Tag Archives: Catastrophic Injury

Hello, Puffin! This Assistive Tech Innovation Could Change Lives

Born with cerebral palsy, Adriana Mallozzi experienced the life-changing possibilities of technology early in her life. Her experiences led her to conceptualize a game-changing new concept for assistive technology for people living with catastrophic illnesses or injuries: Puffin was born. This is the story of a new take on puff-and-sip technology that could drastically improve everyday access for people living with physical disabilities.

Adriana, center, came up with the concept for a new kind of puff-and-sip device


What makes the Puffin unique?


A puff-and-sip device allows someone living with paralysis to operate a power chair with their mouth just by sucking in air and expelling it again. The Puffin takes it a step further by allowing you to operate not just your chair but also your phone and other connected devices seamlessly through one device.

The Puffin enables individuals with disabilities to directly access their mobile devices and operate them. You can, for example, turn the lights off, access your Roku box right from your chair, shop, or make travel arrangements. You can call 911 or an emergency contact in the event of a medical crisis. We plan on expanding this connection further so the Puffin can integrate with additional emergency access devices like Life Alert.

The majority of today’s assistive technology does not understand the real needs of its users. Universal design is not evolving at the same rate as technological advancements. There are so many assistive devices that a user must adjust to, instead of the other way around. The Puffin uses machine learning to make the device operate more efficiently over time by adapting to your preferences and habits.

We know that accessibility can be defined in many different ways. Our goal is complete accessibility; that includes a new puff-and-sip design that’s both portable and affordable. The Puffin is unique because our device is user-centric, learning from your input and requiring just one device to access multiple other pieces of technology. As technology advances, so will our device.


Walk us through Puffin’s origin story.


Having a disability pushed me to be innovative in my approach to everything. My love for technology started when I was seven and my occupational therapist introduced me to assistive technology that allowed me to use a computer by myself. It was my first taste of independence and I was hooked!

The idea for the Puffin had been floating around in my head for a while. I love to travel, but typically I don’t bring my power chair for various reasons, and as a result, I feel cut off from everything. Like everyone else these days, I am dependent on personal electronics and the need to always stay connected. I knew that I needed to develop technology that was portable, that could shift and travel with me.

I got the opportunity to submit my idea to the MIT Assistive Technology Hackathon in 2015. I was one of 13 people chosen to participate, and I won first place. Four talented MIT engineering students took my vision and built a prototype. From there, I formed a team with Shana Penna, my co-founder and COO. We received funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Mass Life Sciences Internship Competition. Puffin became a MassChallenge Boston 2017 finalist. It is incredible to finally see my vision come to fruition.

Adriana’s Puffin-enabled selfie


Can access to technology improve your quality of life?


Access to technology can improve someone’s life in a multitude of ways. The more support a person has, the better their health will be. Technology can make a tremendous impact when it comes to providing support to someone living with a disability. Here are some examples:

  • Technology can allow someone to get an education so they can potentially get a better job and improve their economic situation.
  • Technology can connect someone to an online banking platform and other financial tools so they can better manage and even increase their net worth.
  • If a newly-injured person has access to their community through social media platforms, they can experience a greater level of support, which can help them to psychologically cope with the injury.

One of the big impacts of technology is greater independence. There is a quantifiable impact on a person’s life if they feel dependent and immobile. It affects every part of who they are.


Can cost be a barrier to technology access and mobility?


Assistive technology is a great example of health-related expenses gone awry. When things have the assistive technology label on them, the cost of the product rises exponentially. Costs can prohibit someone with a disability from attaining essential technologies. This is why affordability is a factor in our initiative.

Keeping costs reasonable is critical for Puffin

To be accessible, this technology needs to be affordable for all users. That philosophy influences our development process and forces us to think outside the box. We have learned that thinking about technology from a user-cost perspective actually adds value to our product, because that creativity can lead to novel ideas.


How does hope tie into your vision for Puffin?


For us, especially for me personally, hope is directly reflected in this project. We hope that everyone can access the same level of technology that I have been able to access myself. We hope to enhance the lives of people with disabilities by providing a higher level of access than any of us have experienced before. To us, hope is assistive technology that is accessible for all.

“Hope is assistive technology that is accessible for all.”


How can readers support Puffin?


A new crowdfunding campaign will help to cover our costs for patent filing, branding, and keeping the project moving forward. You can make a pledge to the campaign online right now, or help us spread the word by following Puffin and sharing our content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram @puffinsip.

Adriana, Shana, and Marian are moving their project forward through crowdfunding


You can learn more about Puffin at puffinsip.com or by visiting the Easter Seals booth #549 at the Abilities Expo in Boston September 8-10, 2017. In addition to Adriana, the contributors to this interview were Puffin’s Shana Penna, “wannabe innovator”, co-founder, and COO; and Marian Herman-Echkah, mechanical engineer.

4 Things to Remember on World Spinal Cord Injury Day

September 5 is World Spinal Cord Injury Day, kicking off a month of injury-focused content, educational resources, and awareness efforts. This is your opportunity to better understand spinal cord injuries and how they affect the people who live with them. Here are four things you should know.


A spinal cord injury affects every single part of your life.


Spinal cord injuries can flip your entire world upside down in an instant. That impact extends to your family and friends, too. As the World Spinal Cord Injury Day website explains, “paralysis has devastating physical, mental, social, sexual and vocational consequences for the injured. The injury increases the burden on his or her entire support network.”

“The average person doesn’t realize that I am not just sitting,” said Danielle Watson, living with paralysis since 2011. “Sitting is the easy part. I constantly have to think about my bladder, my digestion, my bones, my joints, my body mechanics, avoiding pressure sores, my temperature, my water intake…the list goes on!” Danielle revealed one of the biggest challenges of managing these risks: feeling pressure to keep health issues under wraps. “I usually keep all of this hidden from people,” she said. “I try to portray that I have everything together.”

Danielle Watson Help Hope Live

“Sitting is the easy part,” explained Danielle Watson

As father-turned-caregiver Dennis McGonagle explained, supporting his son Sean’s health following a spinal cord injury “is a minute-to-minute task. We have therapy three times a week, doctor’s appointments, and daily care and companionship needs.”

McGonagle Help Hope Live

Dennis (wearing hat) is a caregiver for his wife Kass (left) and his son Sean

“When the physical manner by which you relate to the world is changed, the emotional nature of that relationship changes as well,” explained Theo St. Francis, living with a spinal cord injury since 2013. “There is an overwhelming feeling of loss that accompanies a paralyzing injury to the spinal cord. In some ways, one’s sense of self fades with the loss of our subconscious daily patterns.” Theo has found it “immensely satisfying” physically and emotionally to pursue specialized therapy to strengthen his body after injury.

Theo St. Francis Help Hope Live

Theo pursues therapy to regain mobility, flexibility, and strength


…but it doesn’t mean you have no life.


You can have a full life after injury that includes everything people without disabilities enjoy, from having a family to pursuing a meaningful career to living an independent life and engaging in hobbies you love with friends by your side.

Mary Ruth Armbruster strove for independence after her 2011 spinal cord injury – and she found it. “I am employed full-time, am a homeowner, and spend my summers camping and enjoying the warmth and my winters downhill skiing.” John LeMoine has enjoyed off-roading, fishing, rock climbing, biking, competing in athletic events, and even skydiving after sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2014.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alex Paul, Richard Travia, and Jeff Sachs can all attest to the possibilities of having a loving and committed relationship or raising kids after a paralyzing injury. “The injury has brought us challenges,” Katie Travia explained, “but our relationship is stronger than ever. Richard is my best friend and soulmate.”

Alex Paul Help Hope Live

Alex Paul can attest to the possibility of love and marriage after injury

Though a freak accident left Kirk Williams with paralysis, “my injury hasn’t stopped me from doing what I love. I still do photography, camp, mountain bike and enjoy wheelchair rugby, scuba diving, hand cycling, and traveling.” Kirk founded a UAV-powered production company and continues to remind himself “that anything is possible.” “Get out there and try everything you can,” he urged.

Paralyzed from the neck down with little movement or sensation, Elizabeth EB Forst still actively travels independently, attends concerts, goes scuba diving, and serves as an advocate for the spinal cord injury community. “Friends seem shocked that I am still just who I was before my injury,” said EB. “My mantra has always been that anything is possible.”

Elizabeth EB Forst Help Hope Live

Elizabeth EB Forst travels, attends concerts, and more after injury


Spinal cord injuries are extremely expensive, even if you have insurance.


According to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, a spinal cord injury could cost you over $1 million in the first year. You can expect to pay up to $4.5 million over the course of your life depending on the level and severity of the injury.

Even a small home modification could cost $5,000 or more out-of-pocket. Need a new power chair? That’ll be $20,000 and up, and insurance may not cover it. If you want to pursue physical rehabilitation to improve mobility after an injury, you may have to come up with $20,000 or more to cover one year of therapy alone. Could your family handle these out-of-pocket costs without help?

SCI costs

Just a few of the costs individuals living with a spinal cord injury must cover

Eric LeGrand has been one of the most visible spinal cord injury advocates following his 2010 injury he sustained playing football for Rutgers University. He and his family were shocked by post-injury costs. “When it was time for me to leave the hospital, I realized I wouldn’t be able to move around my home with my wheelchair,” he said. “We had to completely rebuild the house from the ground up. The cost is huge.”

As Eric noted, skip the essentials and you risk experiencing isolation or burdening others: “Without my chair, I would be trapped in my room. I’m lost without my phone, and technology has helped me with my quality of life. I don’t have to rely on family or caregivers to do everything for me, but insurance won’t pay for at least half of what you’d think they’d pay for.”

Why so little support from insurance for post-injury care? “Our insurance system is broken,” explained Jeffrey Brandt, founder and CEO of Ability Prosthetics & Orthotics, Inc. “Insurance companies view many mainstream mobility requirements as luxuries and consequently won’t cover the cost. That may extend to physical therapy at any level, life-changing medical supplies, replacement supplies, or equipment. Insurance is in the business of not paying out benefits whenever possible.”


…but help is out there.


Most individuals living with a spinal cord injury cannot navigate the physical, emotional, and financial burdens on their own. One way to make a difference on World Spinal Cord Injury Day is to share our website with someone who might need our help.

If you know a family coping with a spinal cord injury, help them understand how fundraising could positively change their lives. They can reach Help Hope Live via phone at 800.642.8399 or online at helphopelive.org to find out if our nonprofit fundraising solution is the right fit for their situation.

What the Holiday Season Means to Me After a Spinal Cord Injury

In 2009, Kirk Williams was a motivated Colorado sociology graduate who filled his downtime with outdoor adventures and sports. In November of that year, a “complete freak accident, like trip-over-your-shoelaces kind of crash” changed his life: Kirk sustained a C5 spinal cord injury as he flew over the handlebars of his mountain bike. The injury left him paralyzed with a limited amount of feeling in his legs and limited use of his fingers.

kirk_10

Kirk didn’t want his injury to put the brakes on his full and active lifestyle

As soon as he was able, Kirk began to immerse himself once again in outdoor adventures and sports. “My injury did influence my hobbies but I haven’t stopped doing what I love,” he explained. “I still do photography, camp, mountain bike [and] new hobbies like wheelchair rugby, scuba diving and hand cycling. I love travel and I was not reluctant at all to travel after my injury.”

Photo by SCI Recovery Project via Facebook.

Rehabilitation helped Kirk to reclaim his adventurous lifestyle, little by little. Source

Kirk is the founder, director and pilot/camera operator of the UAV-powered video production agency Birds Eye Optics. “It’s wild to think that while most people may think that since I’m in a wheelchair, my perspective is limited,” observed Kirk. “Actually, with my career, I see further than ever before.”

x

“With my career, I see further than ever before.”

He credits fundraising and community support as essential parts of his journey. “My community of family and friends has been one of the most significant parts of me getting where I am today,” said Kirk. “Without the help of friends, family and HelpHOPELive, I wouldn’t have been able to afford the amazing equipment and lifestyle that I love to live. With my incredible support system, I’ve surpassed even my wildest dreams of what is possible.

I see each [injury] anniversary as a day to look back and see just how far I’ve progressed. I remind myself that anything is possible. I’ve taken the cards I’ve been dealt to not only survive but thrive in what first seemed nearly impossible circumstances.”

x

On each injury anniversary, “I remind myself that anything is possible.”

Asked about the end of the year approaching, Kirk captured a sentiment shared by many of our clients, whether they are living with an injury or waiting for a transplant: the holidays are a time for hope, family and looking to the future. “The holidays are always a wonderful time of year,” explained Kirk. “I can catch up with friends and family and we can enjoy each other’s company. As crazy as they are, it’s always rewarding to have my entire family together in one place.”

The hustle and bustle of the season doesn’t appeal to Kirk, who said, “my favorite part of the holidays is being able to relax with the ones you love. It’s not about the busy times for me…it’s the downtime that I cherish the most. And the food!”

x

What do the holidays mean to Kirk? Hope, family and looking to the future.

I usually make a New Year’s resolution,” said Kirk. “It’s a good chance for me to attack my goals with a refreshed set of eyes.”

His advice for others entering the holiday season and looking ahead to the new year? “Life is short, so why not try to experience it to the fullest? Get out there and try everything you can. You can be as happy or as upset about your injury and your life as you choose to be. It’s entirely up to you.

x

Kirk says happiness after a spinal cord injury “is entirely up to you.”

What does hope mean to Kirk? “Hope means having my eyes set on what lays ahead, and knowing there is always a possibility for positivity given the right mindset.”

We know fundraising can make a significant impact on an individual’s life through the power of community, both financially and emotionally. As you continue to trust our nonprofit for a lifetime of medical fundraising support, we hope this holiday season brings you memorable times with friends and family and plenty of opportunities to look ahead, with hope.

x

From our family to yours! Photo by Kirk.


Kirk Williams continues to fundraise with HelpHOPELive for the lifetime out-of-pocket medical and related expenses associated with his injury.

Bella Da Dawg is Kirk’s four-legged companion. She “spends most of her days dreaming of tennis balls” and “screwing up sound from her habitual snoring and striking good looks.”

5 Unforgettable Facts About Diving And Spinal Cord Injuries

“The only safe dive is the one you never take,” claimed an infographic from Shepherd Center. Is it true that diving puts you at risk? How serious is the connection between diving and spinal cord injuries?

July is the number one month for diving injuries by a wide margin. Here are 5 facts you need to know to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.


Fact 1: Diving is the fourth leading cause of paralyzing spinal cord injuries.


According to Shepherd Center, diving makes the list of the top five causes of spinal cord injuries with paralysis. 89% of individuals who get hurt diving are male and 11% are female. Most individuals who are injured are between 20 and 29 years old.

Shepherd Hospital SCI Dive Accidents Poster


Fact 2: There are multiple ways to sustain an injury while diving.


There are multiple ways for a dive to end in injury or paralysis based on the location and structure of the spinal cord. The severity of disability depends on the level of the spinal cord where the damage occurs.

The vertebrae of the spine, separated by intervertebral fibrous discs, protects the nervous system’s spinal cord. It is possible to damage the spinal cord by injuring the vertebrae and discs or by injuring the spinal cord itself. “Severe damage to the cord and nerves emerging from the vertebral column will cause paralysis,” reported WHO.

Neck Injury Under Wave rotational Neck Injury Under Wave Verticle Compression & Hyperflexion

A user forum on Apparelyzed highlighted some of the many ways that diving can lead to a life-altering injury:

“My husband dove into a pool on Labor Day weekend. He is a C4.”

“My spouse dove into a sponge pit. He is now a C5/6.”

“[To me] dives must include anything headfirst, whether it be into lakes, swimming pools, the sea, trampolines or bouncy castles.”

“I made a conscious though foolish decision to launch myself from my patio roof into an above ground pool ten feet away. It was a calculated risk that turned ugly. C5/6 anterior incomplete, with all the bells and whistles.”

“I dove into a surfboard. C7 complete.”

Dumped on the seabed by a huge wave…C4/5 complete.”

“When you swim competitively, you dive into the pool at the shallow end from a racing block. I was goofing around and dove too deep and hit the bottom.”

“I dove off a 70-foot-high cliff and was fine. Then I dove into a shallow area (of water) from about 6 to 7 feet and hit the sand on the bottom, fracturing my spine at C5/6.”


Fact 3: Water can be deceptive, even if you are a good judge of depth.


Many individuals who sustained a spinal cord injury from diving echo the same lament: “I thought I had good perception skills. I thought I could trust myself to stay safe.” The truth is that water often appears to be deeper than it is, which can lead to devastating errors of judgment even for experienced swimmers and divers.

HelpHOPELive diving safety

Even experienced swimmers can misjudge depth

“The physics of what happens is unforgiving, as a diver can enter the water at 15 feet per second. Most of these accidents occur in water that is less than 3 feet deep,” explained Dr. Robert Bohinski in a PSA from Mayfield Clinic. “These accidents [are] completely preventable.


Fact 4: A single dive can alter your life forever.  


In 2014, Dillon Connolly was swimming with friends when he performed a simple dive from one area of the water to another. Storms had created a sandbar beneath the water, and the impact shattered Dillon’s C5-C7 vertebrae. What followed was “the longest year of Dillon’s life,” explained girlfriend Kerry Sheridan. “Immediate surgery, nearly a month of intensive care, three months of intensive physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and lifestyle adaptations.”

Dillon Connolly HelpHOPELive

Dillon shattered his C5-C7 vertebrae while diving

Dillon explained that being an experienced swimmer isn’t enough to protect you from a dive that can severely alter the rest of your life. “I swam my entire life competitively,” he explained. “It even paid for college. I broke my neck diving into a wave where the sandy bottom went from deep to too shallow. I tell everyone I meet who asks what happened to never dive unless you can see the bottom, and to tell their kids and friends, too.”

Dillon Connolly HelpHOPELive

Dillon with his girlfriend, Kerry, and dog, Reef


Cole Sydnor was 16 when a diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. “The average person may not understand the extent to which our injuries affect us ‘behind the scenes,” Cole explained in an interview. “Most people…are never exposed to what it takes for [us] to shower, dress, use the restroom, etc. Those are the hardest parts about living with a spinal cord injury.”

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole was 16 when he became paralyzed from the chest down

To add to the physical and emotional challenges, spinal cord injuries can come along with a host of pricey out-of-pocket expenses. “Any medical expenses deemed unnecessary by insurance fall on my family and it becomes their responsibility to make those purchases,” Cole explained. “My elevator, room and bathroom renovation, and truck were all expenses that our community rallied to help fund.”

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole’s community “rallied to help fund” his out-of-pocket needs

Today, Cole and his family are vocal advocates for swimming and diving safety with the No What UR Divin’ N2 campaign. “I’ve been able to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and spread a message about the importance of diving safety to youth in my community,” Cole said.

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole and his family are now diving safety advocates


Jeff Granger Harris broke his neck diving into the ocean in 2007. “He ran in to jump over a wave like me and him had done 20,000 times,” explained Jeff’s brother, Greg. Jeff hit his head “at the right angle, at the right speed, at the right tilt of the universe” and became paralyzed. “Anything you’re used to doing, you can’t do anymore in Jeff’s situation,” noted Greg.

Jeff Harris HelpHOPELive

Fundraising helps Jeff expand his mobility options

Jeff will face lifelong physical and financial challenges because of a split-second dive. “This is the only life that I have and I’m going to make the best of it. HelpHOPELive allows you some of that ability through fundraising,” he said. Fundraising has helped Jeff to bridge the gap between what insurance will cover and what he needs for a fulfilling and engaging life.

Jeff’s incredible story will be highlighted in an upcoming video from HelpHOPELive. Subscribe to our YouTube channel today and be among the first of our followers to see it!

Jeff Harris HelpHOPELive

A new video tells Jeff’s story


Lauren Shevchek had been swimming competitively for over a decade. At age 19, she dove into a pool and fractured three cervical vertebrae. She lost feeling from her chest downward.

Lauren Shevchek HelpHOPELive

Lauren was a competitive swimmer before her diving injury

Lauren worked through months of inpatient rehabilitation to regain some of her independence. She is beginning to recover some feeling beneath her injury site, though she mostly only experiences those sensations as pain. As her mother, Janice, explained, “We have learned to celebrate any sensation, including pain, as a sign that things are reconnecting.”

Lauren and her family speak publicly about the dangers of diving in order to reduce the number of diving-related injuries. Janice explained why she is a vocal advocate for diving safety. “Teens in particular are shocked when I mention that paralysis is not just about walking. It’s about losing your ability to urinate and move your bowels on your own,” Janice said. “Once they begin to understand, they will never forget how devastating the injury is.”

Lauren Shevchek HelpHOPELive

Lauren speaks publicly about the dangers of diving even as an experienced swimmer


Fact 5: You can make a difference.


You have a responsibility to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from preventable diving-related spinal cord injuries. Here are a few things you can do right now:

  1. Educate yourself about safe behaviors and share what you learn with your loved ones.
  2. Always swim with a lifeguard.
  3. Enter water feet first, even if you do not plan to dive.
  4. Don’t dive at all to maximize your chances of preventing injury and paralysis.
  5. Take the Feet First Pledge! Save and share the graphic below or share it via Facebook or Twitter.

HelpHOPELive

“Have the conversations,” urged Janice Shevchek. “Share Lauren’s slogan with kids: ‘If you can’t see through it, don’t dive into it.‘ Never dive headfirst into water you can’t see through, no matter how experienced you are. And don’t ever act on a dare or try risky stunts. The consequences just aren’t worth it.

Mobility Matters: How To Get The Equipment You Need

If your family has been affected by a catastrophic injury or illness, it can be a challenge to cover the costs associated with mobility and quality of life. Fundraising can help you offset the out-of-pocket expenses that come with a disabling injury or illness so you and your family can have a brighter and more mobile future.


What Our Nonprofit Can Do For You


If you are coping with a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, stroke or a catastrophic illness that affects mobility, we can help you rally your community to raise funds, providing tailored support from one of our expert Fundraising Coordinators. There’s a reason families choose HelpHOPELive over crowdfunding platforms. In addition to one-on-one guidance, HelpHOPELive offers other unique advantages:

  • Nonprofit Status (receive tax deductible donations and corporate and matching grants);
  • Online Donation Page;
  • Bill Pay Support and more.

Mobility expenses are costly. After a spinal cord injury, families may be responsible for $480,000 to $985,000 or more within the first year alone. Lifetime costs associated with an injury range from $500,000 to $3 million depending on severity. Here are just a few of the mobility-related expenses you may want to fundraise for:

  • Health insurance premiums, deductibles and co-pays
  • Medications
  • Travel expenses and temporary relocation costs for rehabilitation and treatment
  • Home medical equipment
  • Home modifications for accessibility
  • Home health care services and caregiving
  • Physical therapy and vocational rehabilitation
  • Experimental treatment

the cost of a spinal cord injury


For people who are living with a catastrophic illness or injury, challenges associated with uncovered medical expenses last a lifetime. HelpHOPELive is often able to help families over many months or years as they face long-term challenges with uncovered medical expenses.

Richard Travia Katie Travia HelpHOPELive

Don’t let expenses hold you back as your life moves forward

Many of our clients offset the cost of their ongoing mobility essentials through annual community events planned with our fundraising expertise. For example:

With an annual Curlathon entering its tenth year, Jeff Harris gives his community a tangible way to contribute to the expenses that allow him to remain independent, including home health care and accessible transportation.

A yearly spaghetti dinner fundraiser helps Aaron Teel continue the rehabilitation that will help him “play soccer, surf, golf, snowboard, skateboard” and improve his quality of life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Our Partnership With NMEDA


If your goal is to fundraise for an accessible vehicle, you may qualify for a campaign under our partnership with the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA). As NMEDA CEO Dave Hubbard observed, “Sometimes, the barrier to an automotive mobility solution is a gap in funding.”

Mobility Awareness Month NMEDA

NMEDA established National Mobility Awareness Month (celebrated every May) as an opportunity to raise awareness about why mobility matters and encourage families to learn how they can secure the accessible transportation they need. Through our partnership, we hope to help families across the country experience greater freedom and mobility than ever before.


Voices Of Hope: Jacob Gets His Van


Joining forces with NMEDA is more than just a partnership on paper for our organization: just ask the family of Jacob Norwood. Jacob is a 12-year-old living with FOXG1 Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes both physical and cognitive delays (Jacob is one of only 159 known cases of this disorder in the world). Non-mobile, non-verbal and legally blind, Jacob requires full-time care and an assortment of medical supplies to stay healthy.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Jacob’s family entered the NMEDA Local Heroes competition to win an accessible van that would lift a considerable financial burden off their shoulders. When the contest ended without a win for the Norwoods, they decided to fundraise with HelpHOPELive to make their mobility dream a reality.

With community support and fundraising guidance, the Norwood family was able to raise more than $40,000 and cover the cost of an accessible 2015 Dodge Caravan to help transport Jacob into town, to the park and to medical appointments. As Jacob’s mother, Heather, explained to a local news station, “He is going to be able to have fun and we are going to be able to be a family [with the van]. I still shake my head in disbelief about what we have been able to accomplish and the support that we have.”


Get Started!


Need help covering the out-of-pocket costs associated with vital mobility expenses? Start a fundraising campaign with HelpHOPELive. We’re proud to provide nonprofit accountability and one-on-one fundraising support to help keep you mobile.

Mobility Matters: Community Support Can Open Doors After Injury

As Mobility Awareness Month continues, we hear from Cole Sydnor, who was 16 when a diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Today, almost five years after the accident, loved ones describe him as a fierce competitor, a compassionate friend and a community member dedicated to giving back.

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole coaches the Richmond Sportable Spokes wheelchair basketball team


Are mobility and independence important to you?


Mobility and independence are important no matter who you are. For me specifically, they are of the utmost importance, because a spinal cord injury can prohibit one from enjoying them freely. It has taken great effort to recover some semblance of the mobility and independence I once had. Now that I have, mobility and independence are allowing me to successfully navigate college and even hold a full-time internship away from home.


How has physical therapy impacted your life?


Without physical therapy, not only would I have an incomplete understanding of what I am capable of, I wouldn’t even have built up the strength to reach that potential.


What financial challenges has your family faced since the injury?


Financially, expenses were centered on making everything accessible. That began with adding an elevator to my house and converting my room and bathroom so they would be completely accessible—all three projects were very expensive. We also had to purchase a truck which could accommodate a specific (wheelchair) lift so that I’d be able to drive.

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

The financial strain on Cole’s family was “significant” after injury

To this day, any medical expenses deemed unnecessary by insurance fall on my family, and it becomes their responsibility to make those purchases out of pocket. Expenses add up quickly. One current expense is outpatient physical therapy. On top of paying for college, the financial strain has been significant.


How did your community support you after you were injured?


At the time, I was certain that my life had been irreparably changed for the worse. Motivating myself was not enough to get my butt in gear, so I relied on friends and family to help me find that motivation to work towards recovery. I was able to lean on my loved ones whose encouragement was neverending. Without that presence constantly pushing me forward, it’s likely that I’d still be swallowed by despair, doing nothing and helping no one.

Expenses which go uncovered by insurance can rack up quickly. My elevator, room and bathroom renovation, and truck were all expenses that our community rallied to help fund. Without my community, we would have had no shot at those things and more.

Cole Syndor HelpHOPELive

Friends and family were a big source of support


Can you describe how it felt to go to college away from home?


Well, I was very nervous and apprehensive about going away to college. What comforted me was the proximity of campus to my home and the fact that my brother was going to be living with me. Like when I was first injured, I really relied on the encouragement and support of my friends and loved ones to make the leap to living on campus.

In hindsight, I was over-worried. The transition was surprisingly smooth, largely due to the very accommodating services of University of Richmond. They put in hard paths where they may have only been an off-road path, moved classes to the most accessible buildings, and placed me in a spacious room centrally located on campus.


What do you think the average person doesn’t realize about spinal cord injuries?


The average person may not understand the extent to which our injuries affect us “behind the scenes.” Most people only encounter people with spinal cord injuries when they are out in public but are never exposed to what it takes for them to shower, dress, use the restroom, etc. Those are the hardest parts about living with a spinal cord injury and unless someone makes an effort to understand, he or she may never realize it.


What are you most proud of?


I’ve been able to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and spread a message about the importance of diving safety to youth in my community and beyond. A mother told me a story of how her son jumped off a river dock and broke his leg, not realizing that the water was very shallow. She was angry with him, but then he told her, “Mom, I didn’t dive. I remembered Cole’s story.”

Cole Sydnor

Cole is proud of his diving safety advocacy work


What are you looking forward to this year?


First and foremost, I’m looking forward to helping out with a fundraising event which will benefit a foundation that offers private scholarships for varsity or collegiate athletes who have been injured or become chronically ill. Next, I would say graduating from college. After that, if I could land a stable job in my field of interest, I would be stoked.

Most of all though, I look forward to the day that there is a cure for spinal cord injuries. My life would be transformed in an instant, the same way it was on the day I was injured. To me, the word “hope” means that one day I’ll walk again.


Do you know someone who needs community support to live a mobile and independent life after injury? Learn more about fundraising for mobility essentials at helphopelive.org. Mobility matters!

Mobility Matters: “You Are Always Stronger Than You Think You Are”

Just a few days before her final college exams, Morgan Ott fell through scaffolding and became paralyzed from the chest down with limited right hand function. Twenty-two year-old Morgan explains how life has changed since the injury and how mobility impacts her daily life.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Morgan fundraises for mobility essentials


How much did you know about spinal cord injury before you were injured?


Before my injury, I knew little to nothing about spinal cord injury. I have learned a tremendous amount since. When my injury happened, my close friends and family members researched spinal cord injury, the healing process and how my day-to-day life would be affected. I am learning new things every day.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Morgan says she “is learning new things every day”


How did your community respond to your injury?


My family has been by my side from the moment I was in the emergency room. In the beginning, they took me to all of my doctors’ appointments and therapy sessions. Now, they are still always there when I need someone to talk to or if I need any help. Coworkers, friends and the community also reached out to show me their support.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Friends and family have supported Morgan throughout her journey

My friends came to visit me in the hospital often, and one of my sorority sisters set me up with my first fundraising page with a goal of $5,000 on a crowdfunding platform. I switched from a crowdfunding site to HelpHOPELive because I had heard great things about the organization, and how it was easier to continuously raise funds for lifetime expenses with support from HelpHOPELive. Fundraising with HelpHOPELive allows me to request the funds when I need them instead of having to wait until I reach a set goal amount.


Will fundraising influence your mobility options?


Yes! I am currently fundraising for a Galileo tilt table, therapy at Project Walk, a standing frame, an FES system to help my circulation and keep my muscles active, and a Smartdrive power assist device to help me get around more easily by myself.


Have you experienced a range of different emotions since you were injured?


I think I have experienced probably every emotion possible, from extreme happiness to feeling very depressed. I often find that when I am the happiest, I think more about how much better my situation would be if I could just get up and walk again, and then I get very sad. It’s like extreme happiness comes with a price. Most days, though, I am very content and just happy to be where I am.


What do you think is the most common misconception about life in a wheelchair?


A lot of people assume that since I am in a wheelchair I need help with every daily activity or that I can’t live on my own or provide for myself. Most people are also surprised when they find out that I drive (with the use of hand controls).

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

“A lot of people assume…I need help with every daily activity”


What advice would you give to someone else living with a spinal cord injury?


You are always stronger than you think you are. No matter what obstacles life gives you, there are ways to get past them and continue living a healthy life. In terms of working with HelpHOPELive and covering your expenses, it’s never too late to fundraise, but the sooner the better.


Do you still strive to maintain an active lifestyle?


I recently moved down to southern California with my best friend. I am pursuing physical therapy twice a week for two hours per session, and I am finishing school with Arizona State University online. I am planning to get a job within the next couple of weeks to help me keep busy and make money. I also started attending a wheelchair dance class in which there are many other women around my age in chairs learning and performing routines.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

Morgan attends a chair-inclusive dance class


What are your biggest mobility priorities at the moment?


I am focused on staying active with my physical therapies. My goal for physical therapy is to work on core strength and balance and gain back any amount of function, no matter how small.


Where would you like to be in five or 10 years?


In five years, I will have graduated from college and hopefully have a steady job that I enjoy. I can see myself in a steady relationship, establishing a life for myself, having done some traveling in Europe and Asia. In 10 years, I would like to have a successful career and a family.


In your video, you say, “We were going to make it through” after the accident. Do you still feel that way?


More so now than when I was in the hospital, I feel like I’m going to make it through. Keeping a positive attitude definitely helps me carry out day-to-day activities with more confidence and happiness.

Morgan Ott HelpHOPELive

“Keeping a positive attitude definitely helps me,” says Morgan


Unlock new mobility possibilities for yourself or someone you love. Start a fundraising campaign with HelpHOPELive at helphopelive.org. Mobility matters!