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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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A Goal to Help Others

Vinny Integlia and his mother, Mojca

Vinny Integlia and his mother, Mojca

By: Sonia Lima

Name: Vinny Integlia
Injury: C5, C6
Mechanism: Dove into ocean wave
Date of Injury: Summer 1977

Vinny Integlia shared his story with us about three years ago on our website. Integlia, who is living with quadriplegia, was injured at the age of 18 when he dove into an ocean wave in Middleton, Rhode Island. We thought it would be a good time to see how he's doing.

Integlia, 51, endured six months of rehabilitation, and learning how to live life in a wheelchair. Integlia and his mother, Mojca, created a foundation to raise money for spinal cord injury research. In 1986, he graduated with a B.S. in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois. In 2003, Integlia moved with his parents to Tucson, Arizona where he still resides now.

An eye for an eye

Integlia then developed a sinus infection which developed into bone swelling under his left eye. He had surgery and recovered. A biopsy was taken and showed that he was positive for Squamous-cell Carcinoma of the left maxillary sinus. Years later, Integlia had his left eye, sinus, and a piece of cheek bone removed. He also survived pneumonia and a pulmonary embolism.

A couple of months after, cancer reappeared on his neck and 32 lymph nodes had to be removed. Integlia has been told that he is one of the two quadriplegics in the U.S that has undergone that procedure.

Integlia says that his remaining eye isn't doing so great. "It has something called central serous retinopathy," explains Integlia, "which is basically a pocket of water behind the retina and it skews my vision a lot. My vision is 20/150, so it's hard for me to drive. I take buses mostly everywhere."

Integlia has a crew of four care takers and two backups. "I have people who help me to my personal care, as do many quadriplegics," explains Integlia, "but I live on my own. I am independent and always have been."

Integlia speaking to high school students

Integlia speaking to high school students

Future endeavors

Currently, Integlia is continuing public speaking, which he started doing 33 years ago, to high school students, adults, and church groups. He is also concentrating on his website, The Art of Survival.

Integlia's ultimate goal is to be part of an advocacy group that would have an impact nationwide. It would be a program for people living with spinal cord injuries that would help them pay for their personal care attendants.

"So if someone like me wants to get personal care in Florida," explains Integlia, "there should be programs available to pay for those people, and we wouldn't have to be dirt poor to get them. You can be a millionaire; it is all based on your income, your salary, your savings, and your assets. I would like to see that in every state."

You and me against the world

Integlia wrote a book, You and Me Against the World. The first chapter is featured on his website. "It is doing very well; I am working on exposure of it now."

"It's great," explains Integlia, "because whenever I go out and speak, I can just refer my audience to my website and the first chapter is there."

Most of Integlia's days are spent marketing the book and his website via the Internet. "I am in the process of looking for a marketing person," explains Integlia, "and getting out and speaking more."

When it comes to public speaking Integlia says, "If the audience is kids, it's a little different because it's hard to keep their interest. I have spoken to over two-thousand people since I started this. And it originally started as a dream."

Integlia has other plans in mind. "It's really not about the money," says Integlia of his book. "I don't really care. It's really about impacting other people's lives. My theory is that if you can change one person's road, if you can make their path easier, or you can help them in anyway, just one person, one soul, then your life is fulfilled. That's what it's about."

More on Vinny here.

Tell us your story

Telling your story is one way to let anyone touched by paralysis know that they are not alone. We've created a place where you can share your journey for your benefit, and the benefit of others. Your story matters. Share it!

Assistive Technology Training Online Project The Assistive Technology Training Online Project (ATTO) provides information on AT applications that help students with disabilities learn in elementary classrooms.

Abledata: ComputersABLEDATA provides objective information on assistive technology and rehabilitation equipment available from domestic and international sources to consumers, organizations, professionals, and caregivers within the United States. We serve the nation's disability, rehabilitation, and senior communities.

AbilityHub: Assistive Technology SolutionsInformation on adaptive equipment and alternative methods for accessing computers.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Assistive Technology - Computers (PDF)

Camera MouseThe Camera Mouse uses a standard USB camera to convert head and finger motions into computer mouse pointer movements.

The CyberlinkBrain Actuated Technologies has developed this unique, futuristic system enabling hands-free control of a mouse cursor to power video games and other electronic products. The Cyberlink device, reminicent of a science fiction gadget, utilizes a headband with sensors that detect electrical signals made from subtle facial muscle and eye movements as well as from brain wave activity.

Dragon SystemsVoice activation at its finest, the Dragon Systems technology is used not only to operate laptops and pda's but can even control multimedia centers, navigation systems, mobile phones and much more.

laesieworks.com: Computer AccessIt's can be very important for a quadriplegia to have very good access to normal computer & software, even when laying flat in bed. This page is about how I do it. No, that dot is nothing religious! With that dot I control my computer.

Origin Instruments CorporationThis company manufactures The HeadMouse Extreme which translates head motions into computer mouse pointer movements. They also offer other helpful accessories such as soft and smart type keyboards, a sip and puff switch and a dragger utility for manipulating the left and right buttons of the standard mouse.

Prentke Romich CompanyFor complete computer control, visit this site which offers just about every possible device for accessibility from specialized keyboards to the headmouse.

Quad-JoyThis hands-free system was developed by a quadriplegic who, fueled by his own needs, figured a way to operate his computer using a joystick controlled mouse. The mouse works by sip and puff.

The Talking DesktopHands-free computer operation becomes possible with this voice activated software. Through speech recognition, the talking desktop will guide you through virtually any computer function.

TrackerProThe TrackerPro technology allows for cursor control to function through head pointing using a unit which is located on the top of the computer. The unit tracks head movements by the user and then converts the motions into computer mouse operations.

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 90PR3002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship areencouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.