Defiant

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By Janine Shepherd

I have spent most of my life trying to hide the extent of my disability. By sharing my story in Defiant, at long last, it feels like I have ‘come out’ as a spinal patient and it is liberating. I now embrace the word ‘disability’ with pride as I consider how far I have come and what I have achieved since my accident.

I spent almost six months in the spinal ward after a near fatal accident in 1986 left me with life-threatening injuries, including multiple fractures to my neck and back. I still remember the day my father drove me out of the hospital gates, my wheelchair in the back of the car, my emaciated body wrapped in a full plaster body cast to protect my newly repaired back. Life as I knew it would never be the same. In many ways I was fortunate, and in other ways, not so.

Although I was initially told that it was unlikely I would walk again, or have children, or do the things I had done before in my days as an elite athlete, I was determined to defy the grim prognosis. I would eventually go on to learn to walk again, albeit with a limping gait that would lead to many other complications.

My remarkable recovery from wheelchair bound to walking paraplegic was a combined effort on the part of many caregivers. And the great lesson I’m privileged to share with you, in my new memoir, is that I’ve learned that I’m not my body and you, dear reader, aren’t yours.

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