LEARNING & EDUCATION

Spinal Cord Injury 20 years later

Maureen Gazda

Maybe this injury has grown up with me

Hi my name is Maureen and 20 years ago this morning I was a spice girl obsessed, pubescent 12 year old girl who had just returned home from swim practice. Five hours later, I was lying motionless in an ER trauma room.

A typical summer afternoon at a friend’s house turned tragic in the blink of an eye when I dove into her backyard pool and suffered a C5 incomplete spinal cord injury leaving me paralyzed from the waist down. It’s hard to believe two decades has come and gone. I can still smell the fragrant aroma of hot dogs and hamburgers searing on the grill. I can still feel the thick veil of muggy air on my skin. And I can still hear the loud roar of lawnmowers echoing throughout the neighborhood. To say the past two decades have been a roller coaster is an understatement. I guess you can say I have grown up with this injury or maybe this injury has grown up with me. While I would give anything to feel the ground move beneath my feet again, I would never change the person I have become, the lessons I have learned, the strength I have gained, and the confidence I have developed.

A Massachusetts native my entire life, I graduated from Umass Amherst in 2007 with a degree in English. Always in a deep love affair with the written word, a career as a writer seemed only fitting. I have worked as a freelance writer for the past 10 years, writing for newspapers, magazines and websites on the local and national scale. Currently I am a writer for New Mobility Magazine and the United Spinal Association where I am fortunate to be able to write about people with disabilities doing extraordinary things. As a record breaking competitive swimmer before my injury, my athletic spirit didn’t go away when I lost the use of my legs. I still get back in the pool and I have participated in numerous adaptive sports from kayaking off the coast of Cape Cod to scuba diving in the waters of Newport RI. A true wanderlust soul, I have traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe and I’m always on the hunt for my next adventure. Twenty years in a chair has taught me that nothing is unattainable, if you want it bad enough, you WILL achieve it. There is no such thing as failure as long as you keep trying. Yes, there are always ups and downs, but my struggles have showed me to view life through what I like to call a “lens of gratitude” and see the beauty in all the little things life has to offer.


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