November 3, 2011, I fell 80ft from the 8th floor balcony of
a complex in Malden, MA. Survival was
grim. I was rushed to Massachusetts
General Hospital where the expertise had saved my life. I don't remember much up until December 13th when I was being transferred to Spaulding
Rehab Hospital. What I do know is that
my body was brutally beaten. Every bone
broken including my c4 and my t12 where the spinal cord was severed. I am a paraplegic with, incredibly, my head
While being at Spaulding for 2 1/2 months, I had come to
terms with what happened and what was permanent. I was mentally beaten. Trapped in a hospital bed completely full of
depression, pain, grief, and so many many more words that cannot even come
close to describe how I felt about my life . I thought my life was doomed.
I was sent home and scheduled for outpatient PT and OT. My Physical Therapist suggested a program that was getting on its feet and starting the pilot event that summer. Of course I was leery because I was completely dependent upon my PCA's and anyone else who was around while I was stuck in my bed. But I went, not knowing how I was to get all the activities needed for me to get ready in the morning.
The first day at Stoney Brook University I was completely ecstatic to see other people like myself in wheelchairs. I had never been around anyone else in a chair since I had been home. Just the feeling of that is indescribable. Being around people with a common denominator, like being in wheelchairs, makes you feel at ease, like you're not alone. Seeing other people doing the things you want to do, gave me hope.
While at Empower there were a lot of times when you're one on one with a PT or OT to help reach your goals that you had set up when you arrived. I had three huge goals that I didn't think I could accomplish but gave it a shot to at least get better. I worked hard that week and was able to do that with all the encouragement around me. I still can't believe that by the time I was going home I had met all my goals with the ability to use them by myself with confidence.
Another favorite aspect of the program was the activities they had going on. Before my accident I would have never thought, or wanted, to go kayaking. We did, and I had a blast doing it and can't wait to do it again. I also went swimming and bike riding and just plain FUN STUFF.
There were also, of course, the speakers who had experience with things like finding work, exercise, diet, stretching, accessible places and how to do things you used to do, that you thought you never could again.
I will be forever grateful for this program and for the learning experience I had. I came home full of life. Anyone who saw me before and after are beside themselves with what a transformation I achieved. I learned more about living life on life's terms in this one week, than I had from kindergarten to graduation. It's an experience I will hold in my heart.
Thank you for reading my story of what was so important to me. I appreciate any donation to help me get to Empower again this summer.
Aaron J. Souza
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