So in honor of the holiday, I felt it was fitting to compose a blog of what I am thankful for. Hopefully, I can do so without it sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech. I know I have so much to be grateful for in this crazy life of mine. I start first and foremost with God who, last June 13, gave me a second chance at life. I trust the Lord that He has a plan for my life and that everything happens for a reason. I'm extremely blessed that He has given me more function than the doctors expected and the strong willpower not to settle for anything less. My accident was my wake-up call and I'm fortunate to be alive with a clear, functional mind so that I may spread my story in hopes that I can encourage, teach, inspire, and perhaps prevent someone else from having a similar accident. I am also thankful to have my Dad in Heaven as my guardian angel. I truly believe he has watched over me since his passing and especially on that fateful day. There have been many occasions when I can feel his presence and he gives me the power to go on. Knowing how proud he would be of me gives me the courage to continue to move forward. I look forward to the day when I will walk next to him in Heaven.
Of course, I would not be this far without my wonderful mother, who all my life has been my rock. When I feel weak, she is my strength. The four months spent in the hospital she stayed by my side; sleeping in the ICU waiting room, in a camper trailer, or in my freezing hospital room on uncomfortable bed, being woken up constantly by the nurses tending to me. While at Methodist, she attended every therapy session to learn how to take care of me. She has modified her home and her life to cater to my needs. She has purchased not one, but two handicapped accessible vans, to get me to where I need to go. She prepares every meal, drives me to every appointment, handles all my finances, and has helped to fight my Medicaid battles. This accident has been equally as hard on her as it has been on me because she has had to sacrifice so much for my well-being. Sadly, I know other similarly injured friends who are not as fortunate as I to have such a wonderful and influential parental figure. I'm forever indebted to all she has done for me my whole life- and especially the last 17 months. I could tell her thank you a million times but it would never truly express how thankful I am to have her as my mother.
I am also privileged to have wonderful siblings; ones who spent nights in the hospital with me, afternoons so my mother could have a break, or just coming to keep me company. In addition, my extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, in laws) have all been extremely supportive and helpful during these trying times. Those who know my family will agree I am extremely blessed to be surrounded by such loving and caring people. Another group of people that I am extremely grateful for would be the team of doctors, nurses, nurse aides, and therapists that I've had from the beginning. Forrest General Hospital was an amazing experience, despite the reason I was there. By the time I left, I felt like I was a part of a family as well as making lasting friendships. I was so fortunate to have a brilliant, well-equipped medical team taking care of me. The same goes for Methodist Rehab. My therapists had me work as hard as I possibly could to make as much progress as possible. They are much more than just therapists, they have become lifelong friends. Furthermore, I am thankful to the Park Rangers who were stationed along Little Black Creek that Sunday afternoon. Because of them, I was properly cared for and air lifted to the hospital in a timely manner.
Of course, I cannot forget my dear friends, old and new. To the group that was on the canoe trip with me who basically saved my life by pulling me out of the water. For my old friends who continue to stand by my side as I embark on this new journey in my life and have not let my disability affect our relationship, such as my friends Danyelle, Jenna, and Robert, who stay in constant contact and visit when they can- people who are true friends no matter the circumstances. I am blessed to have my awesome best friend, Katy, who I reconnected with after years apart and have been there for me since I've returned home. Another best friend, Rachel, who came to visit me more times in the hospital than I can count and always sends me a card just to let me know she is thinking about me. I am grateful for one of my new best friends, Laura, who out of the goodness of her heart, organized and coordinated my Southern Belle fundraiser, which has raised me money to go back to rehab. I am fortunate to develop what I'm sure will be a lifelong friendship and extremely appreciative for her frequently taking me out to do fun activities. Of course, I cannot mention the Southern Belle fundraiser without giving credit to my friend, Brad, who did many of the “behind-the-scenes” work and also got my name into the media. I am also so very thankful for my new friends, a large group of women with spinal cord injuries, who have become so near and dear to my heart. Many who have listened to me cry, vent, and express my frustrations, anxieties, and triumphs since living my life in a chair. Strong, independent women who are not only like sisters, but wonderful role models that can relate and empathize with my situation and can understand my feelings unlike anyone else. I am especially blessed to have my new friends, Lori and Tim, who have helped me more emotionally and physically than words could ever describe. I have also been very fortunate this last week to have found the most fantastic personal care attendant, Mary, who helps to take care of me. In addition to relieving my mother of some of her duties, she pushes me to work harder and helps me with the things I cannot do for myself. We are quickly becoming great friends and I thank God for putting her in my life.
I'm extremely fortunate to have a group of my late father's engineering friends (called the NUKES) to help me financially and to offer their brains and services to adapt any basic items to make my life easier. It is truly touching that these people are so willing to help me. Words cannot even express how thankful I am for all my supporters. Everyone who has sent kind words, donations, cards, or just says a prayer for me at night. People I've known for years and those I've never met who constantly believe in me, inspire me, pray for me, encourage me, strengthen me, and love me. The amount of love I've been shown from all my followers and friends is more than I could've ever asked for and I'm eternally grateful. Like I always say, I find it such a blessing to be able to inspire others while continuing to be inspired as well. I can never truly express my gratitude for everything that everyone is done for me and my family since the accident. It is truly overwhelming in the best possible way. I only pray I can return the favor someday. Thank you all can for those who read this and still continue to be there for me. I wish you all the most wonderful and happy Thanksgiving. May you share good food, fun times, and great laughter with the ones you love during this holiday weekend. Remember to count your blessings and not your problems.