Meet Leslie - More than a Wheelchair

I have experienced this world through an entirely different perspective than most.  I’ve been living my life sitting down since I was four years old.  I was injured in an automobile accident that left me paralyzed from the chest down (C-7 incomplete to be exact).  It was in 1979, when federal mandated car safety seats were far off the horizon.  My injury has forced me to live life differently.  I learned very early that I had to seek the positive parts of my injury and live boldly upon them.  Despite my injury I have accomplished amazing things!  I was named Miss Congeniality in the 1993 Miss Columbus Pageant.  This was a preliminary of the Miss America System (I was the only contestant in a wheelchair).  I wrote a book called “In His Hands” in 2008 that demonstrates the challenges that I have faced and how my faith, gusto, and determination allowed me to overcome them.  But most importantly, I am a wife and mother.  By far, I feel like this is my greatest achievement.  I have a wonderful husband, Aaron, who loves everything about me, wheelchair and all.  We have been married for 16 years and have two phenomenal children.  Together we have created a very adventurous life.  We enjoy fishing, camping, ATV riding, really anything to do with the outdoors.  Dylan, my 14 year old has a high energetic spirit about him and is my “helper” in any tough situation.  Clay, my 11 year old is intelligent and inquisitive.  He is my compassionate soft-hearted son.

At times, our life is very entertaining for a spectator.  Just imagine me with a 14 year old picking me up and placing me on an ATV!  Or envision my 11 year old putting my shoes on me after I transfer from my Jeep.  My boys are a gift and although challenging at times they add a rich layer of living I never dreamed I would experience.

My life is full of excitement, adventure, and variety.  I am an independent woman.  And I’m very transparent when it comes to my Spinal Cord Injury.  I’m often asked, “How can you be so happy when you're in a wheelchair?”  It’s fairly easy when you realize that my disability is just a part of me much like I have blue eyes.  I can’t say I had any kind of epiphany; it’s been a gradual, continuous and often difficult process – a journey I’ll undoubtedly be on for the rest of my life.  While my reality is one that I don’t always love, it’s one that I unwaveringly embrace.  I met my husband at a disabled snow skiing camp.  Would I have met him if I was not in the chair?  I have the opportunity (and responsibility) everyday to encourage others to live life to the fullest.  If I were walking would I have this same “responsibility”?

Living life in a wheelchair often brings out the best in people.  People want to lend a helping hand.  There’s always someone offering to open a door for me or carry my groceries.  Of course, this is not universal and I realize there are some that may feel a bit uncomfortable around me.  But for the most part my wheelchair allows me to see the natural kindness of the human spirit.  I find it humorous when more people remember me than I remember them.  It's like a low level of fame.  My wheelchair becomes somewhat like a well-known characteristic.

"You know Leslie?"
"No, I don't think so."
"She's the blonde in a wheelchair ... "
"Oh, yeah!"

I like that people remember me but I’m quick to point out that I am so much more than just a woman who uses a wheelchair.  I would not change a thing and I’m honored to share my story and adventures with you.  Live boldly!

Leslie

 

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