By Guest Blogger Brittany Déjean, Founder and Executive Director, AbleThrive
It took me eight years to realize that luck had played a huge part in my family’s ability to adapt and live well after my dad broke his neck in a car accident. In a rehabilitation hospital in southwest China, I was talking to a man who had broken his back. He had full upper mobility and was even able to bear weight, as I saw when I met him. A quick assessment of his physical mobility led me to believe he’d be fine in his life after the hospital. At that point, my dad was already living independently, driving and working full-time as an engineer with much less mobility, paralyzed from the chest down and unable to move his fingers. To me, there was nothing keeping this man from getting his life back on track too.
But to him, his life as he knew it was over. “When I get home, I’ll spend the rest of my life in bed.” With his inaccessible environment and reduced mobility, he resigned himself to a bleak future without question. I was taken aback. It was the first time I was forced to look at my family’s situation from an objective perspective. Why didn’t we give up on an active and meaningful life for my dad and our family?
When my dad was injured, we happened to live an hour away from one of the top 12 spinal cord injury hospitals in the United States. We quickly met others in our situation who were years ahead of us, showing us what was possible by living their own lives and guiding us on our own journey. My dad learned how to hold a fork without adaptive equipment from another quadriplegic there. He learned he could drive because someone like him wheeled into the rehab gym with car keys around his neck.