How I Conquered My Very First Speaking Experience

By Aimee Hofmann

The Race for a Cure Gala to benefit the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation took place on June 17, 2017 in Westchester, NY. The idea to hold the event first ignited when my husband, Daniel, decided to take on the 2017 NYC Marathon with his friend, Michael, under “Team Reeve”.  We saw this as a great opportunity to contribute to the Foundation since they provided us with so many resources when I became paralyzed, 11 years ago.  My friend, Karina (Michael’s wife), and I immediately took on the exciting mission to plan a fundraiser for the very first time! 
We knew we wanted to have a guest speaker with a spinal cord injury/condition to share their story at our event.  Little did I know, it would be more challenging than I thought to find a speaker.  Most of the admirable people that I had in mind, were unavailable or had expenses that we couldn’t cover in our event budget. 

As days and weeks passed of planning the event, we still had no speaker.  Wendy Crawford, a co-founder of The Raw Beauty Project and, was one of our potential speakers, but was also unavailable.  Wendy then suggested that I should be the one to think about speaking.  I never really saw myself as a speaker.  I’ve always been more of a writer since its obviously so much easier to type words out, as opposed to actually saying them.  Karina also asked me how I felt about speaking.  To tell you the truth, I was avoiding the situation altogether.  I told her, "I'm just going to thank everyone and wish everyone a great night!"  There I was, trying to make excuses to get out of doing a speech.  Karina looked at me and said, "Thank everyone and then WHAT?!  Don't you want people to go away with a lesson they’ve learned from your story?"  She did have a point.

Wheelchair Falls Resulting in Concussions

By "The Rollin' RN" Patty Kunze, BSN, RNC

My articles are usually written on maintaining health but I wanted to expand on a question asked earlier and further discuss CONCUSSIONS and WHEELCHAIR FALLS.  Concussions, in general, have been in the forefront of Sports Medicine lately, with the increase of head injuries in football and soccer alike.  No longer is this type of injury “accepted” as part of performing sports; experts are looking at this phenomenon from a different angle now.  Sitting in a wheelchair on a daily basis increases our chances of a fall, where we may strike our head, which results in subsequently, a head injury or concussion. It’s a fact of our life - but should not be ignored!  Why else would the rehab team train us how to protect our noggins in case of a fall?  I KNOW it has happened to all of us and if you are one of the lucky ones that hasn’t experienced a fall yet… will.  Being in a wheelchair for eight years now, I have experienced two major falls while seat-belted in my chair.  Once backwards onto a concrete tiled floor, causing a huge goose egg on the back of my head and once on the aggregate driveway of my home resulting in a scraped up face.  You all remember the Looney Tunes cartoons when the character is bopped on his head and stars circle around him, that’s what it feels like... But this topic is no laughing matter.   

My Roll on Capitol Hill

From Kara Aiello
Flash Mob near Capitol Hill Kara is 3rd from right)

About two weeks ago, I participated for the second time in an amazing event known as the Roll on Capitol Hill or ROCH in Washington D.C.  Sponsored by United Spinal Association, ROCH in an annual legislative advocacy event that addresses issues that impact the health, independence and quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries and disorders.So every summer, people with and without disabilities come together in D.C. for four days to learn, advocate and educate to our Congressional leaders' policies affecting the everyday lives of people with SCI and related disorders. Although I do not live with a SCI, having a disability from birth (Osteogenesis Imperfecta-Brittle Bones) makes this event as important for me as all involved, since the policies on the table affect us similarly.  What these policies give to us as individuals, helps us to give back and be contributing members in our communities, which makes a better world for everyone.      
The event isn’t all work, as important as that piece is; it’s also loads of fun and a great way to meet people around the country who, regardless of disability, share a common experience.  It’s not to say that our disability experiences aren’t different, be it we are newly injured or face a disability from birth, but it’s nice to meet other wheelchair users or people who have shared experiences and can relate.  Examples of shared experiences include being stared at (not that we don’t check each other out too, ha ha), or being around persons who are standing and tower over us (although I met some chair users who towered over me as well). And it was nice to talk to people eye to eye, joking and laughing about shared events and experiences in our lives that aren’t always understood out in the world.  But it’s also important to add that people who are there and don’t live with disabilities bring their own understanding, compassion and experience to ROCH, United Spinal and our own personal lives.  We have board members who have loved ones who live with SCI or related disabilities, rehab staff who spend their lives helping people regain a quality of life out in the world, and countless family members and friends who want to be a part of their loved ones’ journey, and that makes for a great community of which to be a part. It’s also the only event I have attended where I have met more than two people with the last name of Aiello and are not blood relatives, and all we can say is,“I never meet anyone with my last name.”