Hi. My name is Amity and I'm 13 years old.  I am kind of shy, athletic in wheelchair sports, and very sensitive to other people's feelings...and of course, my own.  I like to read, write poetry, play the flute inside, and play sports outside. I hope that you enjoy reading my story.

"Faster Nick, faster!"  Those were the words that started it all. My boyfriend's brother, Nick, was taking me home.  We were almost to my house, a big ranch house in the country.  The road was icy, and Nick was having a blast.  He would speed up to about 45, then suddenly  step on the breaks. 
Not screetching to a halt, but just stopping fast enough so that the car would sweep up and slide around in the ice. The fun soon stopped, though. He drove a little too fast once, and didn't break quite enough.  The car went sailing into a fence.

I vividly remeber waking up in the emergency room, with people all around me.  When someone noticed I was awake, a cold cloth was placed on my head.  I felt a bolt of pain right afterwards--pain that felt like a fire rushing up my legs.  All of a sudden, it was gone. Nothing followed. I tried to move my legs, but I couldn't.  I saw a doctor put a medical chart on them, and I felt absolutely nothing. I started screaming. HELP! I tried to move my legs again. Nothing.  A doctor who tried to comfort me told me that I had been in a wreck and that I was paralyzed from the waist down.  I learned that there was no hope of my ever walking again. 

When I was finally allowed to go home, weeks later, I was greeted by stares.  Everywhere I went, people would stare at me in my wheelchair.  It was just too much for me, so I stopped going anywhere. That is, until my mom announced that it was time I returned to school. Getting to and from school was a challenge. A real nightmare!  I had to start riding a bus for kids with mental retardation because it was the only one with a place for wheelchairs.  And I had to go to a school that was not at all handicap accessible.  Everything was difficult for me, and I would come home crying.  That's when my parents decided that it was time for a change, so they enrolled me in a private school for children and teens who were physically handicapped.

I love my school.  Everyone is so friendly and nice to me.  The teachers treat me and my clasmates just like regular kids, a very different treatment than I received outside of school. They even have a wheelchair basketball team, and I, ta da, am a starter.  I have never been happier since the accident!  People still stare at me when I go somewhere, and that's expected, I suppose.  They just don't know how to act. When I find the staring to be rude, I just go over, look the person straight in the eye and say "may I help you?"  Usually, the 'starer' is too embarrassed to answer, and just walks away. I hope that I've taught a useful lesson.

Someone once asked me if I were mad at Nick for the accident. But it was me who wasn't wearing a seatbelt, not Nick.  Had I been, I would be able to walk now.  I would be able to remain a "normal" person.  So, I ask you all.  Please, please, please wear your seatbelts.  They can save your life, or keep you from having what happened to me happen to you. 

I hope that my story has helped you to realize that I'm just a girl like many you know. Not different in any really important way. My accident has changed my life, but it certainly hasn't ended it. Don't be scared and uncomfortable when you meet people in wheelchairs. Just ask them your questions, and be prepared for a poppa-wheelie every once in awhile. Take care of yourselves. Amity

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Joan Fleitas, Ed.D., R.N.
Associate Professor of Nursing, Lehman College, CUNY
Bronx, New York 10468

Last updated: November 16, 2004