It Is Okay to Mourn the Life You Lost, But It Is More Important to Embrace The Life You Have Gained
Why are you wearing shin guards? As a former cashier, and current employee who works with families, I get asked this a lot. The confusion usually changes to awkwardness or shock when I tell them the truth; these are leg braces. I broke my back when I was 17. The most popular response I get is usually a wince, or an “I am so sorry.” Then they follow-up with a “How did you break your back? A car accident?” As a curious individual, I am very empathetic to these inquiries, but I wish people would not pity me. I had two minor accidents within a few months that changed my life forever. In August of 2016, while jet skiing, my friend and I jumped a large wave. We flipped it and were thrown from it. I knew something bad happened immediately. An MRI and a few weeks of physical therapy later, we discovered that I had two bulging discs in my spine (L4-L5 and L5-S1). At the time, I was in a lot of pain. My doctor told me that I could still swim, but I needed to stop once the pain worsened. I went to practice and lasted no more than 15 minutes in the pool. Two months later, I was propped up on a chair with wheels solving integrals in Calculus class. A classmate of mine startled me and I fell hard onto my right side. I sat there a good 5 minutes, waiting for my body to calm down. In the following months, I had multiple x-rays, MRIs, and consults. I fractured my L5, herniated those two discs, and a cyst opened up in my spinal cord (S2-S3 Tarlov cyst). I was also diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. This first picture was of me at rock bottom. I just turned 18 and was recovering from my first round of epidural steroid injections in my back and SI joints. I was tired of months of insomnia, pain, and poor mobility, and was at the point of contemplating taking my life. I couldn’t swim, I did online school, and spent my days stuck on a couch. The second picture was about a year before the first. I used to be a triathlete who used to cross-train for swimming (and I loved it!) and dreamed of one day completing an Ironman. Finally, the third picture was just shy of a month ago at U.S. Paralympic Swimming Nationals. I made the National C Team and got bronze in the 100 Free, 5 years after my injury!