I introduced my friend, Annie, to you in an earlier post. What are her goals in life? Where does she see herself in 10 years? Living independently; this is her greatest desire as she moves into adulthood, and I think she will certainly achieve it. After high school, Annie is hoping to attend the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, VA. The courses offered at this facility are impressive; they teach independence and life skills for those with injuries or disabilities. She also plans to get her college degree and would like to be an inspirational speaker, or perhaps work as a prison counselor, which has been of particular interest to her.
What are her dreams? Well, she has several – she’d like to be able to drive a car, go hunting, and go on exchange to Australia (her sister is currently on an educational exchange to England through Rotary International), and she’d like to ride a specially designed pedal bike (yet to be created). These are some of her dreams, and she certainly has the skills to pursue these interests.
Annie is a member of the high school forensics’ team. She wrote her oratory on discrimination and has done some drama presentations as well. She missed the National qualifiers by only 1 point last year. She enjoys writing and has written several essays and stories for her Advanced English class. Take a look at her oratory here, and imagine a very intelligent and attractive young lady sitting up tall in her wheelchair to deliver these words of great importance.
Annie knows what she is speaking about when she talks about roadblocks that the disabled encounter when trying to make a life in this world. Through the support of her aunt, who is always quick to speak up or fight for Annie, and through the support of her educational case managers, they were finally able to obtain a new wheelchair for her, but it took over a year. The new wheelchair tilts back, easing the pain in her back, and also moves up and down to allow her to operate on different levels.
It took a little more work to be able to get headlights for the wheelchair; they certainly are needed on her evening walks with Kujo, her dog, or her frequent trips downtown. Incidentally, they have been hoping to send Kujo to a prison where inmates train dogs for working with the disabled, but everything takes funding. The family is also trying to obtain funding for a carrier for the back of their suburban, as the wheelchair is too large to put into the vehicle. When the family traveled to Rapid City recently they had to take a stroller for Annie, as her wheelchair does not fit in the car. She would much have preferred independence as they wandered around various places in the city. She does have a life alert button on her chair and in the home in case of emergency.
Annie said that when she was young she once had a pity party and began to feel sorry for herself. However, after attending a Special Olympics in Oregon, where she lived at the time, she came home with a new attitude. She had seen kids in “worse shape” than she is in, and came home feeling really blessed and capable. This positive attitude has stayed with her and given her a determination to do all that she can, rather than give up in frustration. She also said she has faith in God to “be there” for her.
When I asked what we can do as a society to be more helpful to people with disabilities, she simply said, “Don’t treat me like I’m different. I’m just like everyone else. Be friendly.” Annie admitted that she doesn’t have as many friends since she moved to Buffalo, Wyoming, from Gillette.
I am so proud of Annie’s progress throughout her life. I am glad to have become better acquainted with her through this interview. I had not been aware of the level of her determination and independence, and these are character traits that will take her far in life. When I asked if it would be possible to use prosthetics in the future, her answer surprised me. “Even if it is,” she said, “I don’t want them. This is the way God made me. Why change what I’ve already learned on my own? If I had arms, I would have to learn things all over again.”
That is the kind of attitude that makes me so proud of Annie, and pleased to be her friend.