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Bad choices can change lives forever

Published: May 21, 2013  |  Source: orlandosentinel.com

In April 2007, Amanda left a prom after-party with a friend who had been drinking.

On the way home, the driver crashed into a ditch. Amanda’s spinal cord was injured, and she was paralyzed from the neck down.

She was hospitalized for five months and went through a grueling regimen of physical therapy each day. Amanda had to relearn how to feed herself, brush her teeth, get dressed and do many other simple, everyday tasks. She was told she would never walk again. Six years later Amanda is still in a wheelchair.

In September 2011, I was beginning my sophomore year in college. One night after work, I went out with friends. We were goofing around when we did a cheerleading stunt that I had performed many times. The other person didn’t catch me right. I broke my back and am now paralyzed from the waist down.

After a six-week hospital stay and endless physical therapy, I had to have my house remodeled. Ramps were added. My bathtub was replaced with a roll-in shower. A few doorways were widened to accommodate my new wheelchair.

My car had to be equipped with hand controls, and I had to relearn how to drive. Just like Amanda, I was told I would never walk again.

Amanda and I met and became friends at Project Walk Orlando, an exercise-based recovery center for people with spinal-cord injuries. The goal is increased functional movement.

When I started training there, it was a struggle to transfer from my wheelchair to the car. Today, I do it several times a day without even thinking about it, which has increased my independence considerably.

As much as I enjoy the atmosphere of Project Walk Orlando, I hope anyone reading this never becomes a client.

No one who has had a spinal-cord injury ever expected it to happen. I was invincible. So was Amanda. Or so we thought. If this injury can happen to Amanda and me, it can happen to others.

As students enjoy prom, graduation and summer vacations, I implore everyone to think twice before doing something rash.

The decisions we make today can and will affect us for the rest of our lives.

By Cara Moro

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