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 ... "
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!
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The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution. 1410-30