Our annual promotion marked another unbelievable success. With the help and generosity of our NMEDA dealers, members and partners, we were able to award Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles to four incredibly deserving families as part of National Mobility Awareness Month. We are passionate about the difference NMEDA makes within the disability community and will continue to dedicate our time and resources to helping those living with disabilities gain their driving independence.
Learn more about NMEDA’s mobility equipment solutions and read our winners’ amazing stories below.
Collene Van Noord
How does one continue with a normal life when all that was normal has been upended?
“You’re an ‘N’ of one,” my sons remind me. “‘N’ of one” is scientist-speak that recognizes the boundless possibilities of being an individual who can shatter statistics.
It was supposed to be a fun day. They were all supposed to be fun after retirement. Instead, I was hit broadside by another car, paralyzed below the T-6 vertebra, and left with a dozen broken bones, internal bleeding, bruised organs, and collapsed lungs. After surgeries, life-support, and x-rays, I lay in the hospital, bruised, battered, unable to walk, and unsure.
Anger, blame, and what-ifs are easy; those do not serve. My faith remained. My loving husband and supportive children remained. I could think, talk, use my hands. I remembered family vacations, sailing, a rewarding career in education and service, the day I met my husband 46 years ago – much more than life guaranteed. Love and support from friends poured in.
Life is now about ordinary things done in extraordinary ways. I’m adjusting to wheels instead of legs and living within parameters set by my wheelchair and arms-length. I’ve learned that obstacles create rewards. Kitchen counters, cupboards, and appliances feel like mountains – any accomplishment there is a celebration. I’ve learned to drive with hand-controls, re-qualifying for my license. Miracles abound daily. I’m learning that the only insurmountable limits are ones we place on ourselves. We are blessed to be a blessing. I owe much, not only to scores who touched my life, but also to those yet to meet.
I’m doing what I can. I’ve carried on my CarePage. With 899 followers, comments repeatedly state what an inspiration I am. I blog and educate about SCI. Within days, over 1300 followers read the first two entries. Unbeknownst to me, my story and typical closing “look for your blessings” was used in a symposium for thousands. I’ve conducted in-service training.
Being a survivor of a SCI has taught me that “mobility” and “independence” increase self-esteem, well-being, and quality of life. My dream is to continue to inspire, train, consult, and serve.
A recent e-mail validated my goals: “Your writing reminds me of the Psalms. There is always hope and a reason for giving thanks.” Doctors said there is a 10% chance of some recovery for my T6 injury. “I am an N of one.”
As anyone who has suffered from a spinal cord injury knows, you had your life before the injury and then there was your life after the injury and in between there is a time of tragedy.
For some it may be a diving accident, car accident, or a gunshot. In my case it was the onset of a rare auto-immune disease called Transverse Myelitis on September 27, 2007.
I went from a completely healthy, active, just married 34-year-old woman to a C5 quadriplegic in about 4 hours from the time of my onset.
Since then I have been making slow but steady progress with the help of a fantastic team of therapists, family, friends and my amazing husband.In my life before my injury, I worked for the ALS Association and saw firsthand the devastation that disease can cause to a human being. But I also saw tremendous compassion, caring, love, and magnificent triumph that the patients, families and caregivers experienced not only despite of ALS but also because of their confrontation with this life altering experience. It is from them that I was able to gather fierce determination to not only worked diligently to get stronger, but also to embrace the life I have and the people that are in it. Most importantly, I wanted to use my experience to make other lives better as well. The road to achieving this has been more difficult than I thought, as the pain, fatigue and depression that often accompanies a spinal cord injury has been more formidable than I thought it would be. But despite these roadblocks, I have found a wonderful community to be a part of and to serve. I currently am a board member for the organization Bay Area Outreach and Recreational Program, which is a leader in providing sports, recreational and outdoor activities to people of all ages with all types of physical disabilities.As a board member, I long to be a presence and supporter at all activities our organization provides, but am often stymied due to transportation. My husband works long hours and weekends, often leaving me unable to attend these functions. I feel a ramp van that I could drive would allow me to better serve this community. I would also use the van to be more active with the organization Canine Companions who matched me with my service dog Freckle in February 2014.
Kym Daniels (Caregiver to her daughter Kaitlyn)
This happy little girl is my 10 year old daughter Kaitlyn. Although cancer has taken away so much from her childhood, Kaitlyn continues to give back to her friends, family and community.
Diagnosed with neuroblastoma at the age of 9 months, this horrible disease grew into her spine and the surgery to remove the tumor took away her ability to walk. She has endured more than most adults and has done so with a smile on her face and a “not gonna stop me attitude”.
In 2013, Kaitlyn became aware of how some families were struggling and decided to gather a group of friends and pitched her idea that people needed help, and it was then that Kidz That Kare was born. Because of her great compassion, several local families have been helped by providing clothes, toiletries, toys and groceries. She wanted to give these families a ray of hope, an understanding that people do care. The group also goes to local nursing homes and sing songs and take little gifts to the residents because Kaitlyn knows what it feels like to be left out..she lives it everyday.
Active in Relay for Life, as a survivor, she wants to be sure that a cure is found, and other children will not have to endure what she has. Getting Kaitlyn to and from any activity is a process since she has gotten bigger. Getting her in and out of our SUV is a very difficult task, and unfortunately, our family budget is not able to handle the cost of a wheelchair van at this time.
Winning one of these vans would open up so many opportunities for Kaitlyn, and she would be able to expand her horizons and finally be able to experience so many of the things that other children and families take for granted, a trip to the mall, going for ice cream, a spontaneous trip to the park or a visit to grandma’s. Currently, any outing must be planned and choreographed so that the proper help is available for lifting Kaitlyn and then her wheelchair into the car. She would also be able to expand the area that Kidz That Kare assists…also a dream of hers.
Please consider voting for this little girl who gives so much,but asks and expects so little. Be part of opening up her world for great adventure and living her dreams. Thank you
Have you ever felt that your life before a traumatic event was a staging ground for life after? I have considered this question many times the past 11 years. My parents raised me to be a person who looks for the good in people and never be fearful of what may come. I went to a Christian school, attended college and became a Children’s Pastor. I worked with many special needs children in schools districts in California and Ohio. All this led me to the most traumatic day I have ever faced.
I was on my way to work when I hit a patch of black ice and lost control of my car. I came to stop abruptly against a utility pool, just above a buried gas line. I suffered a cervical spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed. My parents said I was given 50/50 chance of surviving. February 13, 2004, will always be my second birthday. A day that will put all past knowledge and practices into realization of what I was to do with my life.
As the months passed, I returned home to live with my family and suffered from depression. I had to learn a new way of living in a body that wasn’t always so willing. I began remembering all the life lessons that so many people instilled in me, that things happen to people, and that our character is built upon our actions not upon our reactions. I wanted this traumatic event to not define me. I wanted to be more than the girl in the wheelchair and to be an example of how to act in unexpected situations.
I have established the East Bay Spinal Cord and Traumatic Brain Injury Support Group for survivors, family members, caregivers and friends. Though it’s a small group, many are being touched and encouraged. I mentor high school girls and remind them that whatever they are going through God is always with them. I am also very involved with my church and enjoy working wherever needed. I am planning to someday return to school and begin working on a Master’s Degree in Family Counseling.
I believe that we all go through traumatic events, but it is how we respond that will define tomorrow. Winning a vehicle would open so many opportunities for me to be independent, to inspire, give courage, and effectively influence those around me.