Nearly 8 years ago, when I was 17 years old, I suffered a spinal cord injury, which left me paralyzed from the chest down. Reflecting back on the experience, it’s not the physical and emotional pain, or the terrifying uncertainty of life I remember, it was the overwhelming response from the community. During the 5 weeks I spent in the hospital, hundreds of people came to visit me. Every night, a different member of the community would drop food off to my parents, as they were too preoccupied with me to take care of themselves. Furthermore, my classmates at Branford High School and my Aunt held numerous fundraising events to raise money on my behalf so I was able to pay for medical expenses and make some modifications to my parents house like adding a ramp and stair glide. Without that love and support, I am not sure where I would be today.
Fortunately, I don’t have to ponder that question, as you all had my back (no pun intended). Knowing that my basic needs were covered, I was able to dedicate the past 8 years to growing as a human and attempting to reciprocate the love and generosity that was freely given to me. I was able to finish up high school and attend college. Last May, I graduated Fordham University with a Master degree in Social Work. I have worked in numerous human service settings including: homeless shelters, methadone clinics, detoxification programs, outpatient programs, and I currently work for Project Courage as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor in two Connecticut high schools. In addition, I was able to create Winning Ways Inc., which is a Non-profit organization whose mission is to establish a family-based, trust-instilling program which fosters the rehabilitation of the formerly-incarcerated while strengthening our community such that equality becomes more commonplace across societal boundaries, leading to a reduction in suffering and the forces which erode our communities. I aim to give back to the community as much as I can since this was a gift that was so freely given to me, and was a complete turning point to my future!
Recently, my Fiancé and I purchased our first home. As I assume is the case for many first-time home buyers, I have been experiencing a wide range of emotions ranging from excitement to fear. Most able-bodied individuals don’t have to think of the added expenses of renovating your house in order to live. It’s a growing concern because we will need to build a ramp for me to be able to enter our new home without the assistance of someone lifting me up the one step! Also I cannot access the shower in the house because the sink it too close and my wheelchair just doesn’t squeeze into tiny places. To do this, I will need to renovate the bathroom including having a new shower built. I have reached out to numerous local and federal agencies to see if they can help cover the expenses, with no avail. With no immediate solutions in sight, I decided I would reach out to my community for support. It’s incredible what 8 years after breaking your back can teach you and what you can do with that time! I’m proud to say not a day has gone by without me working towards a better future and helping others. I appreciate any assistance you can provide and am so grateful for your love and support over the years.