A Sneak Peek into the life of a Paralyzed Indo-Canadian Woman
When I was paralyzed in July 2012 while on vacation in Las Vegas I had no idea what life had in store for me. I was scared, lonely, insecure and constantly caught between praying and wanting to die...man I'm glad that I didn't die.
I was paralyzed by a virus that attacked my spinal cord at T10/T11 (waist level). Medically, no one knows how or why I was paralyzed but after almost 8 years of doing my own research, I'm fairly certain it was the Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) that got me.
My story is a long and complicated one that will be told in full once I get my act together and write my book...but I'm scared to share all my secrets and to be honest I'm fairly lazy hahaha but I promise that one day it WILL be completed.
In the last 8 years of being a wheelie girl, I have learned so much and have accomplished a shit ton of stuff that I would never have done had I not been paralyzed. In recent years I have won: A local hero award, Woman of Vision Award, RBC Woman of Influence Award, Top 40 Under 40, modeled on the runway of Western Canada Fashion Week and I was part of Barbie's 60th Anniversary campaign with Toys R' Us...I am beyond grateful!
First and foremost I concentrated my efforts and energy on my own physical recovery, along with that was my mental health as they are both intertwined. I have always been active but when I was paralyzed I fell down the dark hole of depression and ate literally everything in sight! I quickly gained A LOT of weight, around 30 pounds in 2 months and since I was sitting all the time in a wheelchair that was too big for me I didn't notice the weight gain.
I hated my life. I hated how I looked. I hated having a catheter. I didn't feel sexy or cute, and I thought no one would ever date me. These are dark thoughts that I think we all experience, whether you have a disability or not. My therapist really helped me see that I'm still the same person sitting as I am standing and she encouraged me to start online dating...I was scared shitless but I ended up joining E Harmony and put a picture of myself in my wheelchair as my profile pic...that was hard! I ended up dating a photographer that I met at a photoshoot (I'm also a makeup artist) and we dated for a few months then kinda went our own ways and now 6 years later we are dating again hahaha the world is so funny like that...he's super hot and has big muscles, which are a requirement to dating me as he has to carry me around especially when stairs are involved 😂
Anyways my dating life can be a book on its own, but that's a story for another time. I had traveled around Canada and to California for activity-based therapy which is specially designed to retrain the nervous system for people living with neurologic conditions and I fell in LOVE with it as the results I saw were incredible!!!!
I was able to stand (with support), I felt my butt muscles contract and most importantly I felt NORMAL in their gym. I didn't feel like an outcast, everyone in there had some sort of disability and the acceptance I felt was just what I needed to get back to finding myself.
Trying to Change the World!
Before I came back to Canada I found a kinesiology student to help me with my home program, she has always wanted to work with people with disabilities so it was amazing that we found each other. She and I started working together and immediately we had talked about opening a training center here in my hometown but I was not in the right headspace and she was still in school, so we put that on the back burner.
Fast forward a few years and a couple of ICU visits (again, stories for another day) my trainer, Nancy, and I found ourselves in a pickle. She had got a full-time job offer from a well-known center in Florida...I didn't want to let her go, I needed her. After failing to find a replacement for her, Nancy said to me "If I'm going to stay here then we have to do something worthwhile." Well after that convo the universe was like "alight ladies, I think you two are ready for this adventure now, here are all the tools you'll need and I'll help you out by opening all the doors you need to succeed."
Honestly, it was like a snowball rolling down a huge mountain that could not be stopped...until the world met Covid-19 hahaha
In April 2017 our baby ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre, a nonprofit organization was up and running!
ReYu has grown exponentially over the last 3 years and it's been incredible to watch. We have developed a safe space where there is no judgment and where people get treated like people! We have created an incredible community of love and support which makes my heart smile.
Now, did I ever think I'd be a boss? Hell no! But here we are 3 years later, Nancy and I have 6 employees, over 100 volunteers, and over 140 clients! Crazy right? What keeps us going is that ALL of our clients have improved in some way or another...I mean we have had 3 ppl who came to us in wheelchairs and now use walkers! Last year one of our little girls took her FIRST STEPS at ReYu and her mom caught it on video! Another tear-jerker moment was when our client had his 50th wedding anniversary last year, he wanted to dance with his wife to their love song so we put him in the body weight support system and got him standing then put his song on the stereo and he got to dance with his wife....cue tears of joy!
It's these stories that keep pushing us to make ReYu a success. My heart is so full and I'm so pumped to share my stories with you guys...trust me there are many more that are hilarious and ridiculous hahaha the theme of my life.
Thank you so much for reading this, if you'd like to follow my journey and hear some more stories you can follow me on Instagram and TikTok @Branzoid