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SCI Superstar: Katy Blake

A spitfire with a paint brush, Katy Blake is a woman you’ll never forget. Like so many before her, her life was transformed by a miscalculated dive and now at 29, she is “power mode” in regards to forging ahead with her new life, and six years post-injury she’s more determined than ever to make every day count.

What we especially love about Katy is what she’s done to bring attention to the need for more rehab for people living with spinal cord injuries. Hailing from Mississippi, a state lacking in funding for people with SCI, she had just a few weeks of therapy, but she successfully used social media to get the additional therapy she needs.

To find out exactly how she did it, and how she reunited with an old high school flame along the way, read her fantastic story below.

Why she’s fearless

It was a canoe trip in June 2010, and Katy was having the time of her life. She had just moved to New Orleans, and to cool off, she dove into the creek. Instantly she knew it wasn’t deep enough. She had broken her neck and couldn’t move anything from her shoulders down. After her friends pulled her out, Katy was flown to a nearby hospital and was diagnosed a C5 incomplete quadriplegic.

After a very hairy three months in the hospital that required an expensive stay in ICU because of pneumonia, and then she developed a pressure sore on top of that, Katy’s first year of living with paralysis was definitely no walk in the park. She was 23 and depressed the first year post-injury, like so many of find ourselves. Those dreadful early years are the worst.

And then to make matters even worse, she and her family had to worry about health care. Although she was enrolled in a health insurance program right after her injury, Mississippi Medicaid wasn’t going to pay for all of the rehabilitation Katy needed. So she turned to the Internet and began her Facebook page – Rehab for Katy – to fundraise, and boy was she successful.

She raised enough money to go the renowned Shepherd Rehabilitation Center in nearby Atlanta, Georgia and she gained thousands of followers cheering her on. Thanks to Shepherd, Katy found out about tendon transfer surgeries as well; a surgery that helps people with C5-6 injuries regain more function in their arms by moving specific muscle systems in replace of others. She got the surgery last year and now has much more ability in her left hand.

She also decided to dabble in world of art, trying out painting relatively quickly after her injury. Her brightly colored portraits on everything from owls to crabs to seashells to her favorite NFL player Drew Brees, are happy paintings, and they have brought her acclaim, adventures at art fairs, a great outlet for mental health, not to mention funds for her on-going rehab. View her artwork on her official site here – Art on Wheels

What’s next?

Over the last six years, Katy has shared her life with the world via social media, showing people everywhere, but especially in her hometown (where disabilities aren’t very prevalent), that life does go on after a spinal cord injury even if you’re still waiting for the cure. Katy’s story is one of many, but her spirit stands out.

And the Internet fell in love with her even more when she and her high school sweetheart, Mondo, reconnected and rekindled their relationship over 10 years since they were together. With Katy’s sunny personality, it’s hard to imagine anything like a wheelchair having the power to make quell old flames. Go Katy, we’re cheering for you too from every corner.

What do you think of Katy’s success in raising rehab funds online?

– Visit her official site Art on Wheels

Follow her on Facebook

– Follow her on Instagram @ _artonwheels

– Follow her on Twitter @rehabforkaty

Watch the videos!

Applying Makeup as a C5 Quad

Applying Makeup as a C5 Quad

Walking on the Lokomat at Shepherd

Painting Without Finger Function

Best of Overseas Wheelchair Tricks

jack-binstead

It’s not every day you see someone in a wheelchair rolling down a staircase or spinning on their back wheels as they make their way down a hall, but these skills…oh they exist, and a lot of them come from overseas.

No doubt a product of their environment, people who use manual wheelchairs and live in countries with less-than accessibility have to get creative. No one likes being stuck, and boy do these folks know what to do.

Whether they’re flying over stairs or using monkey-bars in the park, chances are you’ll be in awe. Check them out below!

Video #1: Riding and Sitting Backwards

Jack Binstead, a young 20 something from London who does WCMX, has plenty of wheelchair tricks up his sleeves and specializes in tricks that move your body while in your wheelchair, like turning so fast your legs fly to the side, making you sit side-saddle on your wheelchair.

He can also turn himself around in his wheelchair, sit completely backwards then go into a wheelie. He can even lay down completely while doing this too. But his coolest trick – doing pushups against his wheelchair with his legs up in the air.

Watch: Wheelchair Tricks – Jack Binstead

Video #2: Wheelchair Monkey Bars

In this video of wheelchair stuntman Aleksi Kirjonen from Germany, you get to see a compilation of some of his greatest tricks, and it may leave you feeling a tinge lazy.  He is the king of jumping over stairs and he can pull himself up a staircase backwards like a ninja.

But one of his greatest tricks by far is using monkey bars and turning himself completely upside down. Not only does it look fun, holy cow does it look hard to do. We wonder how long he can stay this way??

Watch: Aleksi Kirjonen Wheelchair Tricks in Porvoo

Video # 3: The Cue Ball Jump

Marcin Kubalski, a wheelchair billiards dynamo from Poland, has one trick up his leave you have to see to believe – the high-flyin’ cue ball jump. What he does is spin his chair in circles to gain momentum, then he forcefully hits his pool stick on the table making the cue ball fly, hitting another ball and getting it in the pocket.

The best part about his video by far however is his smirk when he successfully does his trick. So. freaking. cute.

Watch: Crazy Wheelchair Tricks

Remember: Attempt any wheelchair tricks you see online with caution. They may look incredibly cool, but you can hurt. Practice with others around when starting to learn a trick too. The last thing you want is to get yourself in a life-or-death situation when you’re just trying to do something cool.

What is your best wheelchair trick?

Watch the videos!

Jack from the UK sits backwards in his wheelchair

Aleksi from Germany climbs and jumps stairs and uses monkey bars in his wheelchair

Marcin, a wheelchair billiards player from Poland, shows the cue ball jump