True Love Came To Visit

I sought after God at a young age. It wasn’t until after I had my accident that I REALLY experienced His love. I felt it through others. What I mean is, I found it in the three short months I spent in the hospital. As strange as it may seem, for the first time—my life had meaning. I had all these injuries and had become paralyzed, but I was still searching.

I lived in a good neighborhood and went to a good school. But I would ask God questions about life, and about what it all means. I knew there was more beyond what I could see. Then I got my answers. True love came to visit me in that hospital room.

Through compassion from doctors, nurses, and loved ones – I experienced a PEACE like none I had known. Life is so precious! When you are well, you may not necessarily feel like you “need the Lord.” But when you are sick, and hanging onto life by a string – you know it. And the way he comes in to rescue you is remarkable!

You can be in a desperate place, a minute to minute, moment to moment kind of place. I urge you to seek after him before the accident and before the diagnosis. It’s like not being prepared for a flood – if there were an “extreme” weather event, you probably would’ve wished you would’ve bought insurance. And luckily, most do. Buy insurance!

Invest in the One who can bring you security. Believe, read, pray, and seek! You will be better prepared in case there is an “emergency.” “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock (Matthew 7:24-25).”

God is love because He sent his only son, and he died and rose again for us! We have proof of it. His promise to redeem us from agony is proven to be true in the resurrection. There are reasons we go through what we do. We may not understand why. But if you pray and have faith through the pain, true love will reveal itself. Good things will happen to you again.

He will be the one listening while you’re in bed when you need to talk to a friend. He will be with you when you have anxiety. He will be with you when you have to go to the hospital to visit a loved one. He will be there. Every. Step. Every. Time. God truly is a fortress in our lives

About Zina

Zina Hermez authored the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival. She works as an English as a second language Instructor, and has been an educator for almost twenty years. Her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, guest posts, newsletters, and medical journals as well as nearly 200 of her very own blog posts. To learn more about Zina visit: zinahermez.com.

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“How a Teenager Overcame Traumatic Injuries”

My story was shared on the Salonpas blog earlier today, and I wanted to post it! I answered questions from a reporter in New York about myself and my book. Here is the link: http://www.salonpas.us/blog/teenager-overcame-traumatic-injuries/

I was asked how I felt when I first heard I would not walk again from doctors after my accident, and what my first major step in recovery was. Other questions were about what role my faith has played, and what made me decide to write a book, along with more! I am pleased with the article!

Hope you enjoy it!

About Zina

Zina Hermez authored the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival and created the Spinal Cord Injury Solutions! online website. Zina works as an English Language Instructor, and has been an educator for nearly fifteen years. Her thousands of students have been from many parts of the world, and she’s worked with all ages.

Zina writes articles on faith and overcoming disability, and her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, Spinal Cord Injury Zone, SCI Access, newsletters, and medical journals among many other various publications. To learn more about Zina visit http://zinahermez.com.

A Marine that Walked Again!

Here is a beautiful and inspiring story of a marine I found on Google, and I wanted to share it! Here is the link: http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2014/11/24/marine-bionic-legs-bronze-star/70062558/ This article also does a nice job explaining what the ReWalk is—one of the latest advancements in technology for people with spinal-cord-injuries. It is battery powered, a wearable robotic device that enables people with paraplegia and other types of lower limb dysfunction the ability to stand, and actually walk!

I’m grateful I don’t need the ReWalk to walk, but for this advancement I am very thankful because I think it will change lives for the better and help a lot of people walk again. Even if minimally, it will get them out of their wheelchairs. Just like it has helped Capt. Herrera.

About Zina

Zina Hermez authored the book Not Without God: A Story of Survival and created the Spinal Cord Injury Solutions! online website. Zina works as an English Language Instructor, and has been an educator for nearly fifteen years. Her thousands of students have been from many parts of the world, and she’s worked with all ages.

Zina writes articles on faith and overcoming disability, and her stories have been featured in Christianity Today, Spinal Cord Injury Zone, SCI Access, newsletters, and medical journals among many other various publications. To learn more about Zina visit http://zinahermez.com.

My article in “SCI Access”

SCI ACCESS: Insights and Information for People with Spinal Cord Injuries published my article.

Here is the link. Be sure to scroll down to page 14 and read “Alumni News.”

http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/modelsci/Newsletters/SCI%20Access-Spring-2013.pdf

In a previous blog post I wrote that I would share the full article when it was published on the internet. This is their May 2013 newsletter issue. If you’re interested, check it out! I hope you can be inspired by some of the amazing stories of recovery and efforts to find a cure.

SCI Access is a newsletter provided by the University of Michigan Spinal Cord Injury Model System. UM-SCIMS is one of only fourteen SCI model systems in the United States.

They call me periodically to complete survey studies. I always gladly cooperate. I love to help U of M in any way I can, because that is the hospital that saved my life. You can also visit their main page: http://www.med.umich.edu/pmr/modelsci/

And this is a blog post I wrote about them back in July: https://zinahermez.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/university-of-michigan-c-s-mott-childrens-hospital/

I was there for almost three months after my accident in October of 1994. U of M became my home. When my future was unpredictable and grim, I felt safe there. When my discharge date drew nearer, I felt afraid and depressed. I did not want to go home because I developed a system there. I had learned how to deal with my injury.

The doctors and nurses were so friendly. Dr. Geiger had a smile that could light up any child’s life. Dr. Polley’s compassion was incomparable. Robin and Julie, my nurses were very kind. It amazes me that it’s been over eighteen years, and my team of doctors and surgeons are still there. Walking the floors of Mott Children’s, saving children, saving lives.

Love is a force that is able to heal the worst of situations. I pray for anyone in the hospital or ill to have the best care, the kind of care I was blessed to have at U of M.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ck1ZLuDBQUI

“A few quick tips on how I heal”

My dad fell in church the other day. He said it happened as he was going down the steps. He felt a shooting pain in his back shortly before and there was nowhere to sit. As he walked down the step his leg gave out, he collapsed.  Other church members hurried over to catch him. He suffers from Sciatica and some arthritis. He turned 80 last July. Aging can bring about some of this. I think he’s becoming addicted to these cortisone shots. He’s had several and always seems to think that is the cure.  Once the medication wears off, the pain comes back. I was talking to him about the importance of exercise and moving around. I notice he doesn’t move around as much. Naturally, when we don’t move our body weakens.

I kept thinking, if it’s that hard for my dad to move without having paralysis. Imagine how much harder it is for the paralyzed? Well, I can imagine, because I have been. The majority of people with spinal cord injuries are told they’ll never walk again, and I never understood why. If nerves have the ability to regenerate, and muscles can be strengthened, why are people told they will always use a wheelchair? “Twenty years of study in humans has shown that the spinal cord has its own sophisticated nervous system that helps it recall how to move,” says Dr. Susan Harkema, a research leader in the field.

People sometimes turn to alternative options such as stem cell surgery. But that surgery does not fully solve the problem. It’s where they use adult stem cells extracted from other parts of the body, and implant them into the spinal cord at the site of injury. “The most important thing we’ve learned is that surgery is not enough. It has to be accompanied by rehabilitation (exercise),” says Dr. Carlos Lima, a neuron-pathologist on the Lisbon stem cell team.

We now have come out with Ekso Bionics or e-legs, the first originally of its kind out of Berkeley, California. You can visit the page here: http://www.eksobionics.com/ekso Initially, these were used for soldiers carrying heavy cargo while going uphill. The solid legs and back helped them prevent injury. The problem is the device weighs 50 pounds, and adding that much weight, I don’t know how functional you can be. Or how much time you can spend on them during the day, I would imagine not much.

My physician of eleven years told me it would be hard for me to walk with one cane, when I told her my goal was to at least be mobile and get around everywhere with it. She said it was “possible” but not “probable” when I confronted her with why she had said that.  I told her it was something I believed was very highly likely. I never accepted her proposition.

Today I’m walking mostly all day with two forearm crutches, and practicing with one cane. Something I was told I would never do. It took prayer, lots of exercise, and undying faith.

Some quick tips on how I heal:

  • Daily Prayer
  • Exercise and Physical Therapy
  • Logs (exercise logs can be great)
  • Listen to your doctor, but don’t neglect your “own doctor within.”

Daily prayer is crucial for me. I recommend at least 15 minutes a day of talking to God. I sometimes read bible verses, and short prayers in the morning. I often talk to him while at the gym on the walking machines, this really helps.

Prayer is the pathway that connects us to the heavens. No prayer is unheard although they seem unanswered. Trust that God has a plan for you. Even when you cannot make sense of things. In time, the answers will reveal themselves.

Exercise is something you should be doing at least a few times a week. Find a PT or trainer who can design a safe but challenging program for you. “Get up close and personal with yourself, get to know yourself,” Dr. Agus writes in his bestseller, The End of Illness.  “It all starts with you.” Oh yeah, and find a PT who believes in you. Mine believes in me, it makes all the difference!

Keeping logs is great. An exercise log to track progress, i’ve even kept logs on how much percentage of the day I use a wheelchair. Logs are great because they help you see your progress.

LISTEN to and RESPECT your doctors, but don’t neglect your “own doctor within.” You know that inner voice. We all have it. The one that screams at you sometimes to take a left or right when you are lost and driving the wrong way, your intuition. It has something to say.

These are just a few ways I get better from SCI. I think they will be helpful for you. I believe these principles can apply to more than just spinal cord injury. Heart disease is the number one leading cause of death in the country. Stroke is the third. Cancer is another leading cause. I believe prayer and exercise, and getting to know your body can help all of us.

www.aapmr.org has great information on Rehabilitation of Central Nervous system disorders, like spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, and MS. If you click on the “Knowledge now” button, you can find lots of information. Best wishes in your recovery.

Suffering and Joy are interchangeable!

Life is hard enough. Imagine you could not walk? Imagine you could not move? Better yet, don’t imagine. It’s one of the worst things that could happen to you. Don’t imagine. It happened to me. I was hit by a car while crossing the street on my way to school, at only sixteen.

Paralysis is eye opening. Paralysis is real. Paralysis is undesirable, a nightmare to say in the least. I’ve woken up before and thought this was all a dream, more than once. Then I see my crutches on the wall, my wheelchair in the corner–tucked in my closet, as far away as possible. Out of sight, out of mind, right? Well, not really.

There is loss in life. Loss of friendships, relationships, divorce, accidents! Accidents, a Spinal Cord Injury— it can take everything but your life.

I was pretty. I was popular. I returned to school in a wheelchair my senior year. When everyone was excited for prom and spring break, I was learning to be disabled. There are things we live through only by God’s grace. And only God has kept me.

At sixteen I was healing, but how would life be in a wheelchair? Our home was not handicapped accessible.  I knew when the dust settled the visits would lesson. The calls would start to fade. During my stay in the hospital, I would pick up my pencil with a flashlight in the dark at night and write letters addressed to God. I know he heard me.

I finished high school on time, even though I missed most of my junior year. I still made it to prom. My real friends stayed and I made new ones. I learned to drive, went to college, worked, and even walked! I’m walking everywhere with two forearm crutches, and learning how to walk with one cane. I’m still not walking as good as I’d like, but it’s better than using a wheelchair. I still have faith.

Thank God he replaces suffering with joy!

“Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” John 16:20

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Moving improves our health!

“The human body is not meant to sit for long periods of time. During the day alternate between sitting, standing, and walking, or get up and stretch often,” says HealthCoach. David Agus, Lance Armstrong’s oncologist, wrote a best seller called “The End of Illness” and he agrees. He writes tips on how to prevent disease.“As Americans we don’t move around enough, most people go to the gym for an hour, go back to their office, sit at their desk jobs for hours, and they think that is enough.” “The problem is most people, when sitting at our desk jobs, sit for hours at a time and don’t move around enough,” Dr. Agus says. “Every hour you should move, even if for no reason, get away from your desk, find a reason to get up,” he advises. This was one of the first on his list to prevent illness such as cancer. He also talks about eating healthier, hard boiled eggs, fish, vegetable oil, the natural stuff.

What if you’re spinal cord injured? What if you can’t get up so easily? What if you can’t stand? What if you can’t walk? What if you can’t even sit for long periods of time, or get out of a wheelchair without someone assisting you? I believe any movement is good movement to start. Whether it’s a transfer from your wheelchair to your bed, or using the hand cycling machine at physical therapy, or standing for several minutes at a time in a standing frame, it gets your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and you’re moving. As you train your body to move with help, and hopefully eventually without, to transfer, to sit for longer periods, to stand, to walk, whatever you are able to do, it gets stronger. Over time you can become more independent.

Just be safe. When I practice with one cane, I’m almost always with my physical therapist. When I’m doing it at home, I try my best to be safe. I used to hold two canes, with the right one in the air just in case I lost my balance. Now I use one. It’s crucial for someone with paralysis to move, because they don’t do it easily on a daily basis. I believe it’s even more important for us, to get up. Dr. Agus’ advice applies to all of us, those with and without physical challenges.

For those who cannot move their hands, feet, or fingers even, it can be much harder to get up, or even feel motivated to move. My feet are weak because my s1/s2 nerves still have some damage. I can push my feet down, but that is a recent muscle that has come back the last couple years. It’s harder to pull my foot up against gravity. Throughout the day I’m wearing AFOs (ankle braces) to assist my walking.

With a spinal cord injury, you can exercise for years and years, and not fully recover. Or you can exercise for a few years, and gain a lot of recovery. It depends on different factors, your level of injury, the nature of your injury, and your faith. Exercise and movement not only improve health, but can help you regain function. The number one factor is you. It starts with you.

Now go get up!

Zina Hermez