My Accessible Home and Vehicle
This is my story...
On July 26, 2014 at roughly 2 a.m. in Steele City, Nebraska,
I woke in a bright small room -- unsure and hazy, lying down on a relatively soft surface. There were people yelling around me, I jolted again suddenly realizing what had awoken me, it was a man standing above me, his face was faded from the fluorescence above him and I couldn't make out his features. He had slapped me across the face another 3 times in my haze. "Stay with me he said, you have to stay with me the helicopter is on it's way."
Dazed, I told him, "I don't know what is going on, I am fine … I just want to go home.. " As I trailed off to some distant land again, he slapped me. Then he said the words I can't quite forget, I could hear the clear astonishment in his voice that I wasn't comprehending my situation, yet calmly he said, "Ma'am please the helicopter is almost here, stay with me. You have lost your legs." I stared at his shadow for what seemed like minutes in what I believe is only known as the twilight zone. I tried to sit up to look, he pushed me down and started strapping a cervical collar around my neck and strapping my arms to what I now know was a gurney. Stubborn and confused, I looked at him again panicked and exclaimed: "I'm fine! Let me go home! My legs are fine!" The lower half “of my body” was not restrained, so like a child throwing a tantrum, I kicked my legs in the air thrashing back and forth. It was alarming how light they felt and even more alarming was the blood that sprayed as I kicked. It wasn't a bad dream anymore it was reality. My reality began to fade with recognition. The shock was there-but pain quickly took its place.
Panicked, I looked for the shadow to calm me, only to find panic had set into those dim features as he continued to work above me. The pain set in unlike anything I had ever before imagined, as the lower half of my body was restrained. I can remember how the searing in my legs greatly intensified as I heard the mention and pressure of tourniquets. By then I was fading fast, my shadow was tunneling into the darkness that began to cloud my vision completely. I think I imagined hearing the helicopter in the distance it was comforting almost like home was coming to me. I heard one last voice I cannot place, and that is when they say I died the first time.
They say I died again in the helicopter, and on the operating table in Lincoln, Nebraska, at Bryan West Medical Center. The trauma team there lead by Dr. Reginald Burton and Dr. David Samani worked tirelessly into the morning to get me stabilized. They told my family and friends I had a slim chance of survival over the course of the next few days.
But I did survive, and I'm still fighting. It is suspected now that I was incapacitated by a date rape drug that night. I had two beers and two shots. My blood alcohol content test and bar tab reflected that later. At the time of the incident they simply had no other suggestions, everyone assumed I had tried to commit suicide. When I awoke several days later from a medically induced coma, I was frantic and confused. I didn’t understand what had happened to make me lose my legs. I had no memory of the train running over them nor of being near the tracks at all.
A couple months later, in between hospital stays at Bryan West, I was hospitalized at Madonna Rehab Facility where they teach you new disability life skills. It was there that I met the engineer conducting the Union Pacific Train that severed my legs right above the knees. I wanted to know what had happened from his perspective directly instead of second hand from my family and it took a while for Union Pacific to allow him to release his statement for liability purposes to my understanding.
The conductor said he was going about 40 to 45 mph through rural Nebraska inside a loaded coal train when he saw what he thought was a mannequin on the track. It's not uncommon for pranks such as this to played on railroad engineers, only this time it wasn't a mannequin, it was me. He saw me laid on my back, my arms folded on my chest, when the train struck me. Desperately, he slammed on the brakes. But loaded coal trains don’t stop quickly. Finally, the train stopped. The engineer grabbed a flashlight, clicked it on and stepped down out of the train. He turned to go find me when he was stunned by a tap on his shoulder. The engineer shined his flashlight in the face of a male in his late 20s with brown hair and brown eyes. He said he also saw a few people cross the tracks about 100 yards up seemingly fleeing the scene. The man in front of the engineer asked, "Why did you stop?" Baffled, the engineer responded "I think I hit somebody." The man, identified by the engineer, was Daniel Owens, my companion that night, and he replied "I hope it's not Mandy." The engineer spun around and ran to find me. I was apparently dragging myself out from underneath the eighth coal car. The engineer did what he could to keep me alive until paramedics arrived. -None of this I remember, and most days I am thankful for that, but I do wish I could remember how I got on those tracks.
It was after this meeting with the conductor that my family and I began really asking questions. Daniel had told us all different stories, and said other things to the sheriff, nothing added up as his story was constantly changing. He continued to be a part of my life, visiting me in the hospital. But I began to press my mother to have the sheriff's office investigate the case further in early October 2014.
On Nov. 10, 2014, relatively late in the evening,I was being readmitted to Bryan West. I had another surgery in the morning..My phone rang, and I was told of Daniel Owens committing suicide the night before.
They say the only reason we get songs stuck in our head is because we're continuously replaying the chorus instead of coming to a melodic conclusion. I imagine till the day I die, like a song on repeat, the hundreds of questions I have will be my refrain. I mourn him. He was my friend, I loved him and trusted him.
I was in and out of hospitals for almost 10 months total over two years. It took months of pain, almost daily bandage changes, reamputations due to regenerated bone growth and physical therapy, learning to become accustomed to my new life- and to walk again on basic prosthetics.
In August 2015 after being cleared by my surgeon, completely healed, I decided to stop running (pun intended). I put myself in drug and alcohol treatment at Atchison Valley Hope in Atchison Kansas. I had ran from my problems and hid in the bottom of a bottle for a while before I lost my legs. Afterward, I was on a heavy pharmaceutical load for phantom pain, depression, sleep, ulcers -- a list of side effects. After completing their 30 day program, I continued maintaining sobriety in Oxford sober living organization for a few months before finding refuge renting from a retired drug and alcohol counselor with substantial recovery time. I still think that woman is an angel of earth.
In this time, I was several months into my recovery going to meetings every day, and was very actively involved in MMA classes with the Caveman Crew in Raytown under the direction of welterweight Rudy Bears when transportation allowed. I know what it is to fight, been doing that most of my life in one form or another. It became a dream of mine to show the industry and fans of that industry that amputees are fighters, too. Perhaps since I already know what it's like to lose, I feel I can influence and inspire other women to have more confidence and sportsmanship.
All of these dreams and goals were put on hold to follow with someone I loved, so in February 2016 I relocated to Colorado Springs, Colorado. The independence I had “gained” was lost for a while.
I diligently worked to get myself healthcare, vocational rehabilitation, education and trauma therapy through inaccessible living situations, transportation issues, depression and stress that has crippled my physical health. I have been in intensive EMDR treatment for severe PTSD for several months.
After a battle to get myself the correct medical prescriptions, I was finally casted for new prosthetic sockets and the new components of my legs were ordered in late August. I have been very actively working with Colorado Division Vocational Rehab since early in the summer. The plan was to enroll myself in the fall semester at University of Colorado, Colorado Springs.
That goal was put on hold to pursue another. The man I moved out here with pushed me to invest in a home that we could make accessible and also use as an investment property.
In August, we bought a property as joint title owners; although I’m listed as a co-borrower the loan is in his name. But in September, we separated and I began working with TESSA, a domestic violence shelter/advocacy group here in Colorado Springs. I had subjected myself to a cycle of very unhealthy behaviors, and it took a major toll on me; In some ways it still is. In the months since, I have been seeking refuge in my home by continuing to modify it to be easily accessible to my disability, renovations, covering the mortgage and utilities with roommates and my disability income of $970.00 a month and I still have potential for more cash flow through the house on top of the mortgage. The property is near all of my therapies, and in a very accessible area of Colorado Springs next to all the shopping amenities needed for day to day life.
The problem is...
Because we are no longer together, I need to get the home that I’ve put so much sweat equity into into my name to protect my investment. This fall I had to file chapter 7 bankruptcy to cover the extensive medical bills from months of surgery and treatment after fighting for years with the insurance company and the medical providers.. As a 23 year old, I was advised this was the best option going forward.I thought I had the security to do so. That did not prove to be so.
Through traditional home refinancing I won't qualify for a year through FHA after discharge of my bankruptcy this December. There are other financing options available to me however I lack the capital to securely qualify.
Most would say ‘Move home, your parents can care for you.” Unfortunately, my parents have their own serious, expensive medical issues. My father has Multiple Sclerosis, a progressive disease, that has already robbed him of his sight once, making it difficult to work full time. My parents split-level home is not an accessible one. If they could help me, they would, but for now they are just trying to get my father to full retirement in a year and prepare their own home for sale.
As I write this I am sitting at UCCS in the library facing the giant bay windows that display the incredible view of Pikes Peak, America's mountain range.. and I can't help but feel so incredibly grateful nonetheless. Although all of this has happened, I have so many opportunities open to me. I am finally seeing my hard work pay off. I have my new prosthetics and I'm hoping to start physical therapy with them soon. I am enrolled to pursue my vocational/educational goals this starting in January. I am back in the halls of AA sharing my story. I have found an MMA gym to participate in when transportation allows. I have two animals that love me dearly, and I have even been able to make a few friends in the last couple months.
I need help securing the safety and stability of my home and transportation. I desperately need this stability for my future. The funds raised from this campaign directly benefit me, and will allow me to continue my future in school. Ideally I would simply ask someone to invest with me with a rent-to-own, or buy-back agreement set for one to two years. The goal of this campaign is to raise enough capital to qualify for alternative investment financing for my home, and to cover costs of hand control installation in my vehicle.
I don't often feel sorry for myself nor do I actually associate these words with my physical being. I have fought and worked hard for my life. For years I searched for my home only to realize I have to make it. Over the course of the past two years I have moved seven times each time getting closer to where I need to be. I have spent countless hours staring at paper or a computer screen thinking to myself that I need to write this out genuinely asking for help. I couldn't because the world simply doesn't owe me anything nor does it revolve around me. Even though my situation is dire to me I know all the pain and struggles of others are relative. I am starting this path in education in hopes of becoming a licensed medical examiner after obtaining my medical degree. It's important to me to give voice to the dead, had I never woken back up, I would have just been another 21-year-old suicide tally on the statistics list and my parents would have falsely dealt with the grief and pain of that. I am so thankful every day that is not the case.
I want to be an advocate for amputees, women with disabilities, entrepreneurs, students, fighters, veterans and especially the healthcare system. In any good investment there is always room for growth and potential, and just like a flower, I can blossom. I just need to be watered and set in the sun, right here in front of this big bay window overlooking this mountain because at its base is where I call HOME.
Note to the reader:
I want to thank you personally for taking the time out of your day to read my story. Its been over 2 years and I'm just now coming up with the courage to put those events into words. My story isnt and hasnt always been a pretty one, as just like you, I am not perfect. In fact; one could almost say its been a trainwreck. (Pun Intended). This help to me means more than anything I can put into words, and is beyond appreciated!
Thankyou so much,
Below I am linking up another post that has photos attatched. Be warned that some of these photos are graphic.
This update; Will be the last.
Funds from this campaign made it possible for me to relocate myself into my own place with my animals, and get my car set up. My name will be legally separated from the house within a couple months. I am thankful for that. I took a major financial loss, but my happiness safety and sanity come first.
I am in the process of getting permanent hand controls for my vehicle as well should be done with evaluations and have parts ordered by mid month!
I made it through the first quarter of college and I am satisfied with my academic progress. I love my professors. Coincidentally I lean more towards writing and speaking than math or chemistry- and have been encouraged to potentially switch my major. I have been considering it. Perhaps you will read more of my writing elsewhere.
I started a new job in social media management this week for a contracting company in Colorado Springs. I am so excited to work for them. This experience gave me so much confidence I am thrilled to see what the future holds, I can work for the things I need again.
Several months ago I started weeding out the things and people in my life that were causing me harm, one by one. By spring break I had decided to pack my car, borrow money from a friend and go to California by myself to see my sister and goddaughter, chase some dreams and spend time with my pup. Its probably been one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life and it wouldn't have been possible without help from everyone who donated to this campaign sent encouragement or shared it, as well as Car Santa, Jake Wilcox, the Imgur community, Loaded Magazine, Dan De La Bastide, my family, friends and so many more. Driving through states I hadn't seen before with my dog I became overwhelmed,
I heard somewhere that there isn't any such thing as unhappiness, but there is definitely a such thing as ungratefulness.
Today I am greatful; Today I am happy.
Thankyou for carrying me when I could not carry myself.
I absolutely love my car, I have removable hand controls set up with a brodie knob on the wheel. It has given me an immense sense of freedom in the last few days! HUGE thankyou again to Car Santa (Cars4Christmas/Heros) and Jake Wilcox of MIDWAY Auto Sales! I have managed to get a lot accomplished in a short amount of time, everything for my 2017 spring semester is officially set and I have been studying vigorously for testing! I restart trauma therapy in a couple days, and I have already been working towards prosthetic therapy now that I have transportation!
I have been actively working since the beginning to secure my home as well, it was genuinely the catalyst to writing and reaching out for help. I still need to raise capital, tomorrow I have an appointment I am hopeful for finding some more answers and security in my situation.
Today in between errands I got to stop in one of my favorite lookouts here in the springs, took a picture to share with you, its been such a beautiful day!
Please continue to share or contribute to my campaign, this help in raising funds to get started in my journey is desperately needed and appreciated!
Have a great night!
Car Santa of Cars for Heroes/Cars for Christmas, and Jake Wilcox of MIDWAY Auto Sales blessed me with my very own vehicle to start modifying to get back to mobility and independence! KSHB 41 Action News captured the moment perfectly!
In case you didn't see it, check it out here:
I have started working with a mobility company in Colorado Springs to get permanent guaranteed hand control modifications installed. The estimated expense will depend upon the system I choose for accessibility.
All this means I can now more accurately give a list of my expenditures and financial plans.
Here is where the money you gave me is going:
$300: Insurance, start up 12-month policy, full coverage
$290: Removable hand controls
$250: Colorado tags and registration, approximately
$90: Other modification
$1,500-$2000: Permanent hand controls
5% service charge per donation from gofundme is also charged.
These are estimates, but I am looking at roughly $3117 to pull for these expenses. Afterward, I will have about $420 remaining out of the funds, which may have increased since these calculations.
I am so blessed, and so thankful to have reached part of my goal! I will now have safe transportation and can’t wait to finally drive again.
I still need help in serious ways--living in my car isn't high on my list of "moving forward." Even though I have occupied this home for four months paying for mortgage, utilities and continuing to renovate, it seems I’m going to be unable to stay here without a legal battle.
Everyone who has donated to this campaign has helped me obtain freedom I had previously lost and for that I am forever grateful. It's Christmas, and I truly hope that all are tucked away with family and friends enjoying their holiday. It was great to see my family and friends for a couple days, but Ill admit it makes me a little sad that I needed to head back to Colorado so soon after the expanse of time in-between my visits to Kansas City. I am considerably lucky and even more so thankful to be with good Colorado friends today myself.
If you have a vehicle to donate or wish to apply go to cars4christmas.org or cars4heroes.org to check out their programs and resources!
Also check out Midway Auto Sales, Gardner Ave-Jake and Rebecca are a great team! http://www.midwaycarlot.com/
I am so thankful to these guys, my campaign contributors and the crew at KSHB 41 Action News. From my heart to yours...
Tomorrow morning keep an eye on KSHB 41 Action News because thats where ill be with Car Santa!!!
Please know that I am still so incredibly grateful for the amount of support I have received in response to sharing my story and reaching out for help!
The last couple days I managed to sneak away to my hometown to see my family before Christmas and surprise some other great people in my life and I wanted to share some of those photos with you, Ill be doing alot of updates and more specifics on my situation in the next couple days and I once again I am asking my friends, family, and supporters to hit the share button!
Mandy All struggle IS relative, as you've noted. I am unclear as to what you are trying to do. I think it is a refinance of the home that has dual title with your ex, correct? Welcome to Colorado btw. Jim Holmes Aurora CO
Mandy, this was my first time on go fund me and after reading your story, I am shocked you haven't gotten more donations! I just came across another campaign for a stupid race car that has raised $83,000 in 22 days and that was an average of over $400 per person/donation, just so people can watch a car race!!??! I don't understand what people are thinking! You are an inspiration! I just wanted to say that one thing you might try to do to boost your donations is shortening your story and making it very clear to people what you are trying to accomplish. I would put your specific goal at the top of the page and a better pic of you (hard to see you in the one you have) and the home you are trying to save, then continue on with a shorter version of what happened to you and why you are where you are.......a lot of people won't or don't want to take the time to read long stories and if it doesn't grab their attention the moment they see it, they move on. You are a courageous young woman and I commend you for being so positive and for wanting to help other disabled people/women, etc.! Good luck to you. I will keep sharing and watching your campaign for updates...
Merry Christmas Mandy! So glad you have the car! Thanks for the updates. Hope 2017 continues to make you feel blessed.
Mandy, When you have a moment, reach out to my friends at ProjectAirtime.org. You'r nothing short of an inspiration and I think would be a perfect match for our program.
Where is the link.??
We love you and believe in you.