After sustaining a spinal cord injury in 2002 there was no question that I was going to attend university and proceed with life as “normally” as possible. I am not going to claim that my college experience was completely normal, I did after all only take one course and commuted from home rather than living in the dorms. My point is that my family and I choose to embrace life and attempt to live as active and engaged a life as possible.
As I recovered enough to emerge from the hospital and enter into society, I noticed that even though we see a reasonable amount of people in wheelchairs, very few, if any, of those people are on ventilators. I knew that I was extremely fortunate both with my support system and with regards to the general state of my health. Over the course of time I began to see how others were limited by the complexity of needs when on a ventilator. In addition to being bound to the ventilator itself there are many other therapies and devices that are needed to support the health, wellness, and respiratory system when one is on a ventilator.
Recently, I have had the extreme good fortune to become involved with Ventec Life Systems, a biotech company that has developed VOCSN, the only multi-function ventilator on the market. I have the privilege of serving as the VOCSN ambassador, which allows me to be a part of making the lives of other ventilator users better. VOCSN is doing this by combining devices from five therapies into a single compact unit, addressing many of the issues which have previously limited mobility for the ventilator community. Having a Ventilator, Oxygen concentrator, Cough assist, Suction, and Nebulizer integrated together not only improves care through integration, but simultaneously eliminates multiple roadblocks that may arise when trying to live daily life.
Even though my resources, both with regards to equipment and care team, have contributed to my ability to maintain an active on the go life while on a ventilator, I think one of the biggest contributing factors is the mindset with which I live my life. Honestly, I do not really spend much time thinking about the fact that I am on a ventilator. I plan accordingly and make the appropriate accommodations, so that the ventilator simply fades into the background. It is there supporting me, but I am more focused on what I am doing and who I am with. By streamlining the equipment and care process, VOCSN has made accomplishing this much easier.
I am very fortunate that I have been healthy enough to live a full life; however, that good fortune has not come without its active pursuit. I worked very hard to maintain my health by eating healthy, keeping my weight in check, and staying well hydrated. I avoid pressure sores by being diligent with regular range of motion and keep my body physically strong with regular physical therapy and exercise. I devote several hours a week to proactively maintaining strength and good health. I have found that one of the best ways to stay strong and healthy is to listen to my body. When I am tired or feeling like I might be coming down with something, I make a concerted effort to slow down and rest and allow my body to stay strong and/or heal. Living a full life regardless of any atypical challenges I face has been a matter of thoughtful planning and embracing the support offered by those around me.
So, yes, I enrolled in university the autumn following my injury, taking seven years to finish with a Bachelor of Arts in history, before taking another eight years before adding a Bachelor of Science in physiology to the shelf. I have taken many family vacations, both in the US and abroad, after determining that flight travel was not so daunting after all. I go to the movies, shopping, have girls’ nights, and dinner with friends. The point of sharing all the things that I do is not to earn accolades, but to show that I am simply a normal girl living my life just like anyone else, with the support of good friends and family. A good support system is the key to success in anyone’s life, whether they have exceptional challenges, or just regular ones. I believe that no one’s struggles are more important than anyone else’s and that is how I view my circumstances, they are simply the cross I have to bear. Frankly, given all of the tragedy in the world I could be burdened with far worse and am thankful to those who have helped me shoulder the burdens.
I strive to live my life as normally as possible. Of course, there are different considerations and extra baggage, but for the most part I think I have lived a fairly normal life. I suppose that requires some qualification, yes it took me significantly longer to get through school and most people my age have moved out of their parent’s house, but there are some extenuating circumstances. Rather than getting hung up on these aberrant details, I have turned them into a series of standing jokes. Life’s difficulties are better overcome grinning and bearing it, rather than wallowing. A good cry to cleanse the soul and then continue on.
– Link to Loa’s blog: https://www.venteclife.com/blog