|Posted by SheWillNotFall on September 15, 2016 at 10:15 AM||comments (0)|
In early 2007 when I was just 13 years old, my entire world changed. Over the course of a week, my body basically shut down. I lost almost all sensation and strength that I had throughout my body. I went from running a mile in under 10 minutes to not even being able to get up out of bed. After multiple short and extended stays in the hospital, hundreds of tests, MRIs, CAT scans, lumbar punctures, and guess after guess, it was concluded that I had Transverse Myelitis/Myelopathy. I am not going to lie and say that I accepted the diagnosis easily or immediately. I was in denial for a little while after. When I look back at it now though, being diagnosed with this autoimmune disease opened my eyes to a whole other set of perspectives that I likely would have never encountered otherwise.
Because I acquired a disability as opposed to being born with one, I never knew there was such a thing as a "disabled community" or "culture." I had no friends or family who had a disability. I had no clue of even half the struggles that people with disabilities go through, or any of the legislation that has been passed to try to alleviate discrimination. I, along with much of the rest of American society, had the "out of sight, out of mind" frame of mind when it came to anything disability-related. Since I wasn't aware of disability rights or disability communities, I continued on trying to live a "normal" life along with my able-bodied friends. Since I wasn't exposed to the disabled community before, I never knew the injustice, inequality, and discrimination that they sometimes faced. I was naive and didn't know, or was even interested in the different types of disabilities. I might have even contributed to the popular American belief mentioned above.
After being accepted into UTA, I became involved with Delta Alpha Pi (DAPi), which is an honor society for students with disabilities. DAPi focuses on destigmatizing disability, encouraging leadership by students with disabilities, and highlighting the achievements of students with disabilities who excel academically. I eventually became president. While serving in this role, I hosted quite a few discussions over meetings and helped to organize events about different disability-related topics, such as a public led discussion of Vital Signs: Crip Culture Talks Back. Being involved in the honor society helped me become more aware of disability culture, and I was able to learn more about different types of disabilities and the struggles that people with disabilities still face.
At the end of my freshman year, I also became involved with UTA’s Disability Studies (DS) minor—the only one in Texas. As part of that program, I have taken classes such as “Disability and Art,” “Film and Disability,” “Research in Disability Studies,” and “History of Disability,” among others. The minor has helped me learn about all the past movements and legislation that occurred in order for me to attend school and be social without a lot of barriers—something that older generations didn’t have. It has also helped shape how I view myself today in regards to my disability, that I shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help when I need it. That is why in the future, I want to work with others who are having difficulty combining their old “able-bodied” self with their new “disabled” self. I want to help newly disabled people realize that they do not have to choose one identity over the other. Instead, they can maintain aspects of both. All of these experiences have helped (and are still helping) me become a better advocate, not only for myself, but to speak up for other minorities who are facing discrimination.
In December 2016, I will be graduating with a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies and a minor in Disability Studies. I chose this route because it will provide a good background, combined with my experience as a patient in a children's hospital, to pursue a career with a foundation or charity focused on rehabilitating people with disabilities. I want to give back to the community that gave so much to me when I needed it and use my own experiences to improve those of others. Ultimately, I would like to help people with newly acquired disabilities realize that their future plans do not have to change. You just have to adapt the way you get to it. Through my health struggles I have realized that no one will fight for you if you don’t fight for yourself first, and that includes pushing the boundaries when someone limits your ability to do something. I want people in these difficult, life-changing situations to realize that they need to be their own advocate in their life, and make their voice heard in matters that involve their health, academic experience, and future. I want to help them understand that there are always multiple routes to one’s end game, and I want them to know that they can do the things that they have always dreamed of, and even things far beyond that. After starting my career and working for a few years, I would love to go back to school and continue with graduation work in Disability Studies. I am beginning to realize that even when you think you know a lot about Disability Studies and Disability History, there is still quite a bit to be learned
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on May 13, 2013 at 9:00 PM||comments (2)|
I think it’s time for a brain drain. (I am going to try my hardest to make this makes sense, coherent, and try not to jump around)
I’m gunna start out by saying that I have the best family and friends a girl could ever ask for. They have done nothing but support and encourage me and everything that I have ever wanted to do. With that being said, there are some things that they just don’t understand, and can never understand no matter how hard they try.
I believe that when things happen to you, whether they are good or bad, they shape you into the person you were meant to be. It puts you in a certain “mind frame/set.” Most people learn to walk around a year old, and they just continue doing so until the day they die. They do not know any different, it’s just something that they do. Something normal, something that they do without thinking, something that is often too many times taken for granted. I used to be one of those people. I started walking at nine months,and never imagined that I would ever stop. That something as simple as walking could ever be taken away from me. I was wrong.
When I first got sick I was thirteen years old, I was still walking. It was just a little slower compared to everyone else. I became completely dependent on a wheelchair a little after my fifthteenth birthday. Previous to this I had never known anyone who was in a wheelchair. I had seen them, yes, but I had never had any friends who were dependent on them; even after my many many stays in multiple hospitals.Throughout my transitioning process from being an “AB” (able-bodied) to someone who depended on something other than their own two legs to get somewhere, my friends and family were by my side; ready to do/be whatever I needed them to. While I was doing this I was still in an “AB” mind frame, if that makes any sense. In my mind I was still my old self, before the sickness took over. A lot of people understand that dealing with major transitions like this take time and patience,but I think a lot of the times they just think, “Oh, all you have to do is get used to the idea that you just can’t use your legs anymore.” While that is technically true, there are so many more things that go into it. I will be the first to admit, that before I got sick I had all these preconceived stereotypes,and didn’t even think about any of this stuff. I never gave it a first or second thought, but since I was handed this card in life, my eyes are still- to this day seeing/understanding things that I have never understood about spinal cord injuries.
What I’m trying to get at is that the difference between empathy and sympathy is understanding rather than just acknowledging. Throughout the different stages of having to come to terms with how my life was panning out, all I had was sympathy, and I by no means am saying that was a bad thing. All my friends and family were there for me, and they tried their hardest to put themselves in my shoes, and tried to see where I was coming from, but no matter how hard they tried they didn’t get it. Even the doctors, who saw patients like me every day didn’t get it, and hopefully they never have to. Of course, I could call my best friend and vent to her about anything and everything, and she would just listen and give me advice if I asked; but sometimes what I needed was someone to say “Hey, I have been there, and it’s not the end of the world. It gets better, I promise.”
Empathy, though, is understanding. People who empathize with you get where you are coming from, because they have been there. They have either been in the same, or a very similar circumstance. I think that is what I missed going through this hardship. I was never around people who were struggling with the same things I was struggling with. I never have the chance to talk to someone whose life was changed in a split second as drastically as mine was. No matter how much training as a PT/OT you go through, or how many people you "reteach" to do things that they've done a certain way up until the injury, you don't get it. Sometimes there are things that I want to say or talk about, and “AB”people won’t understand. I would still talk to them about it, but inside their head, I’m willing to bet they’re saying something along the lines of “Umm,okay. I kinda see what you’re saying…but not really.”
The reason I’m writing about this now is because this past weekend I went to an event sponsored by RISE (www.riseadaptivesports.org/wp/) at the Grapevine Lake, and met so many amazing people. I would sit there and be talking to someone, and somehow get on a topic that I’ve never talked about with any of my friends before. That, to me is weird because I tell my friends everything; but while I was talking with them, it just dawned on me that these people understand, they get where I am coming from. I don’t have to use every descriptive word in my vocabulary just to get them to semi-picture what I was trying to say.
For once in my life, I kinda felt at peace; with life in general and with the fact that for the time being, for whatever reason, whether I like it or not, I’m in a wheelchair. And, hey, it’s not the end of the world. It gets better, I promise.
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on March 29, 2013 at 6:35 PM||comments (16)|
You ever have those days where you just do not care? Today is one of those days for me. So I decided I was going to write a blog, just get some of this stuff out of my mind. So excuse me if this is just a whole bunch of random stuff, but this has been a long time coming.
Let’s see… Where did we leave off… We still have no idea why I had the seizures, we have done every test that you can think of, and everything came back normal. I am still on the anti-seizure medicine, (which I am pretty sure I am having an allergic reaction to. I have been popping Benadryl like candy) and my doctor wants me to continue taking it until I meet with him in June. He said that we will reassess everything then, and make a new game plan.
This semester I started out taking like 16 or 17 hours. (I registered early in the Christmas break, before I had the seizures). Just this past week, I realized that I had to drop biology, because with all the stress I was having with my body trying to kill me...it just wasn't happening. No matter how hard I tried, how many hours I spent studying the material, it was not getting through to me. I spent every day of my spring break re-watching the lectures and constantly going over my notes. I thought I knew the material, but after I got the grade back for my test, I realized how wrong I was. I really need to reevaluate what I want in life, and how realistic it is. After I dropped it, I felt like such a failure (even though everyone else dropped it too pretty much) and I just felt so discouraged. As of right now I am taking 9 hours this semester, I will be taking 6 hours over the summer, and over the fall I will be taking about 14 hours. We will see how it goes.
There are two things that are going on right now that I am pretty excited about. One of them is that I auditioned for a part in a movie called Loveland (www.lovelandfilm.com)and it is about disability rights. It is a narrative story that centers around this girl Ivy and her and puts her in an institution. She does not want to be associated with “the special people.” So she keeps trying to find ways out of it. It is really hard to explain, but it would be an amazing experience to be able to contribute to it. The writer/producer said that my audition went really well, and I should find out when the next week if I have a part in it.
The second thing that I am excited about is that I may be getting a car and my license soon. My mom and I went and met with people who do the modifications of cars for people in wheelchairs to be able to drive. I am just now getting the ball rolling for that, so it might be a little while until everything is said and done. Nonetheless it is still very exciting. I just keep thinking that I will not be left out of the little things that everyone else takes for granted. This might sound bad/bitter, but I am not intending for it to… I have the most amazing friends that have stayed with me throughout all of my health issues, but it is the little things like randomly going to get some frozen yogurt and not getting the invite to go that kind of bothers me. Right now my parents or someone has to drive me wherever I go, so before I make any plans, I have to make sure everyone else's schedule is clear so that way I will have a ride. If I get my own car that I am able to drive, I will not have to ask, or clear anyone's schedule if I want to go somewhere. I will have my independence back.
The last thing that I have really been struggling with, is my faith. I guess it was two weeks ago now, I went to church, and I was reading this person story (each week they have a little postcard with someone story on it) and the second paragraph said, "As I grew older, I began to question my own faith. However, in spite of my doubts, I continue to participate in church activities. I kept my questions to myself, never letting on that I was secretly struggling with unbelief. I played the part of the perfect Baptist church kid, but I was only pretending--- there was no true belief behind my words or actions.” After I read that I just kind of sat there thinking about it. I just kept thinking how true it kind of was for me. But I think I have known it for awhile, I just never wanted to acknowledge it, because when you acknowledge it,it makes it real. And I did not want it to be real. When I got home from church, I Skyped one of my best friends, and as soon as I saw his face on the computer, I just started crying. I told him all about the story, and that I have not really felt God's presence in a while. But I just kept ignoring the feeling, thinking that maybe one day it would go away. Then I remembered a quote, “A Bible that is falling apart, usually belongs to someone who is not.” I literally cannot remember the last time that I just sat down with my Bible and read…He told me that having doubts, means you have faith. That was the second time in my life that I have heard that. So we made a deal. Every Friday we will send each other encouraging Bible verses, or something that we think the other person needs to hear. So far, I am getting a little better… But I am not quite where I once was, or anywhere near where I want to be. The two things I really need to work on with this are one, reading my Bible and reflecting on what I read. And two, listening to God. I need to learn how to listen to him, how to “be still and know that He is God.” I need to learn the difference between what He is actually saying, and what I want/think He is saying.
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on January 12, 2013 at 1:55 PM||comments (0)|
I just got done reading “The Fault In Our Stars” by John Green. (Pretty good book, by the way) In it, one of the main characters ***SPOILERSPOILER SPOILER*** dies. He passes from cancer, so he had a heads up that his time was coming. (Which would still suck) He comes up with this “pre-funeral” (a funeral before his actual funeral, so that way he could attend it) idea where he asked his girlfriend, and best friend to write a eulogy and they would read it in front of him. So right there, in the “literal heart of Jesus” (book reference) in the middle of the night, they had his pre-funeral.
It got me thinking, how cool would that be? To know who showed up, who cried, who wrote something, who spoke, who was angry? And I mean, who knows? Maybe when our time comes and our funeral happens, perhaps we do know the answers to all of these things… And then, that got me thinking. (It is best to just not get me thinking at all) How many people don't get to say “Good-bye” at all? How many sentences are left unsaid? Tasks left undone?
Every second of every day, we are all essentially seconds away from our death. The only things that save us are God, and our last minute decisions. (Forgetting our wallet in the house, taking a right turn instead of a left, deciding to go to Target instead of Wal-Mart)
“Normal” people do not think about these things on a daily basis, it’s only the people who have “cheated death” that realize these things,because they are the ones who have actually been there. They are the ones who have been milliseconds away from leaving this Earth. They are the ones who were left with the decision, “Go into the light, or back to my friends and family?”
The scariest thing about what happened to me on December 26,2012, was that I became unresponsive, but I do not remember being unresponsive. Does that make sense? I do not remember laying there while my friends and family were crying, trying to get me to come back. I have no recollection of just staring at each of their faces, and having no idea of who they are. I could not imagine what it must of felt like to be in their shoes that night. What if I went into cardiac arrest? What if I went into a coma? What would happen to my friends, family, and everything that I left undid? If I knew I was dying, what would I say at my “pre-funeral?”
I think one of the first things that I would say would be, do not be angry at God. Do not stop believing, do not give up, and don’t stop going to church. His will is perfect. All things happen for Him, through Him, and by Him. Everything He does is on purpose, for a purpose. Yeah, you will miss me, and it might suck, but ultimately I am better off. Think of it this way, (if I do not start walking before my time on Earth is over, then I will no longer need a wheelchair. And I think I’ll be pretty hot too) ;]
Another thing I would mention would be my friends and family. They are and will always be the best anybody could ever want or ask for. I don't know too many people who have friends who would drop everything that they are doing, say “screw sleep” and show up at the hospital at 3AM just to be there to support you, pray over you, and be there just in case anything happened. My family has always supported me in everything that I have ever wanted to do, and they never stopped encouraging me in pursuing my future dreams. All of my SEKs (South Euless Kids) have been there for me, most since the second grade. They have always been there to listen, or to help me out with any of my problems. I never have to ask twice. The only thing they ask, “When and where?” and they’ll be there. There are not enough words to adequately describe what my friends and family mean to me and how much of a role they have played in my life. I want them to never go a day without telling themselves how much I love them.
If something ever happens to me, and I have left any relationship strained, whether it was me being mad at you, you being mad at me, ect/whatever; I would want you to know that I forgive you. That even if I am not there to say the words to your face, I still mean them.
I am obviously not getting too in depth in this because itis sad thinking about your own death, but I think that everyone should at least give it some thought. I do not want to leave this Earth without everyone knowing what they have done for me, and how much they mean to me. I do not want to leave any strained or wrecked relationships behind, because that has the ability to tear people apart.
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on January 4, 2013 at 9:20 PM||comments (1)|
A lot has been happening in my life since I last written in here. The last time I updated this website we were having a lot of problems with my van, and we had a couple fund raisers scheduled in order to raise some money to pay for a new one. Not only did we get a new van, but I also got a new wheelchair that has a standing feature built in. This way I can stand at home and continue with therapy even when I am not with my therapist. The only reason that any of this was possible was because of my amazing friends and family, their ability to spread the word, and the amount that they helped me.
I have not been able to use the new wheelchair yet because I have not been able to stand without a boot. As of yesterday (1/3/2013) I was given the clear to go ahead and continue with therapy without any restrictions. So hopefully within the next week or two we will get my new wheelchair adjusted correctly, and I can start standing and it.
Toward the end of last year I also got three dental implants. So far I just have the screws, and I will get the custom abutments around May of this year.
My birthday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas flew by. It seems as though it was one after another. For my birthday and Thanksgiving, I celebrated it with just a quiet, immediate family get together. And for Christmas, my extended family came into town and we celebrated it together.
The Wednesday after Christmas (12/26/2012) is a day that I will never forget. Around 11pm that night I had my parents call 911. (A lot of this night and the following day, I do not remember, and have no recollection of it at all. I have heard the stories from the people who were there and have kind of formed my own story of what happened.) The only thing that I can remember is just being in my room and then all of a sudden I opened my eyes and the paramedics just appeared out of thin air. They kept telling me that my numbers and vital were fine, and that the only reason they would take me to the emergency room is if I wanted to go. I was having trouble forming sentences and my lips/tongue were tingling. The only thing I could seem to repeat were the words, “something wrong, not right”
I do not remember them getting me on the gurney, going down the hallway, or loading me up in the ambulance. My brother was telling me that he was looking out the kitchen window, and he saw the ambulance shaking violently. He ran outside, and yanked open the ambulance door, and they told him that I was having a seizure. After the first seizure (the type of seizure I had was called a Tonic-clonic seizure. It is of the one mostly associated with epilepsy, which I do not have) I became completely unresponsive. My mom rode up front, while my brother and dad followed behind. When we got to the emergency room, my mom had already called my other brother, grandparents, and all of my best friends. They took me in to the ICU, incubated me (I wasted no time ripping out the breathing tube, which caused me to aspirate. Which also ended up giving me pneumonia.) And while they were working on me (they did have to break the seal to the crash cart, but they did not have to use the paddles onme) I had a another seizure.
They were not thinking that I was going to pull through. I was not responding, and I had no idea who I was, who my parents were, or who any of my friends were. But that night the whole ICU waiting room was full of my friends and family, and they just gathered around and prayed. I spent two nights in ICU, then they moved me to a regular room where I also stayed two nights, and I was discharged on Sunday December 30, 2012. (During which we found out I was Anemic and they ended up giving me a unit of blood. My Hemaglobin was 6, normal is 13)
One of the scariest things in life is not knowing why something is happening to you. What is even scarier is when something is happening to you, and you aren’t even aware that it is. I can not imagine how my loved ones felt when I was not responding, or when they would come and try to talk to me and I would just stare straight through them. If there is one thing for sure, it is that I am here for a reason. I may have no idea what that reason is, and I may not find out for a while, but I am winning all of these battles. Apparently, it is going to take more than a wheelchair, a wreck, and two major seizures to even throw this girl off her game the slightest bit.
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on July 22, 2012 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
What was supposed to be a family outing to celebrate my brothers birthday turned into getting stuck on the side of the road in Denton, not once, but FIVE times. Thought we fixed it, then we broke down again. We were at this from 11am to 6pm in 108 degree heat. The last time we stopped at a gas station, and ate ice cream trying to stay cool. Could be worse...right? Thank God, they're all mechanically inclined! fundraiser could not have come at a better time!
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on July 21, 2012 at 2:25 PM||comments (1)|
|Posted by SheWillNotFall on July 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM||comments (0)|
Nobody expects anything like this to ever happen to them. Something like this never crosses their mind. Most people wouldn't even think of something that they've done since they were a year and a half years old to be taken away in the blink of an eye. You can't prepare for something like that.
My name is Nichole Sheridan and I am 18 years old. When I was just 13 years old, my entire world changed. Over the course of a week, my body basically shut down. I lost almost all feeling and strength that I had. After multiple short and extended stays in the hospital, hundreds of tests, MRI’s CAT scans, lumbar punctures, and guess after guess, it was concluded that I had Transverse Myelitis/Myelopathy.
I have played soccer for as long as I can remember. As soon as I could walk and kick a ball at the same time, I was on a team. My dream was actually to play soccer for my future high school’s team. I didn't have a specific position that I played, I was very versatile. Each and every year right before school started, my parents would sign me up at the city hall. It was short lived, but I am thankful for every second of it. Playing soccer for that short amount of time taught me many great values. One example of the values was teamwork and allowing others to step in and help me when needed. Also another example would be when the game was becoming difficult to keep your perseverance and determination on the goal.
When I first started out in high school, it was my first real test of confidence and perseverance. I had a lot of friends, but not many of them were in any of my classes, so I just kept to myself. People knew me as “the girl in the wheelchair”, or as my mom would say “the pretty girl in the wheelchair.” Before all this, I was outgoing. But I guess after this happened I kind of closed in on myself. I didn't even know who I was anymore.
It was then that I knew I had to do something. I was passing the cafeteria and I noticed that tryouts for Trojan Men were approaching. What are Trojan Men you ask? They are the flag runners, the spirit keeper-uppers, the crowd pumpers, the skit performers. I had my doubts about making it, but I picked up an application anyway. I made it past the first two rounds of tryouts, and was waiting to see if my name was on the final list. It was. My first year as a Trojan man was the year that I broke out of my shell. I found myself again.
My senior year, I tried out again. I was elected president of Trojan Men. I was the only returner, so I had to teach the rookies the ropes. I taught them how to set up “Rambo” the football run through and salute it when it was up straight. I taught them how to set out the flags and run them when we scored. Before and after each game we sing the alma mater, and point to the Senior Flag. I got the honor to take the flag centerfield, in front of thousands to represent my school. It was the closest I got to “playing” on the field.
Everyone has that quality that sets them apart from everyone else. I think mine is my determination. Ever since I got sick, I've been to doctors that tell me that I would never walk again. I refuse to believe that. I know that one day I will stand up on my own two feet again and takes steps by myself. Whenever someone limits my ability to do something my determination shows them that their negativity does not have a place in my life.
People always ask me, “How do you do it, Nichole? How do you stay so positive and not give up?” My answer is just because I got handed a difficult situation does not mean that I'm going to give up on my dreams. It doesn't mean that I'm going to stay here and wish I could walk because it would make things so much easier. It just means that I'm going to have to work harder than everyone else, and I will have to take a few extra steps to conquer my goal. It means I have to be very aware of my surroundings, and plan ahead.
I may have not gotten to play soccer for my high school, but I have so much more ahead of me. My goal is to become a neurologist and help kids get through what I got through. I want to let them know that being in a wheelchair is not the end of the world. I want to let them know that they can still do whatever it is that they want to do, and to not give up on their dreams. Even after all this, and missing two years of school in the hospital, I’m graduating in the top 22% of my class, a member of Student Council, a member of The National Honor Society, and one of the top five nominees for my school’s prom queen. I may have an incurable disease, but that disease does not have me. My wheelchair does not define who I am.