The recalculated route | Guest Blogger Julia Rodes

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on May 09, 2017 # Peer & Family Support Program Spotlight

Five years ago, I woke up in a hospital bed a paraplegic. I couldn't remember the accident, just that I had been in a motorcycle safety course and something had gone wrong. I woke to find my bed surrounded by people from the Army family where we were stationed in South Carolina. As I transitioned into rehab, a schedule of hot dinners for my husband and bedside visits for myself ensured we were supported around the clock. When I came home from the hospital, I was driven with my own motorcycle escort from the Buffalo Soldiers who came in solidarity to promote motorcycle safety.

Surrounded by this much support, I only had one moment of hesitation about returning to college. It had always been my dream to be a surgeon and travel to underserved populations. I was halfway through my premedical studies when my accident occurred. And just after two months in rehab, I returned home and started my next semester five days later.

However, not everyone who survives a traumatic accident wakes surrounded by unlimited support. Not everyone has a health insurance plan that covered everything and gave support to my husband. Not everyone had a college or work they returned to who were willing to work with every accommodation.

My mother passed when I was 17, but she taught me that when you've been blessed you turn around and share with those who weren't. So, I ran for and was crowned Miss Wheelchair South Carolina so I could have a platform on which to speak to others with disabilities. We were then transferred to a unit in Germany and I began writing about traveling in Europe, how to get around a city with no elevators or which tourist attractions have accessible bathrooms on

The year my husband left active duty and I was interviewing for a job at medical schools – we decided to pack our bags and buy an RV. We spent 10 months traveling around the US, with my Great Dane service dog, visiting national parks and reviewing cities for accessibility. The last month of our travels I was accepted into my top choice medical school, the Medical University of South Carolina.

Five years ago, I was a patient and this fall I'll be on my way to becoming a doctor. I’ve come full circle, knowing the fears and concerns as a patient and now I’m on the other side of the stethoscope. I've lived as an able-bodied girl and now as a disabled woman, both lives giving me insight and understanding that everyone's story is complicated. Now I will roll into medical school instead of walk, but I know that even a recalculated route can still take us to our desired destination.

-Julia Rodes, Peer mentor & Miss Wheelchair South Carolina 2011-2012

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The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.