In the fall of 2014 I was what you'd consider a normal high school Senior. Most of my time was spent working on college applications and preparing for music school auditions. My passions resided in piano, guitar, cello, voice and dance. I knew music was what I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. I was a normal healthy teenage kid despite a minor case of Senioritits. Because my friends were busy with college apps and winter concerts, we decided to celebrate my 17th birthday on December 21st, the day before winter vacation was to begin.
As friends began to arrive at my house, I knew something was wrong. I suddenly began to feel extreme pain in my neck and numbness and tingling in my hands. A panic overcame me and my Mom rushed me to the ER. Within minutes I was unable to walk and within hours I was completely paralyzed, unable to breathe on my own. A series of tests were taken over the next few days and the doctors came up with a diagnosis of Acute Flaccid Myelitis. I was the 101st case of this polio like illness and little is known about it. Over the next few weeks I was treated with steroids, plasmapheresis, immunoglobulin therapy and chemotherapy. Nothing seemed to help. The only thing keeping me alive was modern medical technology. A machine breathed for me and a tube fed me. My only form of communication was through my eyes.
After five weeks in the ICU I was stable enough to transfer to a rehabilitation hospital. I was fortunate enough to be sent to Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. It is well known as one of the worlds best hospitals specializing in spinal cord and traumatic brain injury. Over the next seven months Craig Hospital not only helped me rebuild my body but also my mind and spirit. I was introduced to mouth painting and was immediately hooked. Art was a way for me to let go of the past and live in the moment. I wasn't thinking about all I had lost, nor was I worried about what tests or procedures I might have tomorrow. I was simply focused on today. The arts proved to be a powerful force, providing a continuum of who I was, who I am now, and who I will always be.
Soon after returning home from rehab I started the Grace Fisher Foundation. I noticed a need for art therapy in my community. My goal in starting this foundation is to bring the healing touch of art therapy to other children living with a disability. The arts are not only a vital means of self expression, but also can help to cope with daily struggles. Instead of society imposing restrictions on what one with a disability cannot do, we as a society through the arts can bring joy, therapeutic movement and challenge the stigmas surrounding those with physical and mental disabilities.
To learn more visit www.gracefisherfoundation.org.
My path may not be a traditional one, but my only limitation will be my imagination. We have a choice to remain slaves to our past expectations or we can be pioneers and embrace new possibilities.