Crippled but Not Paralyzed
by James Cleary, LC | Source:
It was late at night and the party had just finished. Tina and her boyfriend got into the car. He was a little drunk, she thought, but it was only a short drive to her house. He could manage that.
He got onto the main road and while driving quickly down, failed to make a turn. Tina screamed as she saw the tree a few yards ahead in the headlights.
When she came to her senses, all she saw were firefighters and flashing lights. She was lying on a stretcher, strapped down as the medics lifted her in to the ambulance.
In the hospital the news came that changed her life. “Well, Tina,” the doctor said, “it looks as if you are paralyzed from the hips down. You will never be able to walk again.” He tried to smile as if everything was all right and slowly turned away as she buried her face in the sheets.
Her life changed in an instant. No longer was she a normal teenager. She couldn´t walk. For a few days, she struggled to accept it—the accident, her condition, herself. The love of her family and the hope of her best friends brought her through the darkness. “It doesn´t matter what happens,” they told her again and again. “We still love you for who you are.”
Tina didn’t leave things as they were. She realized that what seemed like a burden was in fact a mission. A new life had begun. Tina began by speaking to packed school auditoriums of the danger of drunk driving. “You will have to live with it for the rest of your life.” she said, pointing down to her wheelchair. “Either you or what you have done to someone else.”
She started to play basketball again, in a wheelchair, getting used to the different style and eventually represented the United States in the Special Olympics.
And yet she wanted to do more. She and her family began a foundation to help other paralyzed people to cope and start afresh. It was doing this work that another foundation asked her to help them to communicate hope.
A woman sat in her wheelchair. She had been an Iraqi soldier until a roadside bomb left her paralyzed. Tina wheeled herself over and greeted her in the only Arabic that she knew. And yet her understanding smile spoke more to that woman and the group of crippled women gathered around her.
Later on the woman would say, “Her understanding and joy brought me hope. She is like my sister who understood me and has helped me.” A gesture of friendship and of kindness overcame any barrier of religion, culture or language.
A crippling car accident changed Tina´s life. But now Tina is doing things she could never had done before.
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