Be Your Own Advocate & Fight For Your Life

It was such an honor to be a guest on Karen Roy’s Life Possible with a Disability Podcast. Karen Roy is a good friend and fellow Disability Advocate in the community. We talked on a range of subjects from love, life, adversity, and fighting for medically necessary equipment in the health insurance world, and what that entails.

Karen is a rock star in her own right who has been pushing for equal access to exercise equipment for those with disabilities, is Ms. former Wheelchair America, and now works with a large Durable Medical Equipment Company to push the boundaries for patient access in the health insurance world.

We had a great conversation and I do hope many people are able to take a lesson out of what we talked about in the podcast:

Flowing East and West: The Perfectly Imperfect Journey to a Fulfilled Life all Podcast

I’m super honored to have been a guest on this incredible Podcast with two amazing ladies!

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/flowing-east-and-west-the-perfectly-imperfect-journey/id1546631522

Here’s the intro of what the podcast is all about – FEET FIRST:

“Ali Ingersoll had a somewhat charmed upbringing, attending boarding school abroad, going on amazing adventures and taking advantage of every opportunity that showed up.  Then a life-changing accident happened when Ali took a head-first dive into shallow water.  Feet First not only describes Ali’s plea for anyone jumping into shallow water, but also how she has lived her life, both before and after the accident.  While she is now restricted to a wheelchair, Ali continues to live life to the fullest  – wait until you hear her dating stories (sorry, guys, she is now happily married!) – we were both laughing hysterically.  This in no way means Ali hasn’t had ups and downs – indeed, she speaks very candidly about her challenges and dark days. However, in her toughest moments, she has developed an incredible resilience and a “radical acceptance” that we cannot help being inspired by.

Ali reminded us of this quote which we think perfectly sums up how she lives her life:

Disasters lead to the best stories – Ali Ingersoll

Ali Ingersoll is a day trader, consultant, disability advocate, writer, blogger, editor, and public speaker. She started her advocacy mission after being repeatedly denied medically necessary equipment by insurance companies over the last 10 years since becoming a C6 quadriplegic and full-time wheelchair user after a shallow water diving accident.”

Ali’s passion lies in coaching people with disabilities on how to improve their quality of life by teaching them to self-advocate in order to live a life of independence, dignity, and grace.

Ali has a firm philosophy of paying it forward by giving back to the community through outreach, working together, and building each other up. She believes it’s important to band together as one in order to affect the greatest change on the national stage and in local communities.”

6 Strategies to Navigate Your Insurance Provider’s Approvals Process

As a C6 quadriplegic, I’ve spent the last decade perfecting strategies to improve my odds of success in getting the durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies I need from my health insurance provider. A few key pieces of equipment I have successfully obtained include a specialized shower chair, pressure-relieving mattress, hospital bed, FES bike, and seat elevator for my power wheelchair.

I’m not the only wheelchair user who’s figured out effective strategies for every step of the process, from prior authorization to putting together effective appeals if denied. I interviewed others who use wheelchairs, including two staff members of the United Spinal Resource Center team, to present you with the best strategies for obtaining the medically necessary DMEPOS you need to not only survive but thrive in life.

I interviewed five other advocates around the country to get their take on shared strategies we are all employing to get the medically necessary equipment need to live our best lives.

Read the rest on United Spinal’s New Mobility Magazine

The Rise of Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

Technological, societal, and environmental shifts are reshaping how many companies engage with people, customers, and communities.  This is paving the way for systemic change in how we include underrepresented communities in the employment world.

Over the last several months I’ve been pondering and am now actively pursuing a new professional career in the world of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).  This is not a new emerging field within organizations, but over the last several years it is fast becoming an ever more critical area for organizations, corporations, and stakeholders around the world to focus on.  More specifically, in light of today’s societal changes we need to strive to incorporate a more diverse and equitable culture for women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and the disability community. 

By recognizing the unique challenges faced by leaders with disabilities, organizations can build more comprehensive diversity policies to create an inclusive environment for all employees. Historically, executive level leaders have felt the need to be seen as superhuman in order to survive, a culture that has resulted in displaying one of invincibility and infallibility. This needs to change because once higher level corporate executives realize a disability is not a disadvantage in the corporate culture, the entire corporate structure, from the top down, will make way for real systemic change.

Read the Rest on Push Living Magazine

Playing The Insurance Game — 4 Secrets to Attaining Medically Necessary Equipment

It’s not a very well-kept secret that the insurance industry can be unjust in addressing the needs of many of us with disabilities—especially when it comes to attaining the medically necessary equipment and services we need to improve our quality of life and independence. While countless folks in the disability community are frivolously working to change the system, the reality is that we need to learn to advocate for ourselves within the current broken system. It’s not impossible. But it does require a bit of ingenuity, persistence, and sheer determination.

I was injured in a shallow water diving accident in 2010 leaving me a C6 quadriplegic. I was left to fend for myself with respect to fighting for the equipment I needed for my daily survival in my home. While I have an army of medical professionals in my Rolodex, many of them are overwhelmed by the number of requests to write medical necessity letters to insurance companies. As a result, I discovered early that I was going to have to learn how to become my own self-advocate.

Read The Rest on New Leaf Home Medical

https://newleafhomemedical.com/knowledge-center-articles/playing-the-insurance-game-4-secrets-to-attaining-medically-necessary-equipment/

Disability & Inspiration – Common Misconceptions

As a C6 quadriplegic injured in a shallow water diving accident in 2010 leaving me paralyzed from the chest down and a full-time wheelchair user, I am no stranger to being called an inspiration on a regular basis as so many others with disabilities undoubtedly find themselves in similar situations.  

The challenge for many people with disabilities being called an inspiration lies in the perception beneath the word “inspiration.”  Are we being called an inspiration simply because we are living a life with a disability and able-bodied people find it inspirational that we are surviving a life simply because of our disability?  Or, are they calling us an inspiration because of our accomplishments and contributions to society just as any other member of the community?

Read the rest on The Rotary Club!

Turning Pain into Purpose

I am often asked where I get my strength & determination to keep going when it’s one thing after another?

In short, I have mentally conditioned myself over 11 years to turn my daily pain struggles into purpose with the sole ambition of helping others realize that life is not over even when the seemingly darkest moment is upon you.  I derive my strength from others positivity, family support, I’m sure a little bit of genetic grit somewhere thrown in there, and the constant urge to push through what feels like insurmountable challenges at times.

Quite frankly, it’s exhausting. It takes up nearly 1/3 of my day to just power through, but I do it. As I write this article I woke up sick as a dog and spent nearly an hour staring at the screen. I don’t have the luxury of lying in bed all day to get better because I would get pressure sores from staying in bed too long. So, I was forced to get up in my chair. Sure, I could have laid back all day and done absolutely nothing, but what I find gets me through moments where I just want to crawl on the couch and wait for tomorrow to come, is the fact that I know I may be helping others appreciate the fact that they are not alone. I do appreciate when I need to take a moment and scale back my day, but sheer determination keeps me going to make a difference in the world.

I don’t want to wake up at the end of my life and realize that I have just worked my ass off, but I want to make an impact in people’s lives in some way, shape or form. My husband and I are not going to have children, so I feel this incessant drive to keep going. I am fortunate because I have the innate ability to move from project to project without losing focus. I retain information quite well, learn quickly, and “just do it” as Nike would say. Please don’t misunderstand, this is a daily battle I take on in every moment because chronic pain can bring an ordinary person to their knees, and disrupt their entire lives. I appreciate we all handle pain differently.

Read the rest on Push Living Magazine:

How Do We Overcome the Dark Clouds Overhead?

I’ve written numerous articles on the importance of mental health and expressing the fact that “It’s okay, to not be okay.”  I believe this wholeheartedly, but often times when I find myself writing articles and reflecting back on a challenging moment or week that I had had – I do it while I am in a better mental state analyzing my past feelings.  Today I’m flipping this article on its head because as I write this I am definitely not okay in the feelings I have about my mental well-being at present, which feel wildly different than feelings expressed in hindsight.  I think both perspectives are valuable and I offer you today a glimpse into what’s really going on in life and how I am attempting to handle it.

I find great comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my feelings because I get dozens of messages a day from folks expressing thanks for being extremely open with what I go through as a C6 quadriplegic who is dependent on other human beings to take care of me on a daily basis.

What prompted me to write this article was Naomi Osaka.  I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this young lady, but she is a professional Japanese tennis player and has been ranked number one in the Women’s Tennis Association.  She is dealing with a lot of the mental stresses that undoubtedly come along with being a top professional athlete in her field.  Just the other day she did not want to partake in a press conference for her own mental well-being and was penalized with a $15,000 fine for not talking to the media after a match.  There was an enormous amount of support around the globe acknowledging the importance of mental health from the public, sponsors, and corporations due to the fact that she was honest with yourself, and the world.

I’ve spent the better part of a decade learning to adapt, train, push forward, and fight for survival on a daily basis to, not only accept this life of spinal cord injury, but to thrive in it. For the most part, I believe I’ve done pretty well and professionally I seem to have the ability to seamlessly keep striving for greatness even when I am faced with strikingly devastating defeats.

In my personal life, especially the last few weeks, it feels as though life has been crumbling around me.  It doesn’t matter if you have a disability as I am sure many of us feel this way, like failures, whether you’re a single parent trying to handle multiple children on your own, a high-powered CEO trying to meet quarterly profits, or a starving artist trying to make ends meet – we all have the ability to crumble as human beings.  Now, it’s how we get back up that of course defines us.

Continue reading

The Never Ending Health Insurance Battle – A Year Later!

If you’ve ever applied to college you’ll likely remember waiting anxiously by the mailbox for that large envelope, which was filled with hopes and dreams of your acceptance letter into the school of your choice.  The small envelope on the other hand, filled with dread and disappointment, meant that you were likely going to have to fall back on your Plan B School.

As the years roll by and you grow up that distant memory of the large envelope stays with you.  It certainly stayed with me.  Over the last several years after fighting health insurance battle after health insurance battle I quickly came to realize the large envelope in your mailbox was the one filled with despair, rejection, and disappointment.  I dread that big envelope in my mailbox that has Blue Cross and Blue Shield labeled in the top right corner.

Over the past several months I’ve been tirelessly working on two major insurance battles, which has taken my every waking moment to push forward on while simultaneously building up my disability advocacy career from every angle I could think of. Every day as I would roll down to the mailbox my throat would get a little bit tight, my blood pressure would start climbing, heart racing, and as I was watching whoever was helping me open the mailbox that day turn the key I waited in eager anticipation for either the small envelope or the large envelope.

he last two battles I’ve been fighting have been for the VitaGlide, an adapted physical exercise rowing machine, and a total hospital electrical bed.  Blue Cross and Blue Shield had initially rejected both requests.  The total hospital electrical bed was rejected on the grounds that it was not medically necessary and the VitaGlide on the grounds that it was a non-covered benefit.  I’ll explain the difference in a moment, but I’ll start out by saying when you are rejected on the basis of something not being medically necessary you have many more avenues to pursue for appeals than you do if you get rejected because an item is a non-covered benefit under your insurance plan.

Let me tell you my story … on PushLiving Magazine: https://pushliving.com/the-never-ending-health-insurance-battle-a-year-later/

How Wilderness Survival Trips Prepared Me for Spinal Cord Injury

I was 300 miles from civilization in the outback country of Western Australia in the Kimberly’s in 95° heat carrying an 80 lb. backpack with holes in the back of my heels the size of quarters bleeding profusely in my hiking boots climbing a mountain with no way to turn back.  All I wanted to do is stop hiking, but I was on the side of the mountain with jagged rocks and several other hiking comrades trying desperately to make it to the top while my feet could barely carry me a step further. 

I know I couldn’t complain because we were a team trying to hike our way to the next water source by the end of the day with nothing but a compass and a topographical map.  If we didn’t make it to the next water source by sunset we would have be stranded in the wilderness surrounded by King cobra snakes, chilling temperatures, exposed to the elements, and disoriented by the darkness of night.

Despite the agonizing torture of pain as I put 1 foot in front of the other – when we finally turned that corner or climbed over that mountain to find an oasis like waterfall in the middle of a desert like climate everything suddenly made sense.  I kicked off my boots, stripped off my clothes, and dove into the crystal clear pool of water to swim under the beating waterfall, which made that day of seemingly insurmountable challenges simply melt away.  It was paradise, but it was not without its perils to arrive at such a place.

This is just one memory of dozens I recall from my numerous wilderness survival trips I willingly participated in during my young teens to my mid 20’s prior to my spinal cord injury, which, I didn’t know at the time, was preparing me for the hardest journey of my life – living life as a quadriplegic with paralysis from the chest down.

Read the rest on Push Living Magazine: https://pushliving.com/how-wilderness-survival-trips-prepared-me-for-spinal-cord-injury/