Then at the age of 14, Angela’s life took a dramatic shift. She was involved in what was considered a “fender bender,” until Angela was discovered gasping for air in the back seat of the car. She was flown to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston and, shortly thereafter, was diagnosed as a C1-C2, vent-dependent quadriplegic. Initially, Angela was told that she would never eat, speak, or hold her head up on her own, but she proved them wrong. Now 28 years old, after regaining movement and sensation below her level of injury, Angela is considered an incomplete injury.
Coming out of rehab and trying to assimilate back into one’s ‘prior’ life is never easy, and Angela had to do so as a teenager, a time that’s challenging without a new disability. While her friends were talking about boys and which pair of jeans to wear to school tomorrow, Angela was trying to come to terms with how to live her life and keep up with her friends. Little by little, Angela learned how to handle her daily-living challenges. Life went on for Angela, albeit on a different path than she expected.
When it came to hanging out with her friends and shopping, like they used to, Angela’s role and involvement obviously changed. “I couldn’t try on clothes in the stores,” said Angela. Being fashionable became a challenge: “I had to bring clothes home to try them on. I couldn't find jeans that worked because they were either not long enough or they were low-rise. I would also have to cut out the back pockets because they caused pressure marks. The clothing that I bought had to be top quality because the stitching would tear or rip when getting dressed.”
One day in 2009, Angela was surfing the web and came across a spinal cord forum where women in chairs were discussing what they missed about clothes. Angela recalls, “We were commiserating about how the media doesn’t look out for our needs when it comes to fashion. Then that night, I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking that I had to do something about this problem. I wrote an outline to plan what I could do and then talked to my friend Michelle, who is a website designer. In one night, she put together Heelswithwheels.com--the logo, the site, everything!”
|"Coy Joy" loungewear is versatile, stylish and comfortable|
In 2010, Ms. Irick launched Heels with Wheels, where every article of clothing is custom-made by Wanda and designed by Angela and Antonio. Heels with Wheels offers fashionable and functional clothing for disabled and non-disabled women alike: bottoms and jeans, glamorous tops, outerwear, loungewear, and more, with scarves, hats and shoes on the horizon. Men have approached Angela about a Heels with Wheels men’s line, so that may come in time, too.
|"Wings of Chloe" top with jeans|
Heels with Wheels is exploding on the fashion scene. Ms. Wheelchair contestants are contacting Angela to be dressed for their daily life. People are taking notice of the service Angela is providing and the attention she is placing on fashion for all. She keeps the prices as low as possible, with pieces ranging from $25 to $100. Angela says, “If I can help anyone, physically or emotionally, then I’ve done my job for the day.”
|The "Garner" jacket, one of Angela's favorite pieces in the collection|
For more information about Heels with Wheels and to purchase clothing, visit www.heelwithwheels.com. To buy tickets for the fashion show, visit heelswithwheels.com/shopcart/heels-with-wheels-fashion-forward-fashion-show.