I have been a world traveler my entire life. I love exploring new lands, delving into different cultures, conversing with foreign people seeking out the experience of stepping out of one’s own shoes to view the world from a different perspective. I seek adventure and embrace life from a positive perspective knowing that life is short and there is so much to do in such little time. Whether it was studying abroad in Sydney Australia, or riding elephants bareback and barefoot in the jungles of Cambodia or bungee jumping out of a tiny airplane over bubbling mud pools in New Zealand or scuba diving ancient shipwrecks in the pristine waters of Thailand, my intense state of wanderlust has always been my driving force. And it is through this influence that has guided me to be the person I am today.
Through my global adventures and life altering experiences, I have experienced profound spiritual growth especially through my lifelong passion towards yoga, meditation and Eastern based traditions. Even after acquiring my doctoral degree in physical therapy at Regis University in Denver Colorado, my professional development led me to becoming a yoga instructor, craniosacral therapist and passionate advocate for preventative healthcare models. Understanding the essence of the connection of mind, body and spirit – in my eyes – is the ultimate pursuit.
In an unfortunate turn of events in my late 30s, I dove headfirst into a swimming pool causing a severe spinal cord injury at the cervical level of my spinal cord leaving me a complete quadriplegic, meaning I have zero sensation or physical mobility below my shoulders. I am completely paralyzed for the remainder of my life. Not being able to walk, run, feed myself, dress myself or even take my own sip of water presents many challenges that I must overcome on a daily basis, yet I have not let this turn of events stop me from enjoying and embracing life. This experience has made me a tougher human being yet softer in spirit and all the more adventurous discovering new ways on continuing my wanderlust from the auspices of a power wheelchair.
I am now a local mentor for spinal cord injury survivors through Craig Hospital in Denver Colorado and nationally through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation out of New York City. I write a twice monthly blog for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation blog and forum section, discussing how to live a positive and forward lifestyle as a quadriplegic, and all the things that go along with that. Which is a lot!
I live independently in an apartment in Littleton Colorado solely managing a staff of 8 caregivers and personal assistants, all the while flanked by my truly amazing beautiful awesome 110 pound black Labrador service animal – Shadow. In my fun spare time, you’ll find me rocking out to live concerts@red rocks or fiddlers in the summer as I’m a huge live music buff, traveling to various destinations learning how to maneuver around the world as a full quadriplegic, or being thrown headfirst into pristine waters in either Mexico or the Cayman Islands doing adaptive scuba diving.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about your family.
Daughter of a 35+ year Navy veteran, youngest of five siblings. Father was career military, mother was a lifelong schoolteacher; parents married for 53 years. Close-knit family, all vagabonds living around the country. My injury has brought many of us much closer including my brother living locally who is now on the executive board at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation trying to find a cure for paralysis
Q: Please tell us about your current, past, or future career. What do you love most about what you do?
Pre-injury I was a doctor of physical therapy, worked eight years in orthopedic physical therapy in California in both San Francisco & Los Angeles. Basically worked in the county hospital system with indigent populations, homeless, psych, interesting cases to say the least. Current profession is writing and blogging as mentioned above. I also am a mentor for spinal cord injury survivors providing aid to themselves and their families to navigate the life of paralysis. But mostly all I want to do is either run away with the circus or become a travel writer as traveling is my main passion in life. I would love to write about traveling as a quadriplegic and how to navigate the world from a wheelchair. I would like to show that it can be done whether you walk or not.
Q: What are a couple of your favorite restaurants in our community?
Angelos in Littleton. Rioja downtown. Sushi Den. City o city. Steubens.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in our community?
I went to college in Boulder for four years in the late 90s, and then spent three years at Regis University in downtown Denver. And I have been living here for six years as a quadriplegic. Approximate 15 to 17 years here in Colorado.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in our community?
I met Kim Christiansen – she was really cool. She interviewed me for segment about adaptive scuba diving as a quadriplegic a couple years ago. It was featured on Channel 9 news. She’s a really really nice lady.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be and why?
I would love to revisit Southeast Asia when Corona decreases. Or Australia. I would like to visit both destinations to evaluate the handicap accessible nature of traveling as an American to these destinations and being able to make it work successfully and fun. I did my yoga training in Bali and I would like to return to do deep meditation & yoga work there as a quad.
Q: What is one of your favorite movies? TV shows?
I’m a sucker for 80s movies – Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Say anything, Purple Rain. Recently super inspired by JoJo rabbit. Lion TV shows – I’m a sucker for Below Deck, the bachelor/ette, Alone, House – because sometimes you have to just turn your brain off.
Q: What advice would you give to people?
Don’t sweat the small stuff, you never know when you you’re going to get hit in the face the giant curveball of life and then in one instant everything changes – your whole reality shifts. Have fun, laugh and appreciate every moment, because it just a few seconds your life could change and everything will be different. Something I learned from my injury.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
Returning to Burning Man. I went to BM for 13 years and worked for the organization on the playa for a long long time. I thought about returning as a quadriplegic and documenting it. Once you go there and experience the magic of the desert and the beauty of the event, it lives with you forever no matter what your physical limitations might be. It would be interesting to see how I might manage from a chair.
Q: What is your go to band when you cant decide what to listen to?
This is tough – as I love music, especially live music shows. But I would say top five: Prince, Coldplay, U2, the Lumineers, Neil Young, Dave Matthews. Just to name a few.
Q: What current or former local business makes you the most nostalgic about our community?
I’m a huge coffee snob and so I love any small coffee shop and am sad to see them closed especially during coronavirus. I spent many many hours studying for my graduate exams at small coffee shops in both Highlands and downtown Denver. I loved the monkey bean in RiNo but it closed.
Q: If you could choose anyone that is alive today and not a relative; with whom would you love to have lunch? Why? And where locally would y’all meet for this lunch?
First thing that pops into my head is having sushi with Gandhi@the sushi den. I’d love to pick his brain about all the things.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about our community?
I have lived a lot of different places and a lot of different cities. Denver definitely stands out as the most majestic of the places that I have lived due to the vistas of Rocky Mountains all around, it’s still inspires me and takes my breath away driving around town seeing the mountains out in the distance. Denver still feels like a small Cowtown city but the growth has been astronomical since I started going to college here many years ago and even with the surge of more and more people moving into the communities I always find the air is crisp, the sky is blue and the mountains are beautiful.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 to 10 years?
This is a hard question to ask because being a quadriplegic you never know where you’re going to be in the next year. Life is sometimes fragile for my position. But if and when 10 years comes along and I am still rolling around, I would love to be a travel writer. I would love to own my own home/a little cottage home that is accessible and has a huge yard for my dog as apartment living is not ideal at the moment but is my only option. I would love to be living both in Colorado and in Hawaii where I can escape some of the colder months for the warmer beach water. Both places I could write and help others in similar situations virtually.
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
I attended Burning Man 13 years in a row. In the beginning, I kept it a secret from many of my friends and family due to the original secretive nature of the event – it was like going off the grid, exciting and novel that few people in the universe knew about. The idea of spending a week or longer in the desert away from “it all” was truly life altering. As the event grew larger and larger and became less and less of a secret, my secret got out. I used to call myself a double agent, because professionally I would present as an academic/physical therapist wearing khakis and puma sneakers to work all the while spending weekends and months of the summer preparing for my Labor Day week long rave in the desert with colorful, outlandish and typically full of feathers & faux fur costumes fulfilling my other persona.
Q: What is the most beautiful place you have ever been?
Bali hands down.
Q: Favorite month? favorite holiday? and best single day on the calendar?
Month – I love summer so probably June or July. Favorite holiday – I do like Christmas. Best single day on the calendar – October 26 my birthday.
Q: What would you rate a 10 out of 10?
Breathing underwater, even as a quad.
Q: Who inspires you to be better?
I love seeing old people work out. Now that I can’t work out anymore, it makes me very happy almost to tears to see people of age trying their best to keep healthy. I’m also inspired by Sam Schmidt who is a quadriplegic and drives a race car with a sip and puff technology. He also was the first quadriplegic to get a drivers license in the state of Nevada or anywhere in the country. People say that I am inspiring… And all I can think about is going mock 10 around a racetrack using just your breath to control the vehicle. Now that is inspiring.
Q: What is one or two of your favorite smells?
The smell of the ocean. And the burning smell of Palo Santo or Sage. Yes I’m a hippie
Q: Finally, what 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
Quiet, Zen & Peaceful.