DAILY LIVING & MOBILITY

You're Going to Walk

Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

Laurie Zappulla

...still pressing on after spinal cord injury

What happened to you? Why do you use a cane to walk? Why do you use a scooter?

It was 1979, and I was 18 years old enjoying one summer week before I headed for college. I jumped into a pool, hit my head and started drowning. The E.M.T said “she is a quadriplegic and will probably never walk again.” The tunnel of darkness began, it felt like I was in a wrapping of heaviness beyond belief. What just happened to me? I could not move, I could not feel my body! They told us to prepare our home for a wheelchair ramp. What they did not know was that there was a different plan for my life. “Will she walk again? Will she move? “It's very serious, just come home now” my uncle told my mom who had to stop her Eurotrip and find someone to help her go back on the train immediately. It was better she didn’t know exactly what happened. “Your daughter is a quadriplegic, she will never walk again” …the on-staff neurosurgeon told her when she arrived 3 days later. I heard her scream.

The “return” of feeling began quickly after many prayers, three months and ten days later, I was up walking in the parallel bars. My gait was weak as was my whole body, I struggled with all the other issues, that quads deal with, but I was determined very early on to move as much as I could. I was an inpatient in rehab for one year. It was a life unto itself, often dismissed and not popular to speak about but, I think, part of my heart, mind and soul were torn there and then some. I sadly can say I must have cried a million tears. The early days of regaining use of my body was a nightmare never-ending.

“Coming back” was not easy, but I continued in outpatient rehab and one year later I went to college and earned my bachelor’s degree. I met a man who loved me just as I was, and with all my challenges. We married, and I had a son by natural birth! I have never stopped long enough to quit. Today, I am still motivated.  Everyday I train.
Should I do pilates, free weights or swim? In fact, this summer, I plan to row with the Adaptive Row team on the Potomac River here in our nation’s capital!
It is a battle, some say. Sometimes you need to choose which side of the battle you will be in that day, that hour, or even the moment by moment. I know, I do. It is like a heavy door. You know, some doors require that extra push, that extra something that you have in you! This is what walking feels like for me sometimes. I am blessed to say that 38 years later I am still walking! It is wonderful, it is a miracle I know.

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