health insurance. It has yet to be seen what the recent changes in guaranteed health coverage will be. Being able to work and treated as a contributing part of society was a big part of my recovery denied my sister.
My mission for