In January 2003, I experienced a stroke, losing use of my left arm completely and leaving me with limited control of my left leg. A few years later I was nearing retirement and starting to think about ways to enjoy my "golden years." Although I had never stepped foot on a golf course in my life, it occurred to me that many of my friends play, and that perhaps getting out on the green could open a door for socialization and a bit of fun.
I got involved with the Adapted Sports Program's golf clinic and with clubs on loaner, began learning about the game and how I could, in fact, play with just one arm. I felt a bit apprehensive at first; I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. But then one day I was out on the course watching some people without disabilities play, and I realized I was hitting just as well as they were. And the rest was history. I kept practicing, played in various leagues and even started golfing competitively. Today, I play in several charity tournaments, including the North American One Armed Golfers Association's annual tournament.
There are some things I can't do now, that I could do before I had my stroke. But being part of this program has shown me that there are new things I can do today, simply because I choose to. Rather than sitting around on the couch and focusing on what I can’t do, I am getting out there and challenging myself physically, enjoying time on the golf course with friends and focusing on bettering myself. You never really know what you are capable of until you try, and I am proof of that.
In September 2012, I witnessed a car accident, and did the right thing; I pulled over to see what I could do to help. Then the unthinkable happened. Another vehicle hit me as I stood on the shoulder of the road, pinning me to my own car and causing a significant number of life-threatening injuries. As a result of the accident, I lost my left leg and have permanent limited use of my right leg. I was only 21 years old at the time. Needless to say, I was in shock. I had no energy and for a while, just didn't want to do anything.
Then Mike Henley encouraged me to give wheelchair basketball a try. I had always enjoyed the game, so I got out on the court and told myself that I wasn't going to leave until I figured out how to play, wheelchair and all. It took some time, but I did learn the rules of the game and I figured out how to handle the chair. And, I started having FUN again. I love blazing up and down the court. Playing wheelchair basketball gets me out and doing something I really enjoy, plus I have met so many new people. Some have similar disabilities and we all can relate to each other. We share stories and ideas, and we motivate each other to keep going.
Being part of the adapted sports program has made me realize how much I am still able to do. I am back in school, studying to be a paralegal with a concentration in criminal justice. I am still making a lot of adjustments as I figure out how to move and bend my prosthetic leg, but I am getting there. There really IS life after trauma. Just look at me!
When I was 22 years old, I fell out of a boat in shallow water. I landed on my head, and broke my neck. As a result, my C5 vertebrae was removed, I have no function in my fingers and my arm movement is impacted. A few years later, I found myself laying around and watching a bit too much television, and decided it was time to get myself moving a bit more. I had always loved playing sports, and was up for something new. I found out about the University of Maryland’s wheelchair rugby program and figured "why not?"
At first, I wasn’t confident that I would be able to push the wheelchair, but I tried, and sure enough, I moved. Over time, I started gaining strength and agility. I found that I was moving faster and could play longer. It's intense, and a great work out, and I love it.
Playing wheelchair rugby has also given me a great opportunity to meet people who are in the same boat as I am. We obviously play the game together in practices, scrimmages and tournaments, but there’s so much more than that. We go out and do other things together and we really motivate each other. Sometimes I see someone who has injuries like me, doing things that I have not yet accomplished. It makes me feel like I have the potential to do more. It makes me feel good about the future and what I might be able to do, down the road.