Monthly Archives: October 2012

SCI Superstar: Carlana Stone Lawson

One of the loudest (in a good way), warm-spirited SCI superstars we’ve ever profiled (watch out for her Southern accent), Carlana Stone Lawson is known for two things – flying planes and being an amazing communicator. Oh, and she hates looks of pity (and has no problem saying so).

The first female paraplegic to fly solo, Carlana has worked as a successful TV reporter and works as a media executive in LA. But when she became paralyzed 25 years ago (after breaking her back at T12-L1 in a car accident, riding in a car with a drunk driver), she was not at all as ready to take life with such ferocity.

She instead, was only focused on one thing: Walking again. “If I just worked hard enough, I could beat this,” she thought, and she traveled to Russia, staying for 2 years (even learning Russian in the process), to undergo stem cell treatments. And then Carlana had a revelation – maybe walking wasn’t her end goal? And that was when her life began to change in amazing ways.

Why she’s fearless

Even though she was born and raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Carlana Stone Lawson high-tailed it to UC Berkeley University where she graduated with a degree in Slavic Languages. After graduating, Carlana cris-crossed the country to Miami, Florida, where she became the city’s first TV reporter in a wheelchair. She worked as the popular WPLG-ABC affiliate TV reporter. She’ll downplay this part of her life, but I think it’s really awesome.

And after getting her fill of reporting news, Carlana wanted to get involved in creating TV shows, and she moved to LA to start a career producing TV shows. She started producing talk shows, and eventually moved on prime-time shows. She even produced A&E’s Intervention.

Carlana has been a guest on several talk shows herself, including Montel (talking about the abusive relationship she had with her first husband), The Larry King Show, and in 2008 she was a contestant in Oprah’s “Big Give” contest (watch here)

And Carlana thrives on adrenaline. At the age of 36, she fell in love with flying after she went on a “flying date“ with the man she would eventually marry (her second husband). She studied for her pilot’s license, eventually becoming the first female paraplegic to fly solo.

Carlana also does a bunch of other adrenaline-laced things. She skydives, rides Harley’s (on an adapted trike), mono-skis and she scuba dives (what doesn‘t she do?). After taking a break from producing in 2005, she published her memoirs, co-writing it with a friend from college. It’s titled Never Give In, Never Give Up, where she shares how she was able to get through everything with such fierceness.

What’s next?

Even though Carlana has begun to experience neuropathic pain as she‘s gotten older (she receives help from the Pain Foundation, which she highly recommends), she remains feistier than ever. She works as a freelance TV producer and flies and bikes all the time.  We are not “forever victims” she says. “We are only victims if we choose to be.”

Oh man, I love this woman.

How have you discovered new dreams after your injury like Carlana Stone Lawson? Do you fly?

Watch the videos!

Carlana Stone Lawson’s bio; watch clips of her reporting

Carlana Stone Lawson on Montel Williams

Carlana Stone Lawson on Larry King

Carlana Stone Lawson flying her Cessna

Carlana and parents open up on her injury

Adapted art: quadriplegic artists

They say art “helps,” it’s therapeutic physically and emotionally, and they’re right. Studies prove this over and over again. Whether you’re building on skills or learning a completely new skill in the middle of your life, making art process lights up the brain, it releases all those good chemicals that make us feel alive.

This is why a lot of folks after sustaining a spinal cord injury get into adapted art. It feels good, real good. There is SO much pleasure received when you create something with your own two hands (or mouth or feet). To say, “I did that” is an awesome thing.

And painting is the go-to art form for people with SCI (why? not sure). If you’re paralyzed, the one thing that’s great about painting is that it can be thrown down (on the canvas) in so many ways. Here are some of the best examples.

The first video comes from one of the coolest, prettiest and well known mouth painters out there (who does oil and creates mixed-media projects), SPINALpedia member Mariam (her official site). She’s a C5-6 quad from Chicago. After her injury, one of her therapists introduced her to mouth painting and since that moment, she’s created some of the most visually stunning pieces ever created by any mouth painter or adapted artist.

In her 4 minute video, watch a time lapse of Mariam as she paints a piece inspired by MC Escher. She shows her layering technique, as well as her trick for reaching the top of the canvas so it still looks as good as the lower half. Watch her video

The second video shows Tommy Hollenstein, a California-based adapted artist who’s put a completely different spin on quads painting (mouth painting wasn‘t for him). He paints with his power chair using acrylic paint (painted onto his wheels by assistants), and creates brightly colored abstract pieces. In this video, watch him paint live in a storefront window (with his friend Joe Pesci even stopping by for a visit. Who has HIM as a friend?? Tommy must be rad).

Our last video is perfect for Halloween. The father of our co-founder Britt, is a C6-7 quad (and is SPINALmember fomart). He developed a rather cool passion post-injury – painting paper mache skulls (a la Dia de Los Muertos). In this video, watch him use a simple C-cuff to hold his paint brush as he paints a bright blue skull with total finesse.

What’s better in life than putting beautiful things out into the world? Not much. I do believe it’s time for me to find a new crafty pursuit in adapted art. What do you say – beaded jewelry or chalk portraits? (chalk is so not a lost art form, right?)

What kind of adapted art have you pursued post-injury? Do you paint? How do you do it?

Watch the videos!

Mariam Pare time-lapse adapted art painting, “Keep Me In My Place”

Adapted art from Tommy Hollenstein painting live on Hollywood Blvd

C6-7 quad paints paper mache skulls