ASSISTED SUICIDE

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First … A happy picture to make you smile before diving into the heavy stuff!


Assisted Suicide – No doubt a highly controversial topic in our society today, especially if one is religious! I am going to approach this topic from my personal perspective. I realize this blog may spark some intense feelings just like religion, sex or politics may, but I think it is a topic that needs to be addressed from an ethical, moral, personal, and societal standpoint. I am going to leave the religious argument out of this blog for the time being as I am not personally religious, but spiritual in some sort of sense.

I would be remiss not to start out by talking a little bit about my feelings regarding death as a whole. Before my accident I was terrified of death whether that be because I was in my young 20’s, was super healthy, did not live in pain, etc. The only certain thing in life is that we are all going to die, but in my younger years I just could not bring myself to think about it.

After my accident I was actually killed by several medical professionals and brought back to life as so many other spinal cord injury patients can relate to. Over the course of the last 8 years or so I have not only become comfortable with the idea of death, but actually find a strange comfort in it. This is not meant to sound like a doom and gloom statement, but it gives me peace. In my particular situation and the myriad of medical nightmares I have endured both physically and mentally over the years I have personally been in situations where I wanted to die. Continue reading

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 3)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

Day 5 – Belize Mayan Ruins

5 AM on Thursday … As the alarm clock started ringing Aaron and I groggily looked over on each other debating whether we should go explore some Mayan ruins in Belize or take the day to sleep. Cruises can be exhausting if you are always on the hop with different shore excursions. However, you must keep in mind that this was my first real vacation in 8 years without any of my family or caregivers. So, while we might’ve squeezed a few too many adventures into our 7 days, Aaron popped out of bed and made quick work of getting me ready to go explore thousands of years of history!

We arrived in Belize City early that morning, but were anchored offshore. We were anchored at what is called a tendered port. Essentially, you have to take small little dinghies seating anywhere between 50 to 80 people from the cruise ship over to the port of Belize. These little tendered ports are not for the faint of heart, especially in a wheelchair, because with the rocking ocean and trying to lift my manual chair onto this little boat presented its own unique set of challenges. Fortunately, the weather was quite calm so we were able to physically leave the ship, but there are days when they will not allow a wheelchair to maneuver onto the small vessels.

Ligia, our concierge attendant on Royal Caribbean, escorted us to the tendered boat as we skipped all the lines 🙂 I was decked out in sneakers, sports cloths, my manual chair, and ready to get bounced around! It took us about 30 minutes of rocking around on this boat, but we made it to the dock. I’d been to Belize nearly 10 years ago and from what I had recalled, which turned out to be exactly correct, Belize City is no joke from a dangerous perspective. It is not a city you want to go roaming around in alone as a tourist … and certainly not with an expensive wheelchair! It has a very high crime rate, poor infrastructure due to a hurricane hitting the city years prior, and not a very friendly crowd. When we arrived at the docks there was a small little area for tourists and tour guides to meet up with one another, make haste of getting into a van, and getting the heck out of the city!

Since I hired a private accessible tour company who partners with local tour companies who claim to be handicap accessible, and who would be able to show us the Belize Zoo in addition to some Mayan Ruins – I was pretty excited! We did have quite a bit of bother trying to find our tour guide due to many miscommunications, but we did eventually find him.  We were running behind schedule though. I wasn’t quite sure how far away our excursions were, but we literally had to be back to the boat in five hours.

Our tour guide, Ricky from Roam Belize Tour Company, greeted us with a smile and proceeded to show us the way to our “accessible” handicap van. Well, there was a van, and there was a ramp that you had to take out of the van to attach to the rear of the vehicle to push me up. I would say it was accessible, but not particularly accessible friendly if you know what I mean 🙂 Once I was loaded into the back of the van I was looking for straps to lock in my wheelchair. Ricky informed us that there were no straps as they were a tour company that was just getting up and running with providing accessible tours to folks in wheelchairs. The way the van seats were laid out, unless I was a paraplegic and could transfer my own, was not going to work to transfer me onto an actual van seat because Aaron could not lift me up with a height of the van.

I did call the company to confirm and I filled out many forms saying that I was paralyzed from the chest down, and that needed to stay in my wheelchair, but being a foreign country things get lost in translation sometimes. No big deal we thought!

Continue reading

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (Part 2)

Continuing on with our Royal Caribbean Cruise Adventures …

We spent the first night, Sunday night, on the ship a little later than we planned dancing the night away. On Monday morning we docked in Key West, Florida for our first day’s adventure.

DAY 2 – Key West, Florida

We docked right in the center of the city of the island of Key West. For those of you not familiar with Key West, it is the coolest little funky island, and is the farthest South Island on the chain of the Florida Keys. It takes about 3 ½ hours to drive there on one road from Miami, Florida. It is filled with eclectic bars, unique restaurants with their own personalities, 1 million little shops with fabulous trinkets, and a group of folks who are so unbelievably laid-back. Most of the locals on Key West are the kind of people you just want to hang out with with the beer by the water, and hear their life adventures.

“The Port of Key West”

I’ve been to Key West many times before as I previously lived in Miami for about 10 years. On one of my adventures down to Key West with one of my great friends from college we ventured down to the island for something called Fantasy Fest. Fantasy Fest is kind of like a Mardi Gras down in the keys. Thousands of folks drive down, dress up in the most wonderfully outrageous costumes, walk the streets, and party the night away. When I was 21 we headed down to Key West, but we forgot to book a hotel. So, we took my sisters truck and decided we would find a parking lot, and sleep in the back cab.

I was unbelievably surprised at the copious amounts of folks strolling around in giant penis costumes, body paint, and a ridiculous amount of other fun filled costumes. Of course we got ourselves into all kinds of devious trouble, met cute boys, partied the night away, and by 3 AM in the morning we ventured back to a church parking lot where we paid $70 to park our car for the night. When we woke up in the morning we were sleeping in the back of the pickup truck with our little feet hanging out the back side. We woke up to some strange folks tickling our feet… I’m not kidding. It was disturbing and hilarious all at the same time.

Anyway, I had the opportunity to take my power chair off the ship as Key West is relatively accessible. There is this one fabulous restaurant I’d remembered from years prior called Blue Heaven that was wildly eclectic with the best pancakes I’ve ever eaten, and a laid-back atmosphere that made you want to just sit in a hammock with the Corona, and drink the day away. Unfortunately, we only had a few hours to dive into Key West, so I had to make a strict itinerary so we could see a few things before we headed back to the ship. We met one of Aaron’s long-term family friends who had retired in Key West for lunch at Blue Heaven. We laughed, drank, ate delicious food, and then strolled around the little eclectic streets of Key West for hours. Key West doesn’t have many hotels, but rather these old colonial Bed & Breakfasts, which are just precious historical gems I would recommend if you head down that way. Now, they are not particularly handicap accessible, but if you’ve a strong man who can carry you up the stairs … Go for it!

“This sign display had been up for the last 15 years… I had been dying to take a picture and pay someone to watch them shower for a while ;-)”

 

We ended the afternoon at a Tiki hut bar, my absolute favorite, right on the ocean with some reggae music watching the boats sail by, and enjoying the 80° weather while sipping on some lovely alcoholic beverages.

As the day ended we boarded our ship and we were met by our fabulous concierge, Ligia. Continue reading

ROYAL CARIBBEAN CRUISE ADVENTURE (PART 1)

Sorry for the hiatus in my blog writing over the last several weeks, but, as many of you know, I was off on an international adventure with my boyfriend on a Royal Caribbean seven-day cruise to the Western Caribbean. My boyfriend and I have been together for about two years now and we wanted to do something exciting with just the two of us to see how we would be able to handle 10 days alone with no help.

I did a copious amount of research on accessible vacations and I decided on taking a cruise as I read so much about how cruise ships are accessible. We decided on a seven-day cruise leaving out of the Port of Tampa, Florida going to Key West, then to Cozumel, Mexico, then to Belize, and then to Costa Maya, Mexico. I have so many stories so I will split this adventure up into several blogs, so you don’t have to read a novel all at once!

Needless-to-say I was pretty nervous at the prospect of going alone with one person on a vacation who would be responsible for all of my care. I wanted to plan a trip where I could stay in one location and take mini adventures from day-to-day. I’m going to save my conclusions of my overall experience after I dive into all of the exciting, challenging, and fun excursions we embarked on for the last blog.

I prepared for this trip for weeks. I created a document with an extensive packing list for everything I might need in case I got stuck in a foreign country for whatever reason. Considering I’m mildly neurotic about making sure I don’t forget anything, I think I packed the kitchen sink, and then some. As the old saying goes “I rather have it and not need it, then need it and not have it!” Most of my suitcases were dedicated to medical supplies and just a few items to clothing. I also decided to bring a big egg crate because I have the most sensitive skin in the world, and I was unsure of the mattress surfaces on the ship beds.  I also brought along my manual chair for excursions in foreign countries as I was fairly confident a power wheelchair would not get me far in countries where ADA compliance is not quite as strict.

Our cruise was set to depart on Sunday, April 15 from Tampa, Florida. We decided to leave on that Friday and drive 9 ½ hours from Raleigh to Tampa in order to have a day exploring downtown Tampa, and meeting up with a longtime friend whom I had not seen in about four years. I’m sure I could’ve flown down to Tampa had it not been for not with the ridiculous amount of gear we were carrying with us. The drive went pretty smoothly and we checked into a hotel in downtown Tampa. Before meeting up with a friend for the afternoon to go play, drink, and frolic about we first needed to give me a shower, and wash my hair before heading onto the ship. This was quite an endeavor because at home I usually do a type of bed bath and then stick my head in the sink to wash my hair. This was clearly not an option, and while we did get a roll in shower I did not bring a shower chair with me because I just couldn’t fit anymore gear into the car.

In the typical roll-in showers in hotels they usually have a small pulldown shower seat, which is quite dangerous, but it is all we had to work with at the time. Aaron put many towels on the shower seat for padding, picked me up like a princess, and strategically sat me down on the shower bench while I held on for dear life. He got in the shower with me while I wrapped my arms around his body as he washed my hair and body. It was dangerously comical, but we made it work. I definitely don’t suggest this method unless you have a very strong man who can lift you up and make sure you don’t fall flat on the floor 🙂 We were testing out this shower method as the ship had a similar set up for a roll-in shower, and I needed to make sure we were capable of getting me semi-clean every few days on the ship.

When we headed to downtown Tampa to meet up with one of my great friends Jill. We absolutely fell in love with the town. We went to a famous area called Ybor city that has a Cuban influence where we watched cigars being rolled, smoked cigars, bounced around from one cool Cuban spot to another, and reminisced the night away with Jill. We decided that Tampa was worth a trip in and of itself one day as there are so many little gems the city has to offer in addition to the entire West Coast of Florida. I spent over 12 years in Miami, but somehow never managed to get out West.

On Sunday morning we packed up our gear at 5 AM in the morning in order to arrive down to the port of Tampa to board our Royal Caribbean ship, Rhapsody of Seas. Continue reading

Moving Mountains Paralyzed: An Insurance Battle to Remember!

When I think of Moving Mountains Paralyzed Insurance Companies the analogy of a Goat herder comes to mind. The Goatherder will watch out for its flock as long as it produces enough fur for the season for the goat herder to line his financial pockets. The moment the goat gets out of line or stops growing fur, the herder will slaughter the goat, and eat it for dinner.

Similarly to insurance companies … As long as you pay your premium and don’t step out of line an insurance company will offer you basic protection. However, if you start creating a commotion, appealing everything, and asking for more — insurance companies will find some way to slap you with financial bills that seem unimaginable.
Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I’ve been a goat that has been slaughtered by insurance companies and I have also been a goat that has managed to break free. Navigating the waters of insurance companies to get what you need, especially when you are paralyzed, requires voracious tenacity, extreme dedication, a lot of hard work, patience, and knowledge of how to work within grey areas.

Read the rest on Push living magazine at:

https://pushliving.com/moving-mountains-paralyzed-quirky-quad-guide-winning-w-insurance/

SEX & MEDITATION

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I will preface this blog by saying for family and friends who do not want to know too much about my intimate sexual life you may want to skip the second half of this blog 😉

However, considering my blog is about Sex, sass and Spinal Cord Injury Adventures … I would be remiss not stay true to topic!

A majority of folks who sustain a spinal cord injury suffer from extreme chronic pain in many forms after their accident. Before I broke my neck I would look at somebody in a wheelchair and wonder what they felt? … I thought they couldn’t feel their legs or their stomach, etc. Boy was I wrong on so many accounts!

Many of us suffer from something called Neuropathic Pain. Essentially, it is nerve pain that manifests itself in different ways throughout the body 24/7. It’s almost like a cruel joke to be paralyzed and feel pain from the inside out. Regardless, this pain can result in feelings of pins and needles, burning fire, glass cutting you from the inside out, etc. It is different for every person.

Regardless, this chronic pain never goes away and can affect our daily lives with respect to productivity, quality of life, focus, and so much more. I find being paralyzed quite easy at this point in my SCI career, but you never quite get used to the chronic pain.

Personally, I suffer from 4 serious chronic pains at the same time, which can completely throw me off my game on certain days.

  1. Neuropathic Pain from the chest down and in my arms – feels like burning pins and needles day and night
  2. Hypersensitivity on my hands and forearms – feels like little shards of glass cutting me at all times
  3. Neck Pain – from multiple surgeries I have scar tissue damage that prevents me from sitting up in my chair too long, and feels like someone is slowly cutting me with a butter knife on the back of my neck
  4. Shoulder Pain – I suppose due to overuse it is a combination of nerve damage, musculoskeletal damage, myofascial pain, and soft tissue damage

Since my accident 7 ½ years ago I have always been on the mission to reduce my pain as opposed to finding a cure with respect to stem cell therapy for walking. I have tried so many techniques, of which two I find to be the most successful. However, the pain is always with me no matter what I do – although pain is just a signal from the brain, so I am convinced that if I keep trying I will be able to reduce it greatly on a permanent level one day!

I have tried:

  1. Opioids – definitely not recommended as opioids just make you drown out life and they don’t actually work on the right receptors in the brain for nerve pain
  2. Acupuncture
  3. Electrical Stimulation Acupuncture
  4. Neural Muscular Massage
  5. Meditation/Hypnosis
  6. Physical Therapy
  7. Lithium Protocol – this one nearly killed me as it can be very dangerous
  8. Sex
  9. Distraction
  10. Cold Laser Therapy

I’m sure there are few more I am forgetting, but I’m constantly trying to find new ways to reduce pain. The two most successful methods I’ve found in my life are Meditation/Hypnosis and Sex. I will dive into these two a little bit further.

 

MEDITATION / HYPNOSIS

Considering pain is just a signal from the brain hypnosis and meditation can be very effective, but only if you practice regularly, and are disciplined in your efforts.

I worked with a hypnosis instructor who helped me for over a year creating guided visualizations for me to listen to at 30 minute increments. Meditation is more challenging for me because when I sit quietly all of the feelings of pain are in the forefront of my mind. With hypnosis I find with gentle music in the background and guided instructions I use my mind to enter a world I created to reduce pain. It is kind of like a special room where enter through a red door and inside that room is a beautiful lake and ocean with clouds, beaches, and floaty toys.  I’ve taught myself to look down at my body and leave my pain floating above. I know it sounds peculiar, but with years of practice it really helps reduce the pain on the days where the pain just seems unbearable.

Admittedly, I should practice every day, which I don’t do religiously anymore, but it is one of my 2018 resolutions to continue to rigorously get back into it.

I go into a dark closet, tilt my chair back, and listen to the recording. The burning feeling of pins and needles changes to a cool and relaxing feeling. It is hard to describe unless you practice this on your own, and it may be hard to believe that this actually works.

In the beginning I could barely sit still for five minutes, but that’s how you have to start. Try meditation or hypnosis for one minute, then work up to two, then three, etc. There are so many recordings online that you can download for free, and you have to find a voice that is soothing to you, which can relax you.

 

SEXUAL INTERCOURSE

The second most effective technique for reducing my pain, if you can believe it, is
SEX.  Sex is a natural pain reliever — Sex causes increased production of oxytocin, which is often referred to as the “love hormone.” Before orgasm, oxytocin, released from the brain, surges and is accompanied by the release of endorphins, our natural pain-killing hormones.

When you are paralyzed from the chest down the feeling of sex is quite different than what used to be … It is not “Normal” in the sense of the way things feel. While I cannot orgasm in the traditional sense I still have my own type of feeling from sexual intercourse. Continue reading

“SCI” SUPER MOM’S – An Endangered Species!

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A little over 10 years ago BBC produced a television mini-series called “Planet Earth.” They spent five years filming unique exotic environments, plants, and animals all over the world. There was one episode where the film crew spent months in subzero Himalayan temperatures trying to film the endangered snow leopard. After many failed attempts they finally caught the snow leopard on camera for the first time. These leopards are so unique and not many exist, that we know of, in the world today.

An “SCI” (Spinal Cord Injury) Mom is an endangered species of human being, like that of the snow leopard, that are far and few between throughout the world. In general, the bond between a mother and child is so unique and unbreakable. When a child has a severe injury, such as breaking their neck, a mom goes into protection mode in order to provide the safest, best, and happiest environment for their child. However, not all moms are cut out to be SCI moms.

An SCI mom goes above and beyond, dedicates her life to her child, puts their needs above their own life, and puts up with more heartache than perhaps even the child going through the injury themselves. Generally a child starts fleeing the nest in their 20’s, starts their own life, and the parents move on to other adventures in their life because while their job is never done, the daily nitty-gritty caring aspect for their child is complete. With a spinal cord injury the reverse happens.

   

A dedicated and loving family member puts their life on hold once again to care for their injured child as if they were a baby, but it never ends. Continue reading

“HOW I (Unexpectedly) FELL in LOVE — The REAL VERSION”

 
My Online Dating Mission:

… Sleep with as many guys as I could in order to explore my spinal cord injury sexuality before it might be too late. A simple mission you may say … A ridiculously irresponsible mission others may comment … A wildly insane mission yet others may respond. To me, it was the most fun, wild and exciting thing I could think to do before I went under the knife once again for a seventh time in six years….

… My now boyfriend was one of these gentlemen callers. I really did like him and thought he had a lot to offer, but I certainly wasn’t going to ask a guy I met 4 to 6 weeks prior to hang around with a C6 quadriplegic who was going in for major surgery, who was going to be laid up in bed for God knows how long, and with hundreds and hundreds of staples in my ass. I simply didn’t think this was fair to ask, nor did I want any man I had been sexual with to see me in the ICU….

… As the months rolled on we really started to build a bond with one another and it was a completely new and unexpected feeling for me in life. Forget the wheelchair for a second … Apparently I had never learned how to be in a proper relationship. I had dated guys for years in the past, but I always made sure I had 1 foot out the door as a defense mechanism. My boyfriend completely turn this around for me, and, essentially, taught me how to love….

Read my new column on Push Living Magazine: http://pushliving.com/spinal-cord-injury-sexuality-how-i-unexpectedly-fell-in-love/

Forget About Setting Goals – Reducing Psychological Paralysis

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A few weeks ago I had a psychological epiphany with respect to my life over the last 7 years since my accident, and probably way before that too. I was reading an article by one of my favorite authors who focuses on writing about behavioral psychology, James Clear (www.jamesclear.com). He writes on subjects such as habits, performance, and just generally on topics regarding self-improvement based on proven scientific research. He had a very interesting article on letting go of your goals and focusing on process instead.

When I first started reading this article I thought to myself “I’ve always lived my life by setting specific goals and trying to achieve them.” However, what I did not realize throughout the course of my life, and especially since my accident, is that goals have actually been hindering my progress and reducing my current happiness.

Don’t misunderstand me, having  general goals are important as they keep you focused towards trying to achieve something very specific. What I did not think critically about was that when you are working towards a specific goal you are essentially saying “I’m not good enough yet, but I will be when I reach my goal.” The problem with this mindset is that you’re teaching yourself to always put happiness and success off until the next milestone is achieved. “Once I reach my goal, then I’ll be happy. Once I achieve my goal, then I’ll be successful.”

The wheels in my head started turning to where I took a day off work to think critically about what he meant. Throughout my life I’ve always been taught to work hard, think critically, create a specific goal, work my ass off until I achieve that goal, and success will follow. So, clearly I had defined success to equal happiness in my life. Interestingly the exact opposite has happened to me over the last 7 years of my life since I broke my neck.

Continue reading

How I Vacation as a C6 Quadriplegic

Check out my new column on Push Living Magazine:  http://pushliving.com/how-i-vacation-as-a-c6-quadriplegic/

 

… Taking a vacation as an able-bodied person takes planning, but as a quadriplegic, well, it is way more complicated! …

I wasn’t quite sure where to start. In the past I would just find a cheap plane ticket, a cheap hotel, pack a bag and be on my way. Clearly life is not so easy anymore with respect to planning after you break your neck. There are so many things to consider, such as:

  • Who is going to take care of you when you’re down there
  • How accessible are the rooms? Can you get in the bathroom? Is the bed too high
  • Is the city handicap accessible
  • How on earth are you going to fit so many supplies in your suitcase for emergency
  • How am I going to get on a plane or fit everything in the car?

http://pushliving.com/how-i-vacation-as-a-c6-quadriplegic/