Tomorrow is never guaranteed | Guest Blogger Sharon Malone

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on June 21, 2018 # Mobility, Caregiving

On October 24, 2012, my life changed forever that few can comprehend. At the time I was a wife, a mother, a daughter & a sister. That morning I went to work and for reasons we will neve,r know my SUV was involved in a rollover car accident that instantly left me paralyzed from the chest down. I spent 15 days battling in the ICU, 3 months in the hospital inpatient rehab, then another 3 months in a skilled nursing facility re-learning daily living skills to allow me to function in my upcoming new normal life. I have no memory of that fateful day but from the moment I woke up all I thought about was my kids and how I needed to regain my “supermom” status that my family had known. I have fought hard and will continue to fight hard till my dying breath so those kids know that there is nothing in life they can’t accomplish or overcome if they set their mind to it. I plan on walking at their weddings and I won’t stop believing until I succeed.

Within a year of returning home on April 17, 2013, I was divorced and had to quickly learn how to become a single mom living in a wheelchair. That experience allowed me to be a stronger person and do things for myself that I never thought I could do on my own. It was a struggle to learn how to be independent but the one thing that kept me moving forward was my determination to raise my kids as normal as possible. I began my journey by taking “Living with Spinal Cord Injury” classes sponsored by AZSCIA in 2013 that gave me hope that there truly was life after my injury and I began becoming involved in their community activities and met some wonderful people along the way that are now my friends in this battle. That community has profoundly changed my perspective on having a successful life. I took wheelchair skills classes. I went on to take driving lessons as I couldn’t bare relying on other people to do things for me. I successfully completed those courses and I bought my first vehicle by February 2014. This was a newfound sense of independence that can’t be described.

In 2014, I had made a promise to my children that I would take them on a family trip every year to make lasting memories. We have driven to California 4 years in a row now and I enjoy the roller coaster rides just as much as they do. I enjoy the beaches by using beach wheelchairs. I initially never thought that was possible. I also flew to San Antonio, TX which was a great experience despite my fears over bowel/bladder, transfers, accessible taxis etc. The struggles I’ve had to face with traveling have been with the hotel staff’s training on accessible rooms. They have no clue on the challenges we must endure so it is no surprise they don’t understand that the height of a bed makes a difference or doorways need to be wide enough or that there is a real difference between a roll in shower versus an accessible tub. Despite the frustrations, I have grown to advocate for myself and others and hopefully educate those around me on the daily challenges we face.

With five years now under my belt, I volunteer my time as a mentor with the Arizona Spinal Cord Association [a PFSP partner], Ability360 and St. Joseph’s hospital. When I speak with spinal cord injury survivors, our discussions mainly focus on daily living skills that we all, to some extent have in common, such as therapies, medications and equipment we’ve found helpful. While there is no one solution for everyone, providing resources plays a key role in success stories. If I can give someone a victory of doing something on their own by strategizing what works best for them, then I am happy. It is a pay it forward approach. By joining and working with the spinal cord injury community, I don’t feel like I am limited in the things I want to enjoy. I may have to do it in a different way but I’m not limited by the possibilities of a successful and fulfilling life. You must enjoy life as tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Sharon Malone is a T/5 T/12 incomplete paraplegic since 2012. She lives Mesa, Arizona and is a mother of three children ages, seven, nine and thirteen. Currently, she is a dedicated volunteer & speaker with several organizations that serve the paralysis community throughout Maricopa County. She views her volunteer work as a reflection on how helping people living with spinal cord injuries can truly make a difference in other’s lives.