SCI Superstar: Julia Olson

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In the world of disability influencers with a spinal cord injury, those that effuse positivity will rise to the top, and Julia Olson, a C4-5 quadriplegic, is one of these special people. Real yet positive (and a huge animal lover), she shares photos and videos of her life with quadriplegia that you will never forget.

And with over 10,000 followers and counting, it seems she’s doing something right. From how she stays in shape to transitioning her life to Tokyo, Japan after her injury, Julia shares a slice of life that is rarely seen, and her uplifting SCI-content is helping educate the world on life with paralysis. Learn more about Julia, independence-seeker, wife and health guru, below.

Why She’s Fearless?

Growing up in California, Julia went on to attend university after high school, but at the age of 19 her life came to a halt when she was involved in a serious car accident in 2009. While driving in Foster City, California, Julia’s car hydroplaned. “I lost control of my car and drove it through a house,” she describes. “I hit a support beam and the second floor crushed me in my car. The accident left me with a C4-5 spinal cord injury.”

After her injury, Julia was focused with recovering as much function as possible and attended physical therapy for several years after her injury. Fortunately, since she is an incomplete injury, she can stand with assistance. Julia however still needs assistance with her daily living needs, which her mother helped her with after her injury.

“My mom was my full time caregiver and my life revolved around recovery. It was only when I started looking for caregivers and ways to be more independent, that I realized the government subsidies offered did not provide enough hours to allow me to live independently.” Fortunately, this is a reality many quadriplegics face.

In 2015, Julia had the opportunity to visit Japan for her first time and she discovered an amazing secret about the country – their national healthcare system. Japan offers complete caregiver coverage even if you make an income. “If I made an income in the US, I would lose even the little amount of support that was offered. I felt extremely stuck and a bit hopeless as to whether I’d ever find independence after this injury.”

And this is why she decided to pick-up and leave California for Japan shortly after visiting. “I made the decision to move 3 months later and immediately started looking for a job. Seven years into my injury, and I was finally able to start living my own life.” Julia got a job in the financial industry which she has been doing for five years. She works in recruitment and learning and development.

After getting settled in Tokyo and becoming employed, her next goal – look for love. And to her surprise, she found an amazing man in 2017 whom she married two years later. “We met on an online dating site and were married in LA.” Being married with a spinal cord injury however has taught Julia some important life lessons. And dating again after her injury wasn’t easy.

“I had so many reservations about dating after my injury,” she says. “Dating in general terrified me. It took me some time for me to feel like anything more than a burden. I still struggle with these feelings.” When she decided to put her profile on a dating site, she was blunt and honest about her disability. “He responded with sincerity in kindness.

We went for Japanese barbecue on our first date and I didn’t have all the anxieties.”
Her ultimate dating advice – “There’s someone out there that’s going to make all the things you get hung up about, yourself and disability, feel like no big deal. Don’t settle for anything less.”

What’s Next?

When she’s not busy working or spending time with her husband and their fur-babies, staying in shape is still one of her top goals, and she works out with a trainer on a regular basis. “I work with a spinal cord injury specialized personal trainer for 2 hours, twice a week. I also started taking some online Pilates classes with Zebrafish Neuro, every other week,” she adds, “In between sessions, I do my own stretching and exercises in between sessions.”

“My health is top priority. On top of working out regularly, I’m mindful of what I put in my body. I try to eat as balanced of a diet as possible, and drink a lot of water.” And when she’s tooling around town, Julia uses a manual wheelchair with the power-add on made by Yamaha (a jwx-1). “I was pretty reluctant to use a power wheelchair… I thought it, somehow, made me less desirable. My power chair gives me so much independence. I’m never going back!”

Julia also has some words of advice on mental health after a spinal cord injury, which is something she struggled with after her injury. “I was constantly receiving messaging about acceptance of my new life and having gratitude for the life I still had. I needed to hear that it was ok to be devastated that I had just been stripped of the life I knew.”

“Life is cyclical and believing otherwise is a recipe for pain. Things aren’t always going to be happy and upbeat, and that’s ok,” she says. “When I started allowing myself experience the grief for the loss of the body and independence I once had, I was able to start moving forward. I continue to work to identify, acknowledge, and let go of the tougher experience and the emotions that come with them.”

Julia has come to a point in life where above all things she’s always striving for balance. “I am passionate about life, but I stayed neutral about most things. I enjoy journaling, getting out in nature and spending time with my people, but kindness and animals are extremely important to me.”

– Follow Julia on Instagram: @juliadayo

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