What was supposed to be the best trip of my life turned out being a complete nightmare. At the age of 23, one night during a solo visit to Thailand, I was being chased by a sexual predator and involuntarily fell 150 feet off a cliff, landing with a broken spine that left me partially paralyzed below the waist. I knew instantly that my life would never be the same. Will I ever move my feet again? How will I get around? What will I look like in public?
My parents immediately flew in and stayed along my side during the 18 days I received intensive care in Thailand. When I returned to the US, I was enamored by all the love from not only my relatives and closest friends, but acquaintances and even strangers who read my articles in the news. I even received a cute teddy bear holding a huge red heart in the mail from someone in the Philippines whom I never met. It showed me how much good there is in the world despite the atrocities that occur, especially the one I experienced.
It’s been more than two years since and I still have zero feeling and movement in my feet and limited mobility in my legs. I work as a graphic designer and take the subway and climb staircases to get from one place to another with the help of a cane or crutches and leg braces to prevent my feet from dragging. As a result, I receive a lot of attention from curious strangers who ask questions every time I leave my house. “What happened? Are you okay? Do you need help?” I know people want to do the right thing, but a lot of them have unintentionally made me feel disempowered. We all experience some kind of limitation, yet mine will never go unnoticed and thus facing the eyes of the public has been one of my biggest learning curves since the injury.
With my fighting spirit that pushed me forward, I re-trained my body to accomplish all the things I love. I’ve continued my passion for yoga by using my cane to propel my body in standing poses and replaced running with “crutching” to complete a marathon.
Yet, there have been more than physical obstacles to conquer. How do I go to all these places feeling confident when I have to lug around all this bulky, claustrophobic equipment? Wearing clothes easily has been an inevitable challenge because of my new body that requires canes and leg braces to get around. For example,,finding the right look I can feasibly wear to attend a wedding or go to a job interview has been extremely stressful beyond any physical limitation I’ve had to endure.
Initially, I had to settle with exposing my poorly executed braces above my pants because most of my jeans are tight at the calves. But with Tommy Adaptive jeans, I’m now able to hide them with velcro to seam the hem. I was also honored to walk the runway at Runway of Dreams’ 2018 Gala in these chic new Nike Presto Faze Hypergate sneakers that are so easy to wear over my braces thanks to its pull tab feature on the back of the shoe!
Keeping up with fashion has even become fun! I’ve acquired several canes over the months to match various outfits. Whether it’s my noble wooden walking stick or my cunningly vicious snake cane handle, I now feel proud to express myself as a warrior that survived adversity. Posing in Runway of Dreams’ modeling shoots, my canes serve as more than crutches – they are accessories!
Runway of Dreams continues to climb a mountain and reach a destiny of getting more and more brands involved in adaptive clothing. The struggle of putting on clothes and wearing them out is a thing of the past. Looking ahead, now I dream of the day I can walk outside my apartment in high heels. Thanks to Runway of Dreams’ mission, clothing for people with disabilities is growing stronger than ever and I believe anything is possible.