Happy on Wheels
I am a quadriplegic who has been injured for over 35 years; I sustained a spinal cord injury at age 16 in a diving accident. Prior to that, I was extremely athletic, a lifeguard, and a swimmer. After my injury, I went through an extended period of rehabilitation two hours away from my home in Upstate New York. I returned to my rural hometown of Accord, NY, and graduated high school at the top of my class, college magna cum laude (University at Albany, where I currently serve on the Rockefeller College Advisory Board) and then law school. I was a practicing attorney, serving in high-level positions for 25 years with the Federal government until my retirement in 2016. I live in Arlington, VA, and despite thinking I would be single forever, have been happily married for over 14 years. I have had many ups and downs in life related to my health, but I have learned how to overcome challenges and develop a mindset to be “Happy on Wheels.” In late 2009, I had surgery on 2 chronic wounds, and because of complications I became seriously ill and almost died. I left the hospital with a trach and never thought I’d be able to return to work, but I did and worked for nearly seven more years. The people around me – husband, family, friends, work colleagues and health care assistants – were the key motivating factors in my recovery. As if that wasn’t enough, in July of 2010, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a right mastectomy. That challenge has made me passionate about speaking out about breast cancer, specifically, accessible mammography for women with disabilities. I’m now in my early 50’s and through my personal and professional experience, I want to share how I have overcome obstacles and challenges to inspire others, regardless of age or disability, to live happier lives. Happy on Wheels has opened many doors. I am a contributing writer to New Mobility Magazine and a guest blogger for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. I am an avid storyteller, winning a GrandSLAM for The Moth. Tony and I have spoken to over 3000 young people of all ages, starting from pre-k all the way through grad school. We have a significant presence on social media and reach others through our compelling videos, blogs, and monthly newsletter. I am a mentor to college students and those applying to college and grad school. We continue to promote our vision each day through speaking, writing, mentoring, and consulting.