Wiggles, yes she does! Divya aka Wiggles fell from the sky 30 feet to the ground and landed on her feet and then tipped over. Since she wasn’t a winged creature that could fly, the forces of nature wrought havoc on her body. Now she wiggles when she walks and prefers this nickname. It reminds her of how the worst moment of her life also brought about one of her best moments. She shares her life changing moment with us - listen to her story now.
Wiggles, yes she does! Divya aka Wiggles fell from the sky 30 feet to the ground and landed on her feet and then tipped over. Since she wasn’t a winged creature that could fly, the forces of nature wrought havoc on her body. Now she wiggles when she walks and prefers this nickname. It reminds her of how the worst moment of her life also brought about one of her best moments. She shares her life changing moment with us - listen to her story now.
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Hosts: Whitney Walker and Amy Adams
Produced by Mindful Soul Center
All the Birds are Singing
Written By David Elkins
Performed By Midnight Television
Written by S.L.J. Kalmeijer and Performed By Sounds Like Sander
Written and performed by Aaron Sprinkle
Written by Sita Steele and Jacob Steele
Performed By NOVVA
I Can Still Breathe
Written and performed by Shane Becker
You Here Now Podcast Shownotes for episode no. 6
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A Mindful Soul Center Podcast
[inaudible] mindful soul center presents you here now today's episode. She wiggles when she walks. [inaudible] Amy Adams
And Whitney Walker.
Uh, hi Whitney.
How are you today?
Um, pretty good. Pretty good today.
Well, what are we going to talk about today?
We're going to talk about my very good friend wiggles wiggles, and I used to be housemates a few years back. I met wiggles and of course, one of the first things I thought of was, wow, that's a very interesting name, wiggles. Uh, is this real? Is this, you know, self-assigned, is it birth certificate status? And, uh, I also know that she actually wiggled a little bit when she walks, so I figured that had something to do with that, but I didn't, you know, those are things that we asked about with caution and usually don't usually ask, unless somebody offers that information and we don't know someone's history or what it might be. So I never really asked and I eventually found out cause she's very open about talking about it, that she was in a really horrific accident when she was about 23, 24. So about like 10 years before I let her know less than that, but quite a few years before I met her, it took about like a year we're living together before I got most of the story, but I never really heard the whole extent of it.
And so when we started doing the show together, she came to mind because that sort of an event is such a, has a huge impact and can really be a big transformational time in someone's life to have to cause her, her accident required a lot of rehabilitation. And I knew that, and I knew that, you know, when I met her, she was walking and that at a certain point, she wasn't sure she was ever going to walk again. So I was very interested and also very inspired by her story and all, and just knowing her, I mean, this woman is like a powerhouse. She is one of the most determined and focused people I've ever met. And also just this attitude of nothing will stop her, hold her back. You know, she has zero mentality of, you know, self pity or remorse or anything. She just worked with the circumstances and goes forward. Uh, which I really admire. I think that's incredible. And so I wouldn't have thought that she had gone through something quite like that, but her story really is very powerful and profound.
Yeah. So, I mean, besides resilience, this ability to be accepting of the current circumstances as they are in the moment is something I think we probably all aspire to, but is fine, super challenging. So that's pretty amazing now to wiggles story.
Uh, I was in a very traumatic accident. Um, when I was 24 years old, I turned 25 in the hospital. I was in a traumatic accident. I fell 30 feet and, uh, I was in physical recovery and rehabilitation from that, um, for several months, um, uh, hospital for 16 days, uh, six surgeries living, lived in a nursing home for two months because I needed that degree of assistance to function in my daily life. I needed someone to take me to the bathroom and someone to bathe me and, um, whatnot. And then, uh, four months after the accident, I was no, no 72 days after the accident, I finally was able to stand on my feet again, um, and walk with a Walker and someone holding like a physical therapist, holding a strap around my waist to hold me up. Right. Uh, and then two months after that, um, I was walking in with a cane.
Um, and then a few weeks after that I realized, uh, while I was walking that I didn't need the cane anymore. And instead of going for a walk around the block, uh, what I did was I tossed the cane aside and I put on Backstreet boys, Pandora station and blasted it from my phone and wiggled around the neighborhood, just dancing to this, just feeling so much joy that my body had resumed to state that and was capable of doing things of that. I didn't think four or five months prior that it would ever do again,
And henceforth, I thought to myself, I want to be reminded of this moment. I'm like, why do I let myself be called Divya? That's the name my parents gave me. Um, w how about I, this opportunity this moment right here feels like a rebirth. Um, so why don't I decide what I would like to be called from here on out. Um, and I've decided I want to call myself wiggles because this name, first of all, like when you introduce yourself as wiggles, everyone laughs everyone giggles and don't, you want to be the type of person that brings laughter and joy and levity into other people's lives. But then also every time someone says that to me or addresses me by my nickname, um, it's just reinforcing that. That's what I want for myself as well. That name came from, um, one of the happiest moments of my entire life, following some of the darkest moments of my entire life.
And I just really want to remember the feeling of wiggling with joy for the first time in so long. And I thought to myself, you know what, the name that my parents assigned to me, it's like, it feels like yet another thing that, um, it, it feels like something that carried their expectations for me, as opposed to reflected the person who I actually am. Uh, so I thought to myself, you know what, this is the person who I maybe not am, but the person that I aspire to be all of the time. So when people ask what the preference is, I say, I definitely prefer to be called wiggles because that represents who I, that remind every time someone says that it reminds me of that moment. And it's nice to be reminded of your happiest hour of some of your happiest moments of your life on a regular basis. Every time someone talks to you,
Broken and bionic to,
Okay. In some ways I feel like I am forever broken. And in some ways I feel like I have surpassed every single expectation that has ever been for myself, including myself. It's, it's a, it's an interesting relationship that I have with my body. I absolutely love it. 100%. I love everything about it, but, um, every time I walk, I am aware that my body has been dramatically changed forever. So what happened was I had six surgeries to put me back together. Um, there are nails now holding my elbow together and other pieces of hardware. Um, there are nuts and bolts of reinforcing my pelvis. Um, my femur is, has basically been replaced the, the rod, um, my heel has a sheet of metal and, um, there are two tiny, um, screws in my other foot. Uh, so I am like bionically reinforced. I walk with a limp that is a permanent side effect of all of the surgeries, because the doctors are magicians like what they and modern science have managed to do to, uh, be able to recover, uh, people in pretty dire situations.
I mean, when someone has the pelvis is a very, very difficult bone to break. Um, it is a very strong bone, uh, and usually like it requires an enormous, not usually, I think almost always requires an enormous amount of force to break a pelvis of someone who doesn't have like, uh, uh, underlying bone conditions like osteoporosis or whatnot when a pelvis fractures, um, it is due to an enormous force, like something equivalent to the force of gravity. In the case of my accident, I was accelerating towards the earth at the verbatim gravity, or when I fractured my pelvis amongst all of the other, um, bones, uh, three re broken ribs, my elbow, my heel, my femur, my pelvis, um, and two small bones in my other foot when all of that cracked, um, I started internally bleeding and in any other era that would have been a death sentence.
And in any other point in the United States history, that also that I'd been alive, that also would have been spelled financial ruin. Um, as for me, because without insurance, this would have been a $700,000 procedure worth of medical bills. I know, cause I did the math. I looked at all the bills and I had the numbers up and it was, it would have been $700,000. Had Obamacare not just recently passed and been held by the Supreme court. I walk permanently with the limp. That's a permanent side effect of the, all the surgeries. The doctors to their credit actually did a phenomenal job of not only keeping me alive, but also basically returning me to full functionality. But that being said, every time you cut someone open and you insert something in them and you, you do your measurements, um, but you're never going to get it completely, right?
So, you know, you miss half a millimeter here, half a millimeter there, and suddenly like, you know, um, I am shorter on one side than the other. So I walk with a limp, but I also have no pain. I am not on prescriptions for the rest of my life. And I was extremely fortunate to, because of the way that I fell, I landed on my feet. Um, and the force of landing on my feet is what caused me to collapse to the side and break out everything on my left side, my, my ribs and et cetera to ribs. But that being said, no internal organs were damaged. Um, and there was no head trauma, so it could have been substantially worse. I don't want children, but the doctor did say that in the event that I want to have them, there's nothing. There's nothing that would prevent me from, from doing so literally no lasting damage, except for the fact that I walk with a limp.
And every time I walk, it does feel unnatural. It took from August occurred September of 2013. And it wasn't until October of 2014 that I realized I could walk without thinking to myself, left foot, right foot left foot, right foot left foot, right foot. Um, because it felt like I had to keep telling myself that as I was relearning how to walk, but it was, so it took a year basically for walking to come back in full force to the point where it became an automatic behavior that I didn't have to think about. But that being said, even now, all of these years later, I'm, I'm keenly aware of the fact that I walked differently now than I used to, but I hike a lot. And that is a new development. I think that one of the big changes that happened was that I got a lot out here, which is that before the accident, I didn't exercise.
Um, I S I was, I ate okay, as a vegetarian and I was in good health. Um, but I realized that as a result of being a vegetarian, who was fairly active, even if she didn't exercise, I wasn't, I realized that I was able to recover in a way that other people would not, or could not have in the nursing home. I was surrounded by people who were only getting worse. If anything, the accident made me substantially more healthy because I now push my body to do things that I didn't know it was capable or possible doing. And were it not for the accident? I don't think that I would be, I would not be the same person. I definitely would not be the same person, but I definitely also would not be as healthy as I am now. And I don't know if I would love my body as much as I love my body as a result of this worst thing that's ever happened to me that I would never, ever, ever wish on anyone else. But if I had it all to do over again, like if there was a magic genie who popped out of a bottle and said, um, I can erase this part of your life, um, I can make it so that when you fell, you weren't injured. I would say that
[inaudible] how you've come so far.
It was a really beautiful day. I had joined. Um, I had just moved from California to New Jersey to start a new job. I'd basically moved to New Jersey two weeks prior. I have basically unpacked my apartment. I was like, okay, now it's time to try and make some friends. So I joined a meetup group called do something. And one of the events that they had was something called Paris, like a Paragon gliding lesson. And I was like, well, I've never done paragliding before. Let me go ahead and give this a try and make some friends possibly in the process. And I went to this meetup. Um, I learned what pair of climbing was for the first time ever, which is action and adventure, extreme sport or extreme activity, where there is basically, you are suspended in the air, in a chair, kind of the harness looks like a chair kind of, and there is a kite over your head.
Uh, people confuse paragliding and hang-gliding a lot, hang-gliding, there's like a glider. It's like a triangle, uh, that people dangle from. Whereas here, you're kind of sitting in a chair and there's a kite over your head. And the way that you navigate through the air is by pushing and pulling on levers that move the angle of the kite. And I knew none of this going into this meetup, I just showed up to this event. And when it was finally my turn to fly, the way that I got up into the air was the instructor was on the other side of the field, in a motorcycle that had the front wheel replaced with a school, basically. So it was, um, if you think about a spool of thread, basically the thread was attached to me at the other end of the field. And when the instructor wound up the thread on the front wheel of the motorcycle, the force of the, uh, thread typing is what pulled me up into the air.
It was like a sensation I had never experienced ever in my life. It was the best moment of my entire life ever. And to this day, no other experience has ever come close to being as good as my first flight was my first flight of only two. I don't even know how to describe this sensation, but basically human beings aren't meant to fly. We don't soar through the air like a bird. And this was me doing what human beings aren't designed to do, but doing it anyway, it was just absolutely incredible. I was soaring through the air like a bird. It felt enormously free. It felt exhilarating. Um, it was like the sensation of being above the ground and floating above it and floating through it. It was sensational. I, and I was probably at least 30, 40 feet in the air. More than the height of most buildings. It was phenomenal. It was the most indescribable, amazing experience I've ever had in my entire life. When I landed on the ground, everyone clapped, everyone cheered. Um, and one of the fellow paragliders, his wife was picking us up at the other end of the field and driving us back to the part of the field where we started. And he called her up on, um, his cell phone when I was in her car. And he said, so has Divya stopped smiling yet?
Because he could just tell, um, for me being up in the air, he could just tell, but I had to, I was clearly having an experience that he could relate to. And she looked over at me and she's like, no, of course you haven't stopped smiling yet. And we all giggled. I immediately was like, take my money. I am signing up for this course. Like I want to be able to be a paraglider, um, take my money the next couple of weeks, I could not come out because the winds were too strong. The next time that I came out, the conditions were well enough, according to their judgment, for me to be able to fly, he instructor hooked me in. But this time, what was different was I was launched into the air. And the problem was I was launched next to some trees and I was blown off course. You're supposed to go straight ahead. I was blown off to the side. Um, so I kept getting higher and higher and farther and farther away from the point where I'm supposed to be. And what the instructor did was the instructor put more slack in the line in
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Um, he let out more slack in the line, which normally is a good thing because when there's more slack in the line, the idea is that you will just gradually and slowly and gently drifted the ground. The problem is that, uh, the lines got caught in the trees and when Aline gets caught in the trees, what it does is the line gets tight. And when something gets tight, it pulls you to the ground faster. Another thing that happened was that the radio communication was not happening. The instructor was talking to me through the wrong radio channel. Um, so there was no communication. And I realized that I was being pulled towards the ground, but I was falling towards the ground and there were power lines, uh, below me. I cleared the power lines. I, I like was able to steer oh from them, but, uh, which is fantastic and really good news.
But what that meant was that as I was being pulled faster towards the earth, that I landed on an unpaved gravel driveway. And again, thankfully I landed on my feet as a result of landing on my feet. Um, there was no brain damage. Um, and, uh, I landed on my feet. I felt a crunch Mo my body fell over to the side as a result of my, what I would later find out was my pelvis and my femur femur and my heel bone and my heel breaking and the act of falling over onto my side, broke three and broke my elbow. And I lay there unable to breathe. The other paragliders were looking for me because they saw me going down. They arrived on the scene very quickly, but it feel, it felt like a long time because I was struggling to breathe. They get me out of the harness and I am lying on my back.
Um, one of them happened to be a doctor and she was trying to make me feel better. She was like, no, it's okay. I'm a doctor. Um, you can't breathe because maybe you punctured a lung, but that's okay because you can live with one lung. And I'm like, oh my God. I'm like, is this what my life is going to feel like from here on out? Um, and everyone asks like, what did it hurt? And the answer is maybe like, it's like, of course, of course, like every, of course, things hurt, but all of that pain of like breaking all of your bones or like breaking eight of your bones at once that pain was and, and bleeding internally, all of that pain was inconsequential compared to how difficult and labored it was debris. But clearly I was, you know, I was able to talk to people.
I was able to, um, get like oxygen in and I was completely coherent. I was fully aware of what was going on, uh, because I hadn't had any head trauma. Eventually a police officer showed up to the scene. I was able to tell him my name and address and where to find my wallet and my car, the first responders to arrive on the site were paramedics. Uh, they came over, they take, they took a look at me and they were like, nah, we're not touching her. This is out of our expertise. And this is, we need to call for the medevac helicopter people for this. Eventually a med evacuation helicopter shows up. And like I was, I guess I was so distracted by the fact that I couldn't breathe, that I didn't notice the pain that my body was in. But when the paramedics, uh, picked me up to put me onto a gurney to put me into the, uh, helicopter, um, they, that was the point at which the pain overwhelmed me.
I understood then what they mean when they say nerves firing, because that's what it felt like. It felt like my entire body was engulfed in flames. I don't know if I, the pain was so strong that I passed out from the pain, or if the responders gave me an anesthetic, um, or what the deal is. All I remember is waking up in the hospital later. Um, after surgery, I wake up, I, um, I'm like, well, I guess I'm in the hospital. I still have no idea how severe my injuries are. And I'm still thinking to myself like, okay, I guess I should let work. Know that I won't be coming in on Monday. I probably, you know, that I might need to take a two or three days off while, uh, while the doctors patch me up. Um, and I don't know how long it took for the reality of the situation to set in.
But the, eventually I learned that, uh, the nurse that the medical staff was thinking that I would get out around thanks giving. And this was September 28th. There was ever a prognosis that like, oh yeah, she's going to die. There was just risk of, uh, there was just risk of things going wrong because I mean, any surgery carries with it, a level of risk, but this is, you know, a risk where they were opening up the same parts of me over and over again. And, you know, down by your pelvis, there's lots of organs that are important and sensitive, and you don't want to Nick them while you're trying to address the fracture. You're putting a bunch of hardware in sensitive areas, and it just requires a lot of like precision and stuff. So I did have to sign away. I did have to sign lots of death waivers.
I needed to move into a nursing home for, um, rehabilitation, um, and assisted basically assisted living. The nursing home would be where I would go to daily, physical, where I would have daily physical therapy sessions or like five physical therapy sessions a week. Um, and, um, where there were just the nursing home staff that would be able to like lift me up to take me to the bathroom and whatnot, lift you up and move you to a wheelchair and then help you get yourself on the toilet and stuff like that. Um, when it got to the point where I could do stuff like that, but in the meantime, I was just having disloyal myself in my own bed. There were lots of nurses who were complete angels to me. Um, and then there were also ones who were incredibly cold and hardened. Um, there were people who were angels in human form that they were so loving and so caring and so empathetic.
Um, and then there were those for whom maybe they took this job with good intentions, but had just gotten so worn down by the systems, um, or that they just became cold and callous, or maybe this was just a job for them. And they didn't care at all about their, the patients in their care. There were experiences of just feeling completely abused when you're trying to tell, uh, the healthcare staff what you need. Um, and they are completely ignoring you. Um, or there was an instance where I was telling a nurse, I'm sitting here in my own field. Like, can you please clean me? And she's like, I'm charting right now. Or like, I'm filling out paperwork right now. No, and I'm just like sitting there for like 45 minutes in my own ways. So, but when I say things like I would not wish this experience on my worst enemy, like the experience of being part of like a cold callous, like healthcare system, where in some people really don't care about you and you are not in a position to be able to advocate for yourself or that your autonomy, um, and independence is completely stripped away from you.
Because like, if I wanted a sip of water, somebody would have to give it to me because my arms, my arm was broken. Then on top of that, like I am on a lot of painkillers. Um, I am in a lot of pain. Um, and at this point, um, the opioid addiction or the opioid epidemic was headline news. I was also dealing with the fear of when I get out of here, will I be jonesing for heroin on the streets? Is that what my life is going to be,
Take a breath and stay the issue. Can't move again. Close.
He had it got really dark at times. Um, the thing about recovery is there are good days and there are bad days. Progress is not linear. Um, there are days that are easier than others. There are days that are substantially harder than others, and the days that are substantially harder than others, like, it's really hard to know how to feel. It's really hard to know that, like, are your, are you not able for example, to go to physical therapy or like, are you not up for physical therapy today because your body genuinely needs to not push itself to do that? Or do you lack the mental fortitude to push yourself to do this thing that is difficult and painful, but will make you better? It got really dark at times, seems to be like, okay, through this veneer of positivity and, uh, optimism. Like, I'm really scared that this is just what my life is now that I have lost 100% of independence, my autonomy, but I will never heal, um, that, uh, at the age of 26, that this is what my life looks like.
As somebody who previously was like really active and traveled the world and danced and went after all of these different experiences, including your experiences like paragliding to be like, oh, that was like the last new experience I will have for the rest of my life. Um, I will never know love, like I will never get married. I will have, because I'm surrounded by elderly people, like, but I just have to live here for the rest of my life. And then there were days when you would see progress, um, where suddenly, like there would be, you know, w w we spend weeks and weeks where nothing happened. And then suddenly you're at the point where you were like, I can dress myself now. Um, I am strong enough that I can like put on a pair of shorts by myself without like needing I, and I can like move my hips around enough that like, I can pull these up myself without needing like someone else to pull my shorts up.
There are moments when you, there was one time, for example, where I was waiting for a physical, the way that you get out of the way that you get out of bed is the hat, the medical bed, like railing that holds you in the bed. Like, um, like get that reeling goes down and you hop onto a board, basically him, just a wooden two by four kind of thing. And, um, the nurses or physical therapists, they slide that board over to the edge of the bed. And that you basically just used this as a way to get into your wheelchair. Um, you just hop onto a board and they put you on a board and then they slide the board over. And this is just a way of like, you know, them saving, being able to save their backs because they're not lifting you. They're just sliding a board over one day.
We were waiting for a physical therapist to be able to help me get onto the board. And, um, I was getting a little bit impatient waiting for her. So I just grabbed the board myself and like slid myself onto it. And the physical therapist, all clapped, um, I'm like, they were like very excited about this because I'm sure that for them working as a physical therapist in a nursing home, that most of the people that they see don't get better. Um, and here was somebody who was getting better progressively better. And yeah, so, so there's that. And then there's also the, like, every milestone would feel amazing. Um, at the point at which I could roll around by myself in my wheelchair, that was the point at which I made complete peace with my condition of like, well, maybe, maybe this is what my life is now.
Maybe I spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, but you know what, at least I can navigate them. Like I can roll around this wheelchair by myself. And that day, um, that I was given clearance to be able to roll around in my wheelchair by myself, because you have to wait for the bones to like, you know, be able to bear weight first. Um, that day I just did a bunch of figure eights in the dining room over and over and over and over again, like at that point I was like, Hey, yeah. If the, if for the rest of my life, I spend it in a wheelchair then like, that's totally fine and totally cool with me. Like, there are people who do it, um, it's, this is substantially better than spending the rest of my life in the bed. So the fact that I, several months later was blocking completely on assisted is just felt like bonus, like icing on a cake that was already delicious.
Um, but yeah, there, there were items, there were moments like that. And then there were the moments of going through opioid withdrawal after being on painkillers for several months, I was thankfully only physiologically addicted to painkillers. I was not psychologically addicted to them. Um, doesn't, I'm sure that that makes it a lot easier, um, to, uh, paper. I, I demanded to be tapered off of my pain medication. Um, because again, I didn't want to be jonesing for heroin on the street by the time that I left. So I was like, get me off of these pills as soon as possible. But the problem is that pain pills do kill pain. And I was in a severe amount of pain and I was in so much pain, um, that like the, my first day opioid free, um, I thought that I was dying. Um, I was suffering all of the symptoms of opioid withdrawal, but also on top of that, I also was no longer numbed from, um, not numbed like the painkillers
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They worked in so far as I was always still in an enormous amount of pain. I always was aware that like my body was broken and I was in an enormous amount of pain, but the difference between having a painkiller versus not having a painkiller was night and day. So like as bad as my pain was when I was on pain killers, it was even worse off of them. But now as a result of being in withdrawal, um, it was like projectile vomiting across the room. Like, um, I'm still in, I'm still bedridden at this point. Like, um, and so I'm just laying in bed. I'm vomiting, um, projectile vomiting all over myself. Um, I, because I knew if I wanted to go to the bathroom to throw up, I would need to ring the bell and wait for a nurse to show up and then to have them put me on the board and slide by board into the, um, the wheelchair and all of that.
And I just was, I, I w I was just throwing up, like, I didn't have time to wait for all of that. Um, so as projectile vomiting all over myself, I was in an enormous amount of pain. Um, I w like opioids, constipate you, and, um, being offered them. It just felt like everything that had been backed up inside of me, it was releasing itself. Um, and it was just this, I couldn't keep food down. So it just was in this position where I felt like I was expelling, um, so much more than I was keeping within me. Um, so here I am, um, like my back hurt, um, from vomiting so much, um, from projectile vomiting so much like lurching forward and, and vomiting all over myself. Like my back started aching from that. Um, and now on top of all of the other conditions that I was having, like my throat was also hurting from like all the acid, like my bodily, like violin, whatever, intense, like all coming up and burning my esophagus.
Um, so yeah, there were moments like that too, despite the fact that my body was broken and bleeding, and I was like having a machine breathe for me for a period of time. And like, um, and despite the fact that I would like end up needing six surgeries to put me back my back together, and three blood transfusions, despite all of that, um, no head trauma, no spinal damage, no internal organ damage. Um, Obamacare was the law of the land. So insurance couldn't deny me coverage and on, and I was able to sign up for the premium, uh, highest tier health insurance that my company offered. And I happened to have a friend in the area that lived nearby. The only person that I knew in the entire state of New Jersey happened to be my best friend from college. I started walking in the nursing home. Um, so 72 days after the accident with the point at which I was able to start walking again, where I was given clearance to start walking again, walking and wiggling, all of these things added up together to make me like the luckiest person in the entire world.
The birds are singing. [inaudible] [inaudible],
You're listening to you here. Now. I just want to take a moment to tell you about the new digital edition of mindful soul center magazine. It's now available online at mindful soul center dot C O mindful soul center magazine features news and information on all your favorite health, wellness, and spiritual topics like healing, self care, yoga, meditation, gardening music, and even food as a subscriber you'll receive bonus, download of meditations, PDF workbooks, and other material. Check it out, mindful soul center.co. Now let's get back to our episode four part, I guess I would like to ask you right off the top, this is kind of broad, but a big question. Why do you think that you were able to overcome this kind of horrific accident with a, in a pretty, it seemed like a relatively quick recovery considering the damage?
I would say that there were a lot of different items at play. I genuinely believe that the biggest reason for it is largely due to luck. Um, I was doing this in, um, New Jersey as opposed to in a country or even a part of New Jersey that was rural and far away from the hospital. So once, once I fell and the, and medical emergency services were called, I, I think that the time between my fall and the hospital and being an ER was probably an hour. And so I got seen very quickly attended to very quickly. Um, I was not alone in that there were other people that saw me fall and other paragliders who showed up and surrounded me. Obamacare had just been upheld, um, that the, uh, and I was 25 years old at the time. So I was still on my parents' insurance, which was a change in the provision of Obamacare.
So that prevented me from having financial ruin as a result of the accident. Um, and I think that, and when I was in the hospital, my, um, two people from my, when I was in the nursing home recovery, two people from my company came and visited me and they told me like, your job is still secure. Um, it'll be waiting for you when you get back, you are just going to be on short term disability until then, but you are not fired. Like if there's your band, the short term disability payment was still like 70% of my salary. There were just a lot of factors that convene at the same time. Um, that's allowed that put me in a better position than I'd probably think that 95% of other people could have been under the same circumstances. Another component was, was just, you know, being young and healthy, um, that your body can sustain that come up probably better than if I was like in my fifties.
And I was an active individual. I was Tarian. I took care of myself. So I think that my body was just predisposed to heal and recover the skill of the doctors. I'm sure that that can not be, that can not be dismissed either, um, and medical team. And then also I have a lot of really great social supports. I had friends come visit me from nine different states. People brought me home cooked meals, including my nurses. It was amazing the level of coordination that peop that people in my community did. Um, especially as somebody who was brand new to a state and like only knew one person in the state, um, that person happened to be my best friend. So, uh, and then another friend lived in New York and she was an unbelievable support too. And then the other paragliders because one of people was down, um, like they saw a gap. Um, they saw like my friends are too emotionally invested. They're like not in a position to be able to take care of me, but they're like, well, I'm a lawyer. And I will make sure that your medical staff knows that I'm a lawyer. And another paraglider was like, I'm a doctor and your medical staff will know that I'm a doctor. So, um, I think I may have gotten a little bit more attention from the medical staff as a result of knowing that there were doctor and lawyer friends waiting in the lobby. So
Do you think that it was really like having the sense this reassurance from all the people around you and then also knowing that you're not losing your job? That reassurance was
Yes, definitely. All of these things definitely kept the depression at bay. The depression was still there, the feelings of hopelessness and, uh, and fear were all still there. They just were mitigated somewhat. I think that as bad as things were, they would have been even worse. If I felt like I was 100% alone and I never felt 100% alone,
I definitely felt alone at time because like everyone else has lives. Um, and I'm just laying in a hospital bed all day, every single day, they felt, um, vulnerable. I definitely felt, uh, like, like I wasn't an independent autonomous person, but I imagined that my recovery would have taken substantially longer if I felt even more alone and lonely than I actually was. I would say, we need each other. We, we need each other and this myth of a lone Wolf. And like, like, no, whenever you succeed, it's because there's an army of people whose shoulders you stood on in the process. Right. People give me a lot of credit because like, you know, I went from like this, you know, horrific, traumatic injury to five years later, I am, or eight years later, I am going on 14 mile hikes. Um, and people are like, wow, that's so incredible. But like, I didn't do it alone, but how
Was it from like the time of the accident until you really felt mentally and emotionally? Like how long was it until you really felt like you kind of came to some resolution and felt like a quote unquote normal?
Yeah, yeah, one year. Um, it was, um, it was in the accident occurred September 28th. It was around Halloween the next year that I started feeling like I could walk again without thinking about walking [inaudible].
Is that when you gave up your cane, is that the time when you
So did you ever think about changing your name legally to wiggle or do you just have it as like, you're kind of like second?
Uh, yeah, I would, I don't think that I would ever change my name legally to wiggles just cause like the professional implications, you know, I'd have to change my passport and social security card and, and everything today. I will say this, I will say this to anyone who is going through a recovery of any sorts. So mine was clearly like, like a physical recovery, but a large part of this is mental too, which is that, um, recovery is not a linear product process. There were good days and there were bad days. Um, so I, I can only speak from like the perspective of recovery from an injury, but I also feel like if you are recovering from job loss, if you're recovering from divorce, if you are recovering from grieving, um, a loved one, if you're recovering from alcoholism, I feel like with all of this, every, it seems like, um, it seems like there are people who are on the other side, um, and it seems like you will never get there.
Um, it seems like, uh, the days are too dark. The highs are not high enough and the lows are too low. Here's an example of a high, the nursing home would have activities, um, throughout the day. Um, they like they'd have one activity a day. Cause I guess the elderly can't be overly extenuated or, or I don't know why, but, um, one of the activities was, um, a movement type exercise, modified exercise for people in wheelchairs or people who just have limited mobility. And the exercise in one of the exercise steps was taking up your Palm and making a fist with your other Palm and just like moving your, your fist into your Palm. And that was the exercise. And I could not do it. It was too painful. I didn't have the strength to make a fist and have that pressure of the fist against my Palm.
One day I was able to do that. And that was the definition of victory. This is what recovery does look like, and it's also entirely possible, but the next day that you're not able to do it. So you're like, wait a minute, what happened? I was able to do this yesterday, but I can't do it today. That's your body, that's your, um, maybe you're in the wrong mental head space. That doesn't mean that you're regressing. That doesn't mean that you're getting worse. It just means that these processes are not linear, but there are setbacks. It's kinda, but it's kind of like the stock market, there are ups and there are downs, but the general trend is going towards, um, things getting better and better over time, over time might take months, years, decades. Um, but, um, I, and it may seem very discouraging sometimes to see people on the other side and think to yourself, I'm so far away from that.
I'm never going to reach that level. Um, and it's very easy to give up. So like the other part of recovery is just the psychological, having to force yourself day in and day out to do the things and also to be compassionate with yourself on days that you just can't being able to be like, I can't do this today. Let me try again tomorrow and tomorrow. Maybe I can't do it again, but I'll try again the day after. And like, it's really, really, really hard sometimes to be kind to yourself. It's really hard to just look at your failure and compare yourself to the people who've gotten better.
I mean, because you were surrounded by elderly people, did you find, uh, like friends with, with some of the elderly people or did you feel even more alone or like, what was that like to be? Cause you, I imagined that you were dining also like in a dining hall with everyone too.
Yes and no. There were certainly some people who were more, um, cognizant than others. So there were those who were certainly able to hold a conversation. Um, there were those who wanted that socialization. Um, there were also people who were angry and in pain all the time, or there were people who were very far gone in their dementia, um, that you were unable to interact with them. Or there were people who just weren't interested in interacting with other people. Um, indeed I make friends in the process. Yes. In fact, there was one person who is, who was a younger guy. I think that he was in his sixties. He was recovering from an injury as well,
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Um, and I still talk to him to this day. Um, so ho his name's mark, I would be wrong to say that there weren't moments of joy interspersed, um, in between there's a really cute story too. I, one day I was into the physical therapy room and one patient said to another patient, like, I'll see you at dinner. Um, as his nurse was rolling him away. And my physical therapist told me that they, those two individuals, um, the guy in the wheelchair and the woman, he was speaking to that they used to be lovers 20 years ago. And they had a three relationship. And, um, when the nurse was rolling him around, he saw her name on the wall and was like, I, I wonder if that's the same woman. And so the physical therapist asked the woman, they were like, do you remember, do you know someone named, um, Bernard Hamilton and the woman's face just completely changed? You know, the way that you remember someone that you loved. Um, and she was like Bernard with the black hair and, and yeah, these two people reunited decades later, um, in this hopeless place,
I mean, since it was kind of a hopeless place. So, I mean, did that, do you feel that like impeded your recovery at all or did it motivate you to get out sooner?
No, it definitely, I think it definitely impeded my recovery to be surrounded by people who are only getting worse, getting worse, people who are, uh, unloved and forgotten and are just, um, uh, people who are only alive because it's illegal for them to die.
I've never heard of somebody recovering in a nursing home that was not,
There were, there were people who did recover. So there was a gentleman who, um, his wife was in her eighties and he, and he's in his eighties, but they're very sprightly. Um, and he was, uh, he had a stroke, so he was there for recovery, um, and like rehabilitation, trying to learn how to use his arm again after, or the left side of his body after a stroke. Um, and he was periodically, he would be, he was getting better. His wife came to visit every single day. Um, and, um, he did eventually go home. Um, and there were other people who did also eventually go home. Um, but they were not the majority of cases that I was surrounded by because there were basically two floors of the nursing home. There were those who were supposed to be there for rehabilitation and eventually go home. And there were also those who were never going to be rehabilitated. And I roommates, my roommate showed up for rehabilitation and ended up just being there permanently.
I heard of a young person going to a nursing home for their rehabilitation.
It's not common. Um, but that's how much, uh, that's how incapacitated I was that I needed. Full-time nursing care.
Right. So with those, I have a question. So you, it took a year for you to feel sort of back to normal. Do you feel like you was your, did you feel like your life was put on hold? Were you still working? Were you still seeing friends? Where were you in a relationship before the accident? Did it feel like your life, like, as you knew it before that day, I kind of been put on hold or did you, are you able to continue?
No, life was 100% put on hold, but, um, I would say it was 100% put on hold basically for only about six months or so. Um, because there was 16 days in the ER and ICU, then there was two months in the hospital. Then there was like another, uh, four months of, um, of physical therapy and recovery outside of the hospital. Um, and at that point I could start driving again or I felt comfortable driving again. Um, and my strength had returned and I was able to walk without a Walker or a cane. So yes, there were, there was a period of time where it felt like things were paused, but I returned to work in January. Um, and my accident was September 28th and I think I returned to work in January or February of that, January of that year, I was still going to work, uh, at the office. Um, I would take the elevator instead of the stairs, but, um, but, uh, um, that, uh, my socialization was certainly put on hold because I wasn't driving. And I was living with my mom at that time. Cause she moved in all of those things were stunted. Um, but then eventually I got well and my mom moved out to,
So then when you're, um, we're kind of back to normal and then you kind of, or mentally, it was still a little bit challenging. Did you stay in New Jersey then for a few years after that? And like, or, and like how did you end up, uh, starting to hike and things? I mean like, like what, or not even just hiking, like, was there other physical activities that you decided to do after your recovery because you felt,
Yeah, actually, no. Um, so this is where, um, things got interesting. I basically didn't really, I basically wasn't particularly physically active or anything for several years. And then eventually I, for health reasons, um, I, there was a gym right next to my office. Eventually I signed up for Zoomba classes. Um, and, um, my, uh, my doctor, um, when I went to, um, get my, I went to eventually, I went to Zumba classes. I went there three days a week. Um, I realized that I loved it. I think that this was probably like three years after the accident. So, um, I realized that I really enjoyed it. Um, and then, um, my doctor, uh, when looking at my EKG results was like, okay, these results are very good, your athletics. And I asked him what in my chart or what, in my results told you that I'm athletic.
And he said, your heart rate is 54 beats per minute. It's like, it's a low heart rate. And I asked, what was it the previous year? Um, and he looked at, he flipped back through the chart and it was 10% higher the previous year. So my heart had become 10% more efficient in one year as a result of exercise three days a week. So that was cool. Um, and, uh, but even then I didn't, I still wouldn't consider myself a particularly active person. Uh, there was a period of time we're going to the gym and I was like using the equipment and stuff. But, um, at the same time I didn't push myself to do anything. Like I still found, like I found exercise to be about as boring as other people who don't exercise, find it to be like, oh, you go to the gym and then you like lift weights that don't need to be lifted.
We who like, and it's painful and it's challenging at the end, you're sore and dirty and sweaty, like cool. But what was interesting was that everyone else in my life was just so relieved that I was able to, that I wasn't in a hospital there for the rest of my life. So that was the bar that everyone else held me to. So it wasn't until I met, um, my current partner. Um, um, um, but what Jake did as somebody who had never witnessed any of that, um, Jacob, excuse me, Jake was the first person in my life who said, um, I think that you're capable of doing more. Um, he said, I think that you need a walking stick, but I think that you can climb Hills. I think you need a knee brace, but I think that you can hike. Um, and, um, I think that you can accomp, I think that you, I think that your body is capable of doing more than you think it is.
So he, he found these accommodations and he pushed me to push back what I thought were just inherent limitations. So, um, when I met Jake five years ago, walking around the block with something that winded me now I do 14 mile hikes. And I mean, and again, this goes back to like, what progress looks like and what recovery looks like. Um, it's not linear and it's also entirely possible that you have limits, but it's also entirely possible that those bits are constructed to be much more limiting than they are. Um, and I'm glad that other people were understanding of my limits during a time when, um, when I thought that they existed. And I'm also glad that somebody showed me that my limits that they weren't there, or at least they weren't at the point that I thought that they were at
Well, cause the mindset really like, if you don't believe it, or, gosh, I can't remember. There's like some great quote by like Henry Ford or something. I can't remember That one. Yes. I love that quote. Yeah.
And Jake are hiking. They will everywhere in everything,
But I didn't know that about myself
And that's crazy. Cause I I've only known you with Jake. So I didn't realize that there was a period that you weren't really that active, that you weren't this like hiking novice.
Right, exactly. Because I, again, I, um, my barometer was, I'm not in a hospital bed, therefore I have succeeded. Um, and therefore I have everything in my life that I could possibly want. And that was true. And I think that, I think that if I had gotten out of the hospital bed and I tried to do 14 miles, that I would have just destroyed myself and my life and set back my recovery patients is a virtue and the physical therapist would also tell me they were like, you can only do 45 minutes of physical therapy a day, you are not going to get better faster. If you do more than that, you are just going to set yourself back more by not being slow and patient, your body needs time to recover, like respect that, respect that, that these are the times that bones take to heal and accept that limitation. And that was the right thing to say, because pushing yourself too far, too hard, too fast is also detrimental. But at the same time, once you feel like you've reached a level of stability, that's the point at which I would encourage people, try and push yourself a little bit farther than you thought you could go just a little bit farther than you think you can go once it's safe to do so once you have the foundation that then it's time to start playing with what the edge of that boundary actually is.
Yeah, that's it? Yeah. A lot of people want to play it safe. That happens a lot. Cause it's like the fear overtakes you and yeah.
Which is why, which is why the limit can be just one additional step. Um, just a teeny, tiny, little, little edge over a toe over the boundary to see if that's where you can play. And if you put your toe over the boundary and you feel nothing underneath, then don't step over that ledge.
Yeah. And then, like you said, you can always try it another day too, to see if you're ready at the time. So kind of going back and forth. Well, I think the mindset is really amazing and I think having people that, uh, cared for you, I mean, I know it was challenging from our conversation in the nursing home, but, uh, I think that is so important to be around people that really support you. And I mean, I think that that overcomes, I mean, because when you don't feel supported, it's like if you're already feeling kind of hopeless and fearful, sometimes then that just gets compounded.
The anyone who is going through any type of recovery, if you don't have social support to find it, find it on the internet, find it in a forum, find it in a meetup group, find it with a nurse who is kind that you think that maybe you can have a conversation with, um, that even if it's, uh, in between shifts, that was another thing that my nurses did. My like some, the good nurses, like they would stay and they would just talk to me and keep me company understanding that it was very lonely and isolating to be a young person who's had this much damage. And other nurses would say like, uh, would say things like you've got a long journey ahead of you. Um, and we're very empathetic and understanding of like, they wanted to just be a part of making this long and painful journey just a little bit better and find, find those moments where people are being a hero and let them be a hero for you. Yeah.
Yeah. I think, well, having resilience and asking for help is a huge thing and it's really hard for a lot of people. That's great advice. I think
I asked if I, it's hard to ask for help. It's hard to accept help, but we are not meant to do any of this alone, swallow your pride, your ego to the side, let people help you and ask and, and find, find the people. Um, even if it is only a passing, hello, find, find the reasons to feel like there is good in the world.
There's so much good in the world. There's so many people who love you and care about you that don't even know you yet. Um, so find those people, it may seem hard. It may seem impossible, but they're out there and they want to be found. Okay,
Thank you for sharing your experience with us and sharing it with the world because you know, hopefully lots of people will hear it and be inspired and know that there is hope even when it feels hopeless.
Wow. I really feel like I know even more about one of my closest friends having heard the extent of her experience. I it's amazing how nuance someone's story can be. You know, sometimes you think you understand someone's experience yet, you know, that's, I think that's part of the power of storytelling is that when you allow someone to speak as, as theirs, as if they're sort of presenting it and telling it as a story to an audience, more details come out and I'd never heard, I'd never really heard her experience of it. You know, you can kind of share something like that sort of in a detached way, but she really brought herself into it and what it was like for her. And, um, that was, that was really powerful to hear.
Yeah. Well, I hope a lot of people will benefit from it because like she said, in the interview, um, or in the conversation that really, it doesn't matter whether you fell from the sky or you fell from the wagon and started drinking again or whatever it is, you're all like whatever kind of recovery it is. I like that this kind of broad perspective, because it really does apply. It doesn't really matter what the actual problem is sometimes. Um, we can use, uh, our inner being and our resources and our support systems and asking for help, which I think is, uh, a recurring statement. I'll probably say every podcast episode. So thanks everyone for listening. And, um, please subscribe, rate and review. And we'd love to hear from you. You can record a message on our website. You hear now podcast.com and thanks Whitney for, uh, bringing your inspiring friend to share her stories.
How you've come so far, no matter where you find yourself, you're always with
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Wiggles! is an eternal optimist who strives to inspire others to live more connected, eco-conscious, and fulfilling lives. She believes that the world is full of loving, helpful, and committed people trying to do the best they can; and is fortunate enough to know and be surrounded by such individuals on a daily basis. A nature lover, Wiggles! can be found spending her free time planting native trees and shrubbery, hiking through gorgeous landscapes, and lobbying for carbon pricing. She hopes her story encourages others to push through their darkest moments and emerge with radiance on the other side.