Tag Archives: life after injury

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.

Finding Joy After Injury: 11 Quotes From Dan Gottlieb

Here are 11 powerful quotes from Dr. Dan Gottlieb on love, loss and recovery after a spinal cord injury. Dr. Gottlieb became paralyzed from the chest down in a car accident in 1979. Having survived years of struggle and personal loss, today, Dr. Gottlieb maintains a private psychology practice, lectures and trains health care professionals, and hosts WHYY Philadelphia’s Voices in the Family broadcast.

Dr. Dan Gottlieb, Voices in the Family, NPR, WHYY

All content provided courtesy of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation via the Foundation-hosted webinar “Dr. Dan on Finding Joy,” August 5, 2015.


On Redefining Joy After Injury:

The definition of joy can change based on an individual’s abilities and circumstances. With a broken neck, I could no longer be the person I thought I should be or the person I would have been or wanted to be. I had no choice but to be the person I am today. When you give up the battle to be someone or something else, you start to look at the world differently. You can lower the bar to what gives you joy; you lower that bar low enough and pure joy is easy to find.

meditation

Take time to appreciate small blessings.

When you’re no longer pursuing an artificial definition of happiness, all of a sudden, the air smells cleaner. At this moment, perhaps you can breathe without coughing. Joy is right there, in that moment.


On Finding Joy By Helping Others:

Joy happens most often when we’re not thinking about ourselves. We are hardwired to help each other. That’s why when someone suffers or is crying, our hearts open. When you want joy and want to feel good, help another feel good, whether that being is a child, an adult, or an animal. The act of expressing care and compassion brings joy. If you don’t feel it, help someone else feel it, and then you will feel it yourself.

caring for child

Caring for others can help you feel joyful again.


On Finding Joy Through Gratitude:

I find joy whenever I: realize that this day is precious; appreciate the fragility of life, knowing deep down that this might be our last day, our last year or our last summer.

sunrise

Viewing life as precious can improve your outlook.


On Accepting Love:

Fear and resentment interfere with our ability to experience love. Let love contribute to the healing in [your] heart. Love is the only vehicle that can help us find peace. On my deathbed, I want to be surrounded with love and be able to love until my last minute. I want to feel that love until my last breath.

afraid girl

Fear can make it difficult for us to accept love.

The most difficult and the most generous part of love comes when someone you love suffers. Be with them. When I find myself in a deep, dark place, I want to be with someone who loves me enough to sit there with me, not a cheerleader to tell me there’s light at the other end. Sit with me in my helplessness and then I will feel your love.


On Overcoming Judgment From Others:

Too many of us see ourselves based on our wheelchairs. We have to see ourselves as complete people. All of us have been [judged] based on the color of our skin, or what we believe, or where we pray, or what we’ve done. Very few people are able to look into our eyes and see our heart and soul. Make a heartfelt commitment to never place that kind of judgment on someone else. When you encounter another, look into their eyes, acknowledge their humanity. That alone will make you feel better.

eyes

When you meet someone, look in their eyes and acknowledge them.


On Discovering Self-Love:

There’s an old Sufi saying: ‘When the heart weeps for what it has lost, the spirit laughs for what it has found.’ Put your hand over your heart and see if you can find kindness, compassion and even love for this [person] whose life has been torn apart.

mirror reflection

Can you find love for the person you see in the mirror?

No one is going to understand your suffering as well as you do. Take a half hour a day to connect with [yourself].


On Pushing Through Pain:

Pain is a demanding companion. You try to look outside, and the pain says, NO – you’re paying attention to ME. If we can sit with that pain and have a heartfelt wish for compassion and kindness for everybody in the world who feels more pain than we do in that moment, it helps us get out of our heads. It changes the story, and that is everything.

ocean gray cloudy gaze

Send out a wish for compassion to combat your pain.


On Humor:

If I were asked to consult on the second edition of the Ten Commandments, one of my commandments would be, ‘Thou shalt not take thyself too seriously.’

laugh

“Thou shalt not take thyself too seriously.”


Want to share your favorite quotes about disability or injury? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or on Twitter.

Three Powerful Truths About Life After Injury

Tresa Honaker was an active dancer, aerialist and lifelong athlete when, in January of 2012, she fell 15 feet and landed on her head on a crash mat. She severed her spine and was instantly paralyzed from the waist down.

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Tresa continues to inspire others to give their best while she diligently pursues specialized rehabilitation. Here are three powerful truths about spinal cord injuries as told by Tresa.


After an injury, you may struggle to regain your interest in the activities you used to love.

“After my injury, I was reluctant to start participating in some of my passions again, and I still am. I am a person that doesn’t pursue anything unless I know I can elevate the pursuit to a high level. I don’t feel like the passions I had before my accident are available to me in the same way. I sometimes wish things could have a different name, as they feel altogether very different – for example, dance. Dancing in a wheeled chair is not the same ‘dance’ to me. As it “feels” totally different.”


The little things will help you cope.

“[Three years later after injury,] I think my journey has gotten less difficult, but not necessarily easier. I adopted a little Maltese dog, and he has helped immensely on those really tough days. I try to take each moment at a time and when a day is particularly hard I slow things down and try to find one (even if it’s small) thing to look at, smell or do to lift my spirits.”


Helping someone else can be a powerful motivator.

“Helping others in some way is empowering when you’ve been hurt in this way. I heard once that depression is a result of lack of involvement. I feel that is really true. Getting stronger so that I can help myself and others is very, very important.”


Follow Tresa’s journey on her HelpHOPELive Campaign Page. What lessons have you learned after injury?