Hi! I’m Mary.
In May 2017, I graduated from Temple University with a degree in Communications. In June, I started my first ‘big girl’ job at a public relations agency. And in July, I started looking for my first post-college apartment in Philadelphia. Everything was going according to plan.
Until suddenly it wasn’t.
My world was flipped upside down just when it felt like everything was falling into place, just when everything was moving in the right direction.
On July 10, I suffered a spinal infarct. It’s essentially a stroke, but not the kind you hear about every day. Spinal strokes are extremely rare, accounting for only about 1.25% of all strokes, according to the Brain and Spine Foundation. I had no idea what a spinal stroke was, nor did I realize this was the beginning of a new journey. My journey of living with a spinal cord injury.
I was in the hospital for three months. Through my window, I watched summer turn to fall, but deep down inside it didn’t feel like life was really moving outside the white, sterile walls of my hospital room. It felt like time was standing still. I felt like I was trapped in a bad dream. It finally hit me when I got home in October: This was real.
Now, it’s been a little over a year since my stroke, which left me with an incomplete injury around the C4/C5 level. It took me a while to accept my new reality. I felt like nothing truly happened to me. I wasn’t involved in a violent accident, nor did I suffer a catastrophic fall like some of my new friends. I was just living my life, felt a crack in my neck, and a few hours later my body stopped working. Gee, I thought, if I’m paralyzed, at least give me a story to tell! Of course, my injury was physically traumatic, just in a different kind of way. How it happened didn’t make it any less devastating, any less real, or my feelings any less valid. I see this now.
I’m telling my story because I’ve come to appreciate the stories of other SCI survivors that I meet and read about every day. These stories are important and inspiring. It’s comforting to know I’m not alone when I have a bad day. And we all have those days.
My journey is still just beginning. Over the past year, I’ve lost a lot, but I’ve gained a lot, too — mostly perspective about life and acceptance of who I am and where I’m going. I’ve developed faith in myself. I’ve felt the love of family, friends, and entire communities. The future is unclear and, honestly, sometimes a little scary. I have no idea if I’ll walk again or where my life is headed. But I’m full of hope and excited to find out.
(This post first appeared on SPINALpedia.com in September 2018)