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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Realizing Impossible Dreams

Saralee Perel

"The One-Woman
Dynamo Power Bike."

By Saralee Perel

"So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbable, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable." Christopher Reeve

Recently, for the first time in 5 years I simply went out back, put my cane down, and started walking. I made it 42 yards.

Today I walked 5 miles.

Help yourself
My medical team had said this would be impossible. My brain could no longer send the signals for walking because those nerves in my spinal cord had been destroyed. Though certainly unintentional, my doctors did take something very important away from me: hope.

A while back, a psychologist pal of mine urged me to try to help myself. I was angry. I said, "They're four of Boston's leading neurologists. They all said I'd never get any better."

"They could have all been wrong."

"They said there's nothing I can do! No rehabilitation. No physical therapy. I'm not putting any effort into trying to walk and then be miserable when I fail."

"Trying is never failure."

Trying times
I'd get steaming mad at people like her. What did they know? They came out in droves. I heard various things I should try: a soy-based diet, massage, Yoga, acupuncture, positive thinking. All of these well-meaning non-experts believed that traditional medical doctors do not know everything about human potential.

However, there was a common denominator in my friends' advice. And that was the word, "Try."

What made me finally try? The answer is simpler than I’d have ever imagined. That day I tried walking on my own, I had simply said to myself, "Why not?"

When I walk I have a Frankenstein-style gait. I get embarrassed so I explain. I met a gal who said, "Stop excusing yourself. Walk proud!" She's just one of the many who’ve taught me that if I open my heart to acceptance, the world is filled with support teams.

I've also learned to open my obstinate mind and really listen to others, experts or not. This not only fosters my own sometimes-frail belief in my abilities; it fosters faith in miracles.

Bicycle built for two
One morning my husband Bob said there was a huge present for me in our driveway. He had researched "bicycles for disabled people." It was a 300 pound cycle for two. The seats were side by side. He could pedal while I sat by him and enjoyed the outdoors again.

Um . . . did I mention it came assembled with a set of pedals for me too?

Now, hundreds of miles later, after exhaustive hours of pedaling along beautiful bike trails, I only wish that we owned stock in Ben-Gay.

Bob needs a tube a day to keep up with me.

Last week he repeated, "There's a huge present in our driveway." He led me outside. "Voila!" he said. "Oh God," I moaned. Bob dubbed it "The One-Woman Dynamo Power Bike."

"Sweetheart? You know I can't bike on my own."

He laughed sweetly. "I know. And you can't walk either. Then why does the pedometer I bought you have 74 miles on it?"

Discovering the powers within
And so, I made a now often repeated silent declaration that I am praying others will say to themselves as well. "Yes. I can."

Think I love my bike? You bet. Think I love Bob? Of course. Think I love life again after cloistering myself in a self imposed no-can-do closet? Goodness! You have to ask?

How do we find hope when hope seems impossible? Do we simply believe in our hearts, our minds and our very souls that we can beat the odds?

Yes.

Christopher Reeve said, "When we have hope, we discover powers within ourselves we may have never known. Once we choose hope, everything is possible."

His immutable words still ring in my heart and I so hope they will in everyone else's: "And you don't have to be a ‘Superman' to do it."

Award-winning columnist, Saralee Perel, welcomes e-mails as sperel@saraleeperel.com or via her website: www.saraleeperel.com.

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A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Caregivers PCAs Respite (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Mindfullness (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Umbilical Cord Blood Banking (PDF)

CaringRoad.comCaringRoad.com is dedicated to helping family caregivers obtain information, locate services and find support so they can make informed decisions about the care of their loved ones. An online community of family caregivers.

Center for Research on Women with Disabilities (CROWD)Dept of Physical Medicine and Rehab Services at Baylor College of Medicine.

Caregiver.comOffers a directory of support groups for caregivers.

The Caregiver InitiativeA project of the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Products Company to help family caregivers provide care to their loved ones and reduce their own stress. Includes information on caregiver needs, and training materials for family caregivers.

Family Caregiver AllianceCaregiver Media Group is a leading provider of information, support and guidance for family and professional caregivers.

Family Caregiving: It's Not All Up to YouNFCA and the National Alliance for Caregiving launched a public education campaign to give information and support to caregivers.

FacingDisability.comFacing Disability is a web resource with more than 1,000 videos drawn from interviews of people with spinal cord injuries, their families, caregivers and experts. I know that this is a lot to ask, but we'd be so grateful for your help. I'm looking forward to discussing this link with you, and to answering any questions you may have.

Mobile WomenArticles, resources, online forum for women with disabilities especially wheelchair users.

National Family Caregiver Association (NFCA)The National Family Caregivers Association educates, supports, empowers and speaks up for the more than 65 million Americans who care for loved ones with a chronic illness or disability or the frailties of old age. NFCA reaches across the boundaries of diagnoses, relationships and life stages to help transform family caregivers' lives by removing barriers to health and well being.

National Alliance for CaregivingThe Alliance was created to conduct research, do policy analysis, develop national programs, increase public awareness of family care giving issues, work to strengthen state and local care giving coalitions, and represent the US care giving community internationally.

Red Cross Family Caregiving ResourcesInformation for caregivers.

Spinal Cord Injury CaregiversYahoo Internet Forum is a place to share information and to support other caregivers who are caring for people with SCI.

Well Spouse AssociationA national, not for profit membership organization that gives support to wives, husbands, and partners of the chronically ill and/or disabled. Through information and support groups, the organization address issues common to family caregivers: anger, guilt, fear, isolation, grief, and financial threat.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3001, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship are encouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.