Tag Archives: college

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!

Voices Of Hope: We Stayed Together After A Catastrophic Injury

Katie started dating Richard Travia when they were freshmen at Villanova University. Two years after graduation, Richard became paralyzed from the chest down after a diving accident at the beach. Katie and Richard stayed together after the injury and, today, they are happily married with two young children.

Richard and Katie Travia HelpHOPELive

Katie and Richard with their two youngsters in 2014


Did the injury impact your relationship?


Katie: The early stages were challenging, scary and overwhelming. Richard’s injury was a big obstacle on our path together, but we didn’t let it stop us from continuing with our goals and future. Today, there are still limitations to what we can do as a couple. For instance, we haven’t traveled to Europe together since his injury because we are fearful of the accessibility challenges; we can’t do some outdoor activities together that we used to enjoy; but we find enjoyment and travel opportunities elsewhere. The injury has brought us challenges, but our relationship is stronger than ever.


Today, how does love play a role in your daily life?


Richard is my best friend and soulmate. We met and started dating when we were young, but we have grown and gone through so much together. I can’t imagine going through a day without talking to him 10 times. We are always eager to see each other every evening after work. Aside from the fact that he can’t stand on his own anymore, you would barely know that the injury had occurred. He is always positive, patient and logical. He keeps me in check.

Katie Richard Travia HelpHOPELive engagement

Katie calls Richard her “best friend and soulmate”

Each day has its own challenges, but we have built an amazing family together with two beautiful children and an awesome dog. Our love for each other and our love for our family is overwhelming to us. Sometimes, amidst the craziness at home, we will both look at each other and smile and say, “Look how lucky we are.”


How did Richard propose to you?


He was amazingly determined to keep with tradition: for months he practiced getting down on one knee during physical therapy. We got engaged on Christmas in 2007 and got married in October of 2008 at my church in New Jersey. Richard practiced standing in physical therapy, and with the help of two friends and a walker, he stood when I walked down the aisle and when we said our vows.

Richard and Katie Travia wedding

Richard pursed physical therapy to be able to stand for his wedding vows


What advice would you give to someone else trying to hold onto their relationship after injury?


Keeping a positive mindset and remembering that things won’t always go as planned is the best way to remain sane. Surround yourself with positive people and things that make you happy. Find great support groups online or in your community and talk to people going through a similar situation.


How does your family and community provide support?


Being in a wheelchair for 10 years has its challenges, both physical and psychological. Richard has been lucky, because everyone surrounded him when he was injured and they stuck with him. He was able to move on with the life that he wanted to have because of that support. Our immediate family and friends have been amazing to us over the years, whether by modifying their homes to accommodate Richard’s needs or helping to lift Richard into a restaurant, home or location for a social outing.

HelpHOPELive friends fundraising

Friends and family “stuck with him” when Richard was injured

Another major source of support was the Villanova community. We graduated from Villanova together but we have received support from people we didn’t even graduate with. From getting people together to watch the game at home with Richard to VIP tickets to basketball games, our Villanova family has been so amazingly supportive. Now, Richard gives back to that community through his involvement with the Villanova Alumni Senate and other activities on campus.


Did that support translate into fundraising success?


Within the first two years after Richard’s injury, we did a great deal of fundraising with HelpHOPELive [pictured below], including a 5K Walk/Run, open bar nights and small events at schools in our area. The support was overwhelming. We were able to raise over $200,000, which has helped us tremendously. We are still relying on those funds now a decade later to cover medical expenses.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

One of our largest purchases was an accessible van for Richard. We were also able to cover the cost of home exercise equipment, prescriptions, ramps and other purchases that helped to make our living situation more accessible for him. The expenses associated with paralysis never go away and insurance covers very little, so the fundraising we did early on has provided some comfort for us over the years.


What is the thing you love most about your relationship?


Richard and I don’t have the best luck, but through all the obstacles over the years, we have still accomplished all that we wanted to accomplish, and we have done it together, as a team.


Did you find love before or after a life-changing injury or illness? Share your story with us in the comments section below and you could be selected to participate in an interview!

What It’s Like To Take Your Mother To College With You

As a college freshman, Kate Strickland was struck by a car while riding her bike. The accident left her paralyzed from the chest down and unable to use her hands or wrists. Unable to find a caregiver to fit Kate’s needs, her mother, Jenie, stepped up to fulfill the role, living with Kate in her dorm and attending classes with her at the University of Texas at Austin as she resumed her studies. In honor of National Family Caregivers Month, Kate told us her story.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

Kate, 21, attends college with her mother


When you searched for a caregiver, what were some of your criteria?


We were looking for a caregiver or a group of caregivers who could be with me 24/7. Ideally, the caregiver would have a CNA [Certified Nursing Assistant] certification and be near my age in order to go with me to classes on campus. We needed somebody who would be comfortable getting me ready in the mornings, which includes helping with showers, a bowel program and catheter bags.


How does your mother serve as a caregiver for you?


My mom has been my caregiver in everything that I have needed since my accident. She showers me, does the bowel program, dresses me, feeds me and brushes my teeth. She does everything for me. She also goes to my classes and takes notes for me. It’s been very helpful to have my mother fill this role. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to go to school.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

Kate (center) and her mother (left)


Has caregiving changed the relationship between you and your mom?


I think it’s changed our roles more than our overall relationship. Instead of just being mother and daughter, we are now caregiver and dependent. We spend all day, every day, with each other. Before my injury, I was independent at college and I wasn’t even talking to my parents every single day.


Is it difficult to explain to other people why your mom is always with you?


For the most part, I think it is fairly obvious why my mother is with me. It’s difficult to hide that I have a disability since I am in a massive power wheelchair. However, I think having my mother with me all the time changes the experience of making new friends in college. A lot of my peers feel like parents intrude on their college independence, so it’s an adjustment for them to understand my situation.


Can it be stressful to rely on someone else to help you?


Of course it’s stressful to rely on someone else – before my injury, I was always a very independent person. But, the fact is, if I don’t rely on someone else to help me, I won’t be able to do things like attend school, do my homework or even eat, so I have become accustomed to my total dependence on others.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

Kate learned to adjust and accept care after her injury


What one word would you choose to describe caregiving?


The one word I’d use to describe caregiving is complicated.


Do you have any advice for another student who is learning to accept care after injury?


This may sound harsh, but what it comes down to is this: you can either accept your injury and your limitations, even though they are obviously not ideal, and receive the help you need to move on with your life, or you can refuse reality and help to just sit around staying stagnant.

Kate Strickland HelpHOPELive

“Receive the help you need to move on with your life,” Kate advises.


Have you had to adjust to college life with a caregiver? Share your story with us on Facebook or on Twitter.

Meet Live Award Honoree Aaron Loy

We present our 2015 Live award to HelpHOPELive client Aaron Loy for inspiration after illness following a double amputation after severe complications from bacterial meningitis.

In 2013, Aaron Loy was a dedicated student and a passionate athlete who enjoyed lacrosse, soccer, surfing and biking. As a freshman at the University of California Santa Barbara, Aaron was suddenly diagnosed with an aggressive strain of bacterial meningitis with no U.S.-approved vaccine. The disease progressed rapidly, causing a blood infection and severe internal complications.

Three other university students recovered from the meningitis outbreak with no permanent damage. Aaron’s illness took a different course. Doctors were able to save Aaron and provide antibiotics to eradicate the illness, but only after amputating both of his lower legs.

Aaron Loy prosthetics meningitis

Aaron Loy lost his legs to bacterial meningitis. Picture courtesy of the LA Times.

Watching his own story covered on the news, Aaron recalls lying in the hospital in a state of shock, thinking, “No, I don’t think this is real…I don’t want this to be true.” The catastrophic event shook Aaron and his community to the core. Family members and classmates from Aaron’s hometown and the University of California Santa Barbara community immediately turned to HelpHOPELive to help cover his pressing medical expenses, including co-pays, prosthetics and intensive physical rehabilitation.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Friends planned dozens of fundraisers from percentage of sales nights to bake sales and car washes. In December of 2013, supporters from Aaron’s home lacrosse team organized the Aaron Loy Lacrosse Shootout, an all-ages event that invited 300 players to complete in honor of Aaron. The event raised more than $18,000 towards Aaron’s medical bills.

Discharged after three months in the hospital, Aaron was too weak to maneuver his own wheelchair. But he set his sights on a formidable goal: regaining his independence by literally getting back on his feet. Aaron took his first steps in prosthetic legs in March of 2014. He continued to practice diligently, improving his strength and coordination at prosthetic therapy sessions three to five times each week.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Within a year of his diagnosis, Aaron had fought his way to a fulfilling and independent life that included returning to college 200 miles away from his home community, biking to class and hanging out with his friends. And he’s not done yet: Aaron plans to get back on the lacrosse field, go snowboarding and devote his time to helping others who have experienced catastrophic injuries to defy the odds.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“He gets up every day with a smile on his face, puts his legs on and just carries on,” his mother, Kirsten, told NBC San Diego in 2014. “While his body recovers, his spirits and optimism remain high.”

Image courtesy of the LA Times.

Aaron lives with grace and motivation after illness. Image courtesy of the LA Times.

help-hope-live-it-upThe Live award will be presented to Aaron at this year’s HelpHOPE-Live it Up! benefit on October 16.

Learn more about Aaron.

Each year at HelpHOPELive’s annual signature fundraising event, HelpHOPE-Live It Up!, we honor community heroes who prove why our mission matters with the Help, HOPE and Live awards. In 2015, we’re also giving out an Advocacy and Volunteer of the Year award.