​I Remember

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on April 04, 2022 # EmpowHer Stories

Chenelle WhiteBy Guest Blogger, Chenelle White

I remember the day my life changed forever. I was reaching for a snack in the cabinet, next thing I knew, I was on the floor with my brother standing over me. I knew I had been shot. I was 11 years old.

I remember telling my brother to get my dad, and they called 911. The paramedics arrived and put me on the stretcher. I saw a bunch of flashing lights, and the next thing I knew, I was in the ambulance. They needed to cut my clothes off, and the only thing I could think was, "THIS IS MY FAVORITE SHIRT!" So, I let them cut my shirt after they promised me a Butterfinger milkshake from Steak n Shake afterward.

I remember being pushed into the ER. There was a lot of noise and more bright lights. Everything happened so fast. I was surrounded by the unfamiliar; machines, beeping, and tubes coming out of places I didn't even know were possible. I just wanted everything to pause.

I remember when the doctor came in: my room was dark, and I was watching TV. She sat next to me and explained the extent of my spinal cord injury, but all I heard was I was never going to walk again. At that moment, I felt like my life was over! I would never ride a bike, play basketball with my brother, or swim…

I remember the first time I had to sit up and had to get in my wheelchair, it had only been three days after I'd been shot. It was some of the worst pain I've ever felt. Soon after, I was transferred into a rehab hospital. It was hard getting to know my body again. There were new strengths and weaknesses I had to learn. The physical and occupational therapists worked with me daily to teach me how to be more independent. I had to learn how to transfer myself in and out of bed, how to go to the bathroom, take showers, get myself dressed - all the basic stuff. It was hard finding motivation, strength, and positivity. It was hard mentally and emotionally to prepare myself for a life outside of a hospital.

I remember all the bad parts, but I also remember all the good!

I remember Ann, she was my occupational therapist. She pushed me hard because she believed I was strong. My first session with her was on a tilt table, I was scared and nauseous, but she reassured me everything was going to be okay. I threw up, but she didn't make a big deal out of it. We just switched to a different activity. Never once did she give up on me. She even got me into a pool - something I never thought was possible. She believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself!

I remember Andrea. Andrea was my CNA on my very first day. She came in, introduced herself, and warmed up my cookie. From that moment on, she was the one I always looked for on hard days. She was the first person I ever opened up to about being shot. She motivated me and told me that I still have a purpose. Andrea helped me prepare for therapy and life outside of the hospital. She was my rock!

I remember Shelby and Tiffany. They were my first roommates ever. Tiffany was my first friend in the hospital. We became really close. She would never push me to share, but she would always listen if I needed it and never judge me. We did everything together. Shelby and I butted heads a lot, but at the end of every day, we were still friends. Some of my happiest moments in life were with her. When we were together, we were always up to no good! We even toilet-papered offices in the hospital! Their friendship showed me I wasn't alone.

I remember the day I finally went home. It was bittersweet. I was leaving “my new normal” behind to yet another “new normal,” but I was excited to put into practice the things I learned in rehab. Learning to navigate life in a wheelchair has opened me up to new experiences and new people. Sometimes it's hard stepping into independence and finding my new self; however, with everything I've accomplished I know there's nothing I can't do. I had a life-changing experience, and my life changed for the better. My world has expanded in unexpected ways. I'm on a wheelchair basketball team now and go swimming at least twice a week. I'm choosing to live my life to the fullest. What's the worst that could happen!?

Because of that, I remember!

Ps: I never got my milkshake!

Chenelle White is a proud teenager with a disability living in Missouri. She loves wheelchair basketball, crime television shows, and taking risks. She’s looking forward to turning 18 because she cannot wait to get a job and maybe even move into her own place!

Chenelle wrote this blog as a part of the Disability EmpowHer Network and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation collaborative blogging program, which uplifts the voices of women and girls with spinal cord disabilities.

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.