Tag Archives: perspective

Voices of Hope: Celebrating Black History Month

February is Black History Month, an opportunity to delve into the unique challenges and triumphs experienced by African-Americans. Here are two client perspectives on coping with discrimination, holding onto hope and serving as a self-advocate for your health.


David A. Jeffers

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David (above, with his wife Yasmine and sons) became paralyzed while at the beach with his family in August 2011. His family began fundraising with HelpHOPELive a month later.


Have you personally experienced or witnessed discrimination?

I’ve experienced discrimination both as a result of being black and as a result of being disabled. I have been treated as uneducated and unintelligent. People often choose to talk to my wife instead of me and ignore me, even when I address them directly. Little do they know that the black guy in the wheelchair is an active father, husband and mechanical engineer who graduated with the third highest GPA in my major.


How have you served as your own advocate?

Honestly, I’ve had to fight for almost every service I’ve used and the assistance I’ve received, including public transportation, rehabilitation and making sure neighborhood amenities are accessible. I document my experiences on my blog. I would advise others who face a similar struggle not to take ‘No’ for an answer. You must be persistent. For several issues I encountered, it took months to find a resolution.


What does Black History Month mean to you?

I wish we didn’t need to have Black History Month. I wish the history books and school curriculums could reflect events as they happened with a reverence for all cultures, but until that happens, it will remain an important month to me and my family.


What do you associate with the word ‘hope’?

A catastrophic injury like mine is truly life-changing. I could have died. As a quad, your whole approach to life has to change. You gain a totally new perspective on life. Hope gives me the ability to survive and thrive. Without hope, me and my family would not be as healthy or happy as we are today. My wife and kids are my main motivation and they help me find hope.


David is currently fundraising for Lokomat training ($85 per hour) and exercise therapy ($35 per hour) to improve his mobility. He has noticed a drop in strength and energy level since he stopped therapy in June of 2015 due to financial constraints.


Alison Jones

Alison Jones and son Alerique Dariso

Alison (above, with son Alerique Dariso) was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD) when she was seventeen. She is seeking a living kidney donor so she can receive a life-changing transplant. Alison and her son started fundraising with HelpHOPELive in June 2015.


Have you personally experienced or witnessed discrimination?

I have had to seek numerous medical opinions to get treatment. Organ transplantation was never included in potential treatment options as my kidney function declined. I had to initiate the conversation myself. After speaking with other African-Americans, the majority knew people who were on dialysis or had died on dialysis, but only a small percentage knew someone who had received a transplant. In comparison, when I speak with non-minorities, I often hear, “A friend of mine had a kidney transplant. You are going to be just fine.”

The most painful racism I have experienced: one Valentine’s Day while my son was enrolled in a private preschool, he drew a picture of his “valentine,” who had blonde hair. His teacher pulled him aside and told him he couldn’t have a blonde valentine. That incident shaped my parenting and I began to prepare my son for discrimination and teach him that no one can limit his choices in life.


Any advice for other people who are facing the challenges of PKD?

For anyone living with chronic kidney disease or PKD, I strongly suggest participating in a support group. My greatest life strategies have evolved during support group meetings. Speaking with others who are experiencing similar health experiences is therapeutic and helps you to avoid depression.


What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a reminder that generations of people have overcome insurmountable obstacles through diligence and continuous effort. Black History Month reminds me that giving up is not an option.

African-Americans make up a minority within the general population, yet we face higher rates of hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and obesity. All of these conditions can lead to kidney failure. One of the reasons I am looking forward to receiving a kidney transplant is so I can teach and advocate for early kidney function testing and proactive health behaviors to change current health trends.


What do you associate with the word ‘hope’?

I am so thankful to all of my loved ones who have supported me during this journey. To me, hope is another day of breath and opportunity. Every time God gives me another breath, I want to make it count, and that is living hope. After my life, hope will be there for more generations to strive to reach their highest level of potential and opportunity.


Alison is fundraising for uncovered costs associated with her kidney transplant preparations, including the cost of a lifetime of post-transplant anti-rejection medications.

What Can Spinal Cord Injury Therapy Do For Me?

As Mobility Awareness Month continues, we look at how physical therapy can help to boost your body and mind following a spinal cord injury.

Robert Mudge became a C5/C6 quadriplegic after an accident in 2001. Physical therapy and adaptive athletics have helped Robert to maintain a positive mindset and keep his body strong.

Robert Mudge quadriplegic rugby adaptive athletics

Robert, did your injury influence your interests and hobbies?

Growing up, I tried any sport or activity that grabbed my interest thanks to my supportive parents, including baseball, football, working out, bowling, BMX racing, surfing and fishing.

After my injury, I thought all of these hobbies and others were lost to me. However, over the years I’ve learned that I can still take part in similar sports and activities, just in a different manner. It wasn’t until 2007 that I discovered I could play a team sport again: quad rugby, with the Brooks Bandits in Jacksonville, Florida. In order to surf, instead of standing on the board I can lie on my stomach on the board, propped up on my elbows.

There are countless sports that can be played with a little adaptation: playing pool, swimming, table tennis, tennis, fishing, cycling, bowling, basketball, hockey…the list goes on.

Robert Mudge surf quadriplegic wheelchair surfing

Were you hesitant to get involved in adaptive athletics?

I was a little apprehensive at first when I gave these new activities a try, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to engage at the same caliber I was used to. I tried not to let that fear limit me or prevent the growth that I could experience by participating.

What helps you maintain your peace-of-mind?

Hope and faith both help me keep my sanity: hope that I can get better, and faith that I will. There are no guarantees that either will happen, but I believe both of those forces are very powerful. Combining those elements with relentless effort, goals, support from family and friends and a determination never to give up helped me get to where I am today.

How do you cope with injury anniversaries?

When I am faced with injury anniversaries or times when I feel like my progress is stagnant, I reflect back on how far I’ve come and celebrate the things I CAN do rather than harping on the things I still can’t do.

Robert Mudge walk stand quadriplegic

What did physical therapy do for you?

Thanks to a HelpHOPELive fundraiser, I was able to afford my first trip to Project Walk in Carlsbad, California. I realized I had found what I was looking for. It was so refreshing to be treated as a ‘normal’ person and to be moved and rehabilitated outside of my wheelchair.

[Project Walk] had me doing things I knew I couldn’t do, and that approach was frustrating at first. The staff recognized that one day, with repetitive training, I could get there. That’s exactly what happened over the years. I’ve continued working on rehabilitation in my home gym and at Project Walk Orlando year-round.

Do you find your hobbies therapeutic?

I think moving in general is therapeutic. Whether you’re engaging your mind or your body, staying active and in motion is a great thing. Just like they say, things in motion stay in motion.


Brian Keeter was left paralyzed from the waist down after a near-fatal car accident. Brian works out and advocates for spinal cord injury research to stay perpetually engaged in recovery.

Brian Keeter advocacy spinal cord injury SCI

Brian, did your injury change your participation in sports?

I played sports my entire life, and even played basketball in college. Leading up the accident, I had been playing in recreational league game with my friends and I played basketball several times every week, including Saturday mornings at 7 am. I have spent a lot of time working with exercise specialists to get stronger, stay fit and maximize my physical functioning. I’ve stayed on top of the research being done to find cures or improve rehabilitative therapies. I started my own foundation to identify and support spinal cord injury research.

Walk On Foundation spinal cord injury research tech rehab physical therapy

What do you like about working out?

I try to do all I can do to maximize what I have and prepare my body for the treatments and therapies that will be available in the future. Working out is therapeutic: you get to see that there are others dealing with the same or similar circumstances and, in some cases, worse circumstances. When I work out, I feel like I am physically working to do something about my physical limitations.

I have gotten stronger, particularly in my upper body and core, and I have gained movement in my hip flexors and gluts. My body feels better after working out because the exercises loosen me up and let me stretch out. When I have been traveling or have otherwise been unable to work out for a few days, I experience more pain, most likely because of increased tightness in my body.

Celebrate Mobility Awareness Month with us! Share your story on Facebook or on Twitter.

Pursuing Your Passions After A Spinal Cord Injury

In honor of Mobility Awareness Month, we are exploring how a spinal cord injury can impact your passions and your perspective on life.

Kirk Williams is an avid explorer who sustained a C5 spinal cord injury in a mountain biking accident in 2009. Kirk continues to seek out new experiences and stretch his limits every day.

spinal cord injury Kirk Williams travel photography barn adventure

Kirk, how did your injury influence your thirst for adventure?

My injury did influence my hobbies post-accident but I haven’t stopped doing what I love. I still do photography, camp, mountain bike and various other things. I’ve also learned how to do 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. I got back into my adventure lifestyle.

Kirk Williams spinal cord injury HelpHOPELive service dog mountains river adventure

Are there any hobbies that help you to stay positive?

Writing on my blog was beneficial, especially being able to look back and see the things that used to trouble me that I have since overcome. I usually use every anniversary as a day to look back and see just how far I’ve progressed, and I remind myself that anything is possible.

Kirk Williams travel mountain snow view wheelchair

What do you like about travel?

What I love most about travel is getting out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things. I’ve always loved to check out new spots. Now, being a quadriplegic just adds a little more preparation into making it possible. Life is short, so why not try to experience it to the fullest!?


Rachael Short is a photographer who became a quadriplegic after a spinal cord injury in 2010. Rachael hasn’t let her injury slow down her passionate pursuit of the perfect shot.

Rachael Short photography HelpHOPELive rose black and white

Rachel, did your passion for photography change after your injury?

I always knew that I would continue photography in one way or another. I didn’t take a single photograph for a year after my accident: I didn’t even have enough strength in my arms to hold a camera. I started using an iPhone to take photos, making digital negatives from the images and platinum printing in the darkroom with help from a good friend.

The iPhone has aided in my healing process by allowing me to continue taking photos. The challenge has been making the device work for me in a way that other ‘professional’ cameras did before my accident.

Rachael Short photograph black and white silhouette

What keeps you positive as you recover?

Every year, I get stronger and life gets a little easier. I have always been a hard worker and I maintain that attitude within my daily rehabilitation. In my greenhouse-turned-gym at home, I put up a quote from Confucius: ‘It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop.’

Rachael Short photography lake black and white

What is your favorite thing about photography?

What I like most about photography is being able to share my vision of the world, with the world. Art is very therapeutic. Taking photos slows me down and makes me really appreciate the beauty around me, like the sun through the trees or clouds in the sky.

Celebrate Mobility Awareness Month with us! Share your story on Facebook or on Twitter.