Mentor Spotlight: Sheila Shea

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 18, 2020 # PFSP, Peer Spotlight

Listening to Sheila Shea talk about Cinda, you would never know that they only met nine months ago.

“She is a huge part of my life. She is enveloped into my close group of family and friends,” says Shea. “We talk every day, and she always sends me a Facebook message to say good night. I can’t imagine my life without her.”Sheila Shea and Tina

The two first connected when Shea was matched as a mentor to Cinda through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Peer & Family Support Program.

“Our first conversations focused on medications and how to do things around the house,” says Shea. “Now our conversations range from what’s happening with our families and in our lives to what’s blooming in our yards. It feels good to share. Sometimes it’s hard not to start feeling bad about yourself, but we talk through it.”

Shea’s path to becoming a mentor was far from typical. After sustaining a C4, C5 level injury in a 2016 car accident, Shea shut down. A very persistent vocational therapist she met in rehab traveled more than two hours to visit Shea several times after she returned home and tried to encourage her to get involved with the Reeve Foundation.

“I went numb. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I cried a lot,” says Shea. “I wanted nothing to do with mentoring other people. I thumbed my nose at it. I thumbed my nose at a lot of things.”

Ultimately, the therapist sat down at the computer with Shea to fill out the Reeve Foundation mentor application. Shea didn’t know that her sister and best friend were already spending a lot of time on the Reeve Foundation website researching different things related to Shea’s injury.

“When I did the mentor training, I realized how much people can benefit from connecting with others,” says Shea. “When I got my first referral, I sprang to life. There was somebody who needed help, needed a friend, needed to talk to someone who’s been there. It breathed life into me.”

So far, Shea has been assigned four peers (individuals who are being mentored) through the Reeve Foundation.

“Once you get into this, it is pretty incredible how many people living with paralysis are out there,” says Shea. “I don’t like to call them peers, they are friends. At first it seems artificial, but it becomes meaningful quickly. I think about them all the time, and I know that they think about me.”

Shea often sends her peers articles and links from the Reeve Foundation website related to a current challenge or question they are having about their condition or situation. She has also sent all of her peers a Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Guide.

“It means a lot to have friends in a similar situation. The relationships are very mutual,” says Shea. “We cry, laugh, whine and complain together and we worry about and encourage each other.”

Looking back, Shea thinks the persistent vocational therapist saw that she had something to give that she did not see or understand.

“There is so much meaning in being able to share your experience. We are in such a unique situation that other people just don’t understand,” says Shea. “It is a completely different life, but we all have something to give.”

For more information on the Peer & Family Support Program and to request a mentor, please go to https://www.christopherreeve.org/get-support/get-a-peer-mentor.