Today is the 29th anniversary of my injury. (Math tells me that, but I don’t believe it. I’m not even 29 years old, right?)
On the evening of July 10 when I was 16 years old, my best friend Barbara and I sat in a swimming pool discussing what it would be like to be paralyzed.
The next morning I left cheerleading practice in an ambulance, having sustained a C6-7 spinal cord injury.
I like to celebrate – or at least commemorate – my injury each year. It’s a celebration that I’ve done more from a wheelchair than I ever would have walking. It’s acknowledging the fact that the support of family and friends has allowed me to thrive and truly live life.
Each year I re-watch the news coverage of my injury. Play-by-play news updates informs the community of my status: Local teen paralyzed; Jenny has surgery; Injured cheerleader returns to school; Jenny Smith graduates from high school. The common thread through each story is the support of my family and friends.
Right now I’m going through a time that feels more difficult even than my injury. I’ve been in the hospital for longer than I was in rehab. I’m having to lean more deeply into my faith than ever. But to be honest, I feel like a dry well. Thankfully, friends and family are supporting me and I have finally learned to accept their help when offered.
Let’s hope that next year’s 30th anniversary will be spent not in a hospital, but on the river rowing, working with my coworkers and, overall, in great health.