Editor's note: Names have been changed to preserve anonymity.
Melissa Ann has never accepted the doctors’ diagnosis that she would likely be a complete quadriplegic and ventilator-dependent after a serious car crash six years ago rendered the then-18-year-old paralyzed from the shoulders down.
The West Orange resident remains in a wheelchair — but intense daily physical therapy and workouts have given the 24-year-old some mobility and continued hope that she might actually walk one day. Her health insurance only covers so much, though, and recent health care reform has slashed the amount of therapy hours available.
Ann’s family is collecting donations of items for a multi-family sale on Saturday, Aug. 2, to raise funds for her continued therapy sessions.
“I don’t work on functional goals, but I work on a lot of whole-body strengthening,” Ann told The West Orange Times last week, “starting from everything that works, and even everything that doesn’t work with voluntary control.
“I have regained enough of limited arm movement (no finger function) to feed myself, brush my teeth, put my makeup on, paint as a hobby; and I’m working on things like brushing my hair, etc.”
Since 2012, she has been able to attend therapy on a scholarship that provided the bulk of the cost. That scholarship has been exhausted already for 2014, though, with five months left in the year.
Therapy takes up just a portion of Ann’s day. Education is important, she said, and she is finishing her junior year of college. She’s majoring in human communications with a minor in mass communications “with the goal of hopefully becoming the voice of a non-profit organization or large company someday.”
She has discovered painting, which is a form of therapy for her, and she takes orders for her creations. Her plan is to display some of her work later this year at a local event.
No matter how busy she is with therapy, painting and schoolwork, Ann always finds time to speak to DUI offenders and high school students “on the reality of drinking and driving and choices that we make.”
Ann had been drinking alcohol and was driving in the early morning of Aug. 11, 2008, when she was involved in the single-car crash. She was thrown from the vehicle, and her injuries were severe: spinal cord damage, a fractured pelvis and a broken neck in three places. A friend who was with her was also injured.
Through it all, Ann has kept her faith.
“I do believe I will walk again. Recovery statistics as a quadriplegic are extremely low, but with the health I am maintaining, I hope to be a positive light in the spinal-cord injury world and bring hope to anybody that is in a similar situation.
“All in all, I do believe God never creates tragedy. He only allows it with the hope that we seek and bring all glory back to Him, even through the heartache.”