10 years!

Has it really been 10 years since my injury? In some ways it feels like yesterday – I remember that day and weekend leading up to my accident so clearly. And in other ways it feels like so long ago – playing JV soccer at Middlebury feels like a lifetime ago!

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Writing this is funny for me because I don’t dwell on my injury much. I rarely think about what happened, how I got hurt or why, or what it has – or hasn’t – meant for me. But the 10 year anniversary has allowed me to reflect on what my injury means to me, my family and friends, and others who have followed my story.

I recently found a journal of mine from high school where my three best friends and I, then age 17, guessed where each of us would be in 10 years (an eternity!). They predicted I would be, “living in Vermont, married, and working as a doctor”. Not bad ladies: I’m living in Maine, married, and working as a nurse practitioner. Certainly nobody guessed “in a wheelchair”! I think people often don’t believe me when I say I don’t think my life is any different now than it would have been if I never had my injury, but here’s the proof! I’m not sure if it is more amazing or sad that as a 17 year-old kid I was that predictable!

At the same time, it’s unfair to say that truly nothing has changed since my injury. Getting dressed and showering takes far longer; I have more health concerns and complications; I need to plan further ahead when going to a friend’s house, a restaurant, on vacation, etc. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked “are there any stairs?” or “is there a bathroom that I can fit into?”). I miss soccer, and I miss hiking. Despite how Zeke (and others) try, I still feel left out at times. 99 out of 100 times we figure it out and make it work, but that one time can sting.

But the big things haven’t changed. I still work in the field that I love, doing what I had always dreamed of doing (and apparently my friends knew I’d be doing). I’m married to the man I was dating before my injury and couldn’t be happier. I’m pregnant and starting a family. I’m still an athlete and have accomplished things I never would have thought possible (completing the Boston Marathon and skiing Tuckerman Ravine, to name a few). You can look at small day-to-day parts of my life and see how there are more challenges and things I need to plan for or think about, but if you look at the big picture my life isn’t any different. The big picture is what matters to me.

So where did I think I would be 10 years later? I thought I’d be walking again! I had every expectation that I would be the exception and would get feeling and movement back. When that didn’t happen, I thought that certainly some cure for SCI would be developed in the next few years. Recovery and cures aside, I certainly always thought that when I had kids I’d no longer be in a chair. But other than dreaming of walking again someday, somehow, the injury in the beginning sort of makes you live a day at a time, then a week, then a month.

But today I do have hopes for the next 10 years: I hope I’m skiing, handcycling, golfing, and doing other sports I’ve never even tried; I hope I continue to be healthy; I hope Zeke and I have a happy 9 year-old girl, perhaps with a younger sibling who gives her a run for her money on the ski slope; and I hope the Kelly Brush Foundation is able to help everyone that finds themselves faced with the same challenge I faced get where I am today.

10 years ago today I stood in the start gate of an NCAA giant slalom race, a fearless 19 year-old with a bright academic, athletic, and personal life. Today I sit here, a still-fearless 29 year-old (though maybe a bit more tempered) with a strong professional, athletic, and personal life. Does it mean I have accepted my injury because I no longer dwell on the day I’ll walk again and don’t follow stem cell breakthroughs like I used to? Or does the normalcy of my life simply mean that I’m choosing to be happy and live life exactly the way I want? Who knows?!

What I do know is that the next six months are likely to be my biggest challenge yet! I’m looking forward to May: giving birth, breast-feeding, sleepless nights, and a lifelong responsibility for another human life. From what I’ve heard, the joys and struggles of being a parent will give me an even greater appreciation of and perspective on what’s important. But mostly I’m looking forward to the twists that each month and year will take and seeing where this crazy life will lead me. Bring on the next 10!