The Little Things in Life Really ARE the Big Things!

As my birthday approaches on Monday, I’m grateful for my life. In the back of my mind, I feared I would not make it past thirty when I was younger. I thought that way because of my accident. Here I am, it’s been twenty years since that fateful day. I’m still here.

I had a strong feeling I would influence others through all that happened. I wanted to help the sick, the hurting, and those who are helpless. My book, Not Without God is only the beginning. I’ve been blogging to reach out to others with or without spinal-cord-injury for two and a half years.

But there is more I want to accomplish. I try to offer hope in as many ways as I can in my book and on my blog. I have been there so I can relate. I understand what a lot of people are experiencing. In some aspects, I had to grow up fast.

When I’m asked how I walked again when I’m out in public, or how I survived my accident—I talk freely of my faith and of how God saved me! I’ve been doing that for years. I want to give hope. I want to tell about Christ.

It must be my energy, but strangers are often not shy to ask me questions. Very early while still in the hospital at Mott Children’s, I felt I would help others in some way. It’s no wonder I wrote a book about my life. It’s surreal, and exciting!

I would not have made it this far without the love and support of many. One of my dreams was to finish college, and have a career despite all my injuries. I graduated high-school on time, and walked on a walker to receive my diploma. I fulfilled the promise I made to myself—to walk on graduation day.

I worked so hard through college. I put a wheelchair in and out of the car several times a day. I began working in the classroom when an instructor asked me if I would like to be a tutor in Composition classes at twenty-two years of age.

When others see me and sometimes express that they feel sorry I need to walk with assistance. I explain that each crutch weighs less than two pounds. They are much lighter than a wheelchair, and much easier to put in and out of a car!

Some people don’t realize how good they have it until something bad happens, or until they meet someone like me and then their faith is challenged. Unless you’ve gone from paralyzed to walking, you really can’t understand how freeing walking can be!

It’s one of the reasons I’m thankful for every day, and it’s why I appreciate EVERYTHING!

My life is a miracle, and so is the ability to walk.

Happy Birthday to me!

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Be a winner!

Winners take full responsibility for everything that happens to them – even when those things seem remote and are not directly attributable to their actions. To achieve superior health, you must take 100% responsibility.–David Wolfe

This is true. But hard. It’s hard to take 100% responsibility. Even for people who walk “normally” it’s hard to exercise and always eat right. Imagine you could not walk? Or walked and it was a struggle? It’s that much harder to get up, get out. You may not even want to get out of bed sometimes.

The spinal cord is like a tree trunk, with nerves and fibers representing branches and stems. The vertebral column is a bony structure, like wood. When the spine breaks, the nerves and fibers are damaged. Just as if you took an ax to a tree trunk, all of the stems, branches, and twigs would start to wither away.

I’m up to 20 minutes on the treadmill and 20 minutes on the elliptical–forty minutes of cardio combined. A goal my physical therapist set for me several weeks ago. I’ve reached it!  Now I need to set a new goal for myself.

I’m walking faster and getting around better. It’s paying off! I just need to relax. Sometimes I get down on myself for not being able to move around like everyone else. I expect to be able to do what others are, not taking into consideration all of the injuries I had. I not only have a spinal cord injury at L1-L2. But several of my bones were broken. My left femur broke, my right tib fib, and left tib fib broke as well. I not only have a rod in my spine, but rods in my legs. My C1 was fractured. That’s not even all of my injuries. I’m lucky it wasn’t worse!

David Wolfe says, to feel like a winner you must be 100% responsible. It’s hard to feel like a winner when you can’t walk. After a severe injury, your self esteem is compromised. What makes us winners? The perfect job? The perfect mate? A nice big house? I think winning is in your attitude. We all have obstacles. Tragedy can strike all of us. I believe the winner has to be within, to not give up on life! Even on bad days, you have to bounce back.

One strategy that works for me is thanking God even when I feel bad. It’s not easy to do, but as I start to thank him for what I have, my mood starts to turn around. I feel better. The other stuff doesn’t seem so bad. Being a winner is not what you have, it’s who you are. And who you are, is what you make of yourself!

“Imagination as a Powerful Tool!”

“Visualize everyday about the person you want to become. See yourself as being that person NOW. Your brain will take what you visualize and help you create it.”-HealthCoachTraining  I love this quote. I wanted to share because this is what faith is–seeing something with no evidence, your circumstances may be totally different. You can practice it in your mind. I had visions of walking at sixteen after I was hit by a car. Nightly in bed before I fell asleep, I would see myself on a walker or on a cane. I was paralyzed. I had little movement in my left leg.

I was using a wheelchair all day except for in physical therapy. My left quadricep would contract. My right leg was numb with no movement. I could kick my left leg up for a few seconds at a time while sitting because my left quadricep was firing. The following paragraph is a journal entry I wrote at the time:

“My left leg is pretty strong. I can hold it up in the air for a few seconds. My right one is coming along it’s just moving slower. I should be getting out of the hospital around early February or March. Gretchen said they will put me on braces around February. I know in time I’ll walk again. I have God on my side. It’s the best feeling. I realize how precious life is. I know what I want to do when I get older, help sick people. I want to be a doctor. I’ll never take life for granted, and try to enjoy every minute.”

I never became a doctor, I became an English teacher instead. I still think being a doctor is one of the greatest things. I have a desire to help people with physical challenges such as mine.

From a wheelchair, I saw myself walking and out of it. Sometimes we are strongest when weak. Sometimes I feel frustrated by the fact that walking with one cane is still hard. I remember that faith. I remember those visions. I practiced them throughout my twenties.

Little by little we can get better. Healing is a process. Rome wasn’t built…

What is it you want to get better from? Scars and pain are not only external. We have internal challenges too. We all have imperfections. Mine are visible. Ask yourself, is my goal reasonable? Is it feasible? Try envisioning it. It just might come true.

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