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For those of you who don't know me, my name is Alexandria and I am 23 years old. The year of 2014 brought with it one of the most magical as well as most terrifying things to happen to me. On January 4th, I welcomed my beautiful daughter Alyvia to the world. For eleven short months I experienced motherhood as I continued with school and work. On December 14th, my life changed forever. I was in a car accident with Alyvia and her father.
Last winter, a few weeks before Christmas, Brett and I were picking up Alyvia, my 11 month old daughter, from her Nonni’s. We took Christmas photos as a family by my mother’s fireplace.
We left my mom’s and headed to the mall to take pictures with Santa. The line was ridiculous, winding around the corner, so we decided to come back another time.
We got in the car.
We were on our way to Brett’s grandparent’s when it happened.
My vision went first.
It’s as if I screamed. I felt the moment where I was disconnected from my body. I realized I couldn’t move. I felt the blood dripping down my face. My lips.
The next thing I heard was a loud metal banging. A crunching sound. I guess they call that the jaws of life.
I passed out. The next thing I remember is opening my eyes and seeing a white coat next to me.
I saw a man. He asked me my name and my birthday. I asked him to call my mom and gave him her number. My face felt swollen. I was having trouble talking, and it seemed to me like I was shivering.
I didn’t know where Alyvia and Brett were.
They told me later that there were many doctors standing around me, but I only remember the one.
I remember hearing a man with a thick Irish accent. I couldn’t see him.
I heard his voice again, who knows how long later, accompanied by wind and noise, like I was inside a big fan. I felt like just a head. I felt motionless, trapped. At the time I didn’t realize I was in a helicopter. I was being med-flighted to Tufts in Boston.
I kept asking him where my daughter was. I must have asked him a hundred times. I guess I was pretty aware, considering.
“Don’t worry dear, your daughter’s fine,” he said in his thick accent.
He stayed by my head. Even though I knew I was on a stretcher, and I couldn’t feel anything, his voice was so comforting that it felt like he was cradling me. I felt secure.
He was so reassuring. He made a terrible situation seem okay. I couldn’t have known how bad it actually was.
I felt cold air hit my face. “Everything is going to be okay”, I heard him say. Then I blacked out.
Thankfully everyone was okay but, unfortunately I was not so lucky. This was the day that changed my life forever. I suffered a C4 & C5 spinal cord injury. The doctors informed my family that I was paralyzed from the neck down and I may never breathe on my own again.
From my stay at Tufts where I was in a medically induced coma, I awoke at my rehab facility. Immediately I asked for my daughter, when I finally got to see her my first thought was, "hand her over."
It was in that moment where I realized I was not able to hold my baby. Not for one second did I believe I would never be able to hug her or hold her. As I laid in my hospital bed feeling nothing but pins and needles from the neck down. I thought I was given another chance at life for my daughter.
I met with my team of therapists which started with respiratory. After six weeks of training I was able to breathe on my own. I was ready to start moving but my therapists had other plans. I was then given a chair that was powered by a straw with your breath. Here I am a new mom unable to hold my baby let alone my own head up and given no hope by medical professionals. I wanted to retrain my body but no one saw movement below my neck therefore, there was nothing to work with and I was given no hope.
One night I thought to myself that this can't be it for me, how would I support my daughter alone.
The Internet searching began where my family and I found Christopher Reeves Foundation and Project Walk. The more I learned the more excited I got, it was exactly what I was looking for. I immediately called Project Walk to start as soon as I could. The week I went home from my rehab facility I scheduled my evaluation with Project Walk. My first time entering I felt like myself again, like I had not been in an accident. I was unable to hold my head up, it had to rest against my head rest and I was driven in my chair by someone else. In the process of my evaluation I was asked what my goals were. Number one, to hold my head up high, Number two, to drive my chair with my arm and Number three, I want to hold my baby again.
I don't want to stop there, another goal I wish to achieve is to be in a manual chair and able to push myself with my arms. After a year and eight months of hard work, persistence, hope and the help of my Project Walk family, I am holding my head up strong without a head rest and I'm driving my chair with my own arm. Granted someone places my hand on the joystick for me. I am currently working towards lifting my arm onto the joystick. This goal helped me regain a little bit of independence, I am able to go for a walk with my daughter now or move around my apartment alone.
I am 23 years old and I have a three-year-old daughter who I support alone. For the past two and a half years I continue my rehab at Project Walk, three days a week for three hours a session. I have fought for every ounce of independence I could get with the support of friends, family and strangers. In the hardest times of life you find out who's really there for you.
Here's where I need your help.
In the United States they have done an epidural stimulation trial on four patients. It is a device that is implanted in the lower back. It will return function to the hips, knees, and ankles, as well as overall body strength. Unfortunately, this is not offered to people in the United States yet, it is still under trial. Through endless research I found Unique Medical Access. It is a hospital in Bangkok, Thailand which offers the same exact epidural stimulation procedure based off of Christopher Reeves Foundation. Please watch this video of a patient who came back from Thailand six months ago, the improvements are incredible and the most amazing thing I've ever seen.
More about epidural stimulation
I was just recently accepted for the epidural stimulation but, unfortunately with the cost of surgery and traveling expenses I am unable to go.
For the past two and a half years during the scariest journey I've ever faced, my motivation has been my daughter. I've lost some of the most important people in my life who have just walked away or disappeared. I have around the clock care given by family, friends and even strangers. They help me raise my daughter and take care of me. Without them I would not be where I am today. I need this surgery to show my daughter that the impossible is possible.