After my daughter told me about her visit, I was reminded of a Facebook friend of mine, Angela Irick. For those that may not have read my blog much or may not know me, I only write about what/who inspires me and what/who I believe in. I would like to tell you the story of Angela Irick, a 32 year old woman that was diagnosed with a C-1 C-2 incomplete spinal cord injury at the age of 14 years old. I asked Angela a variety of serious and fun questions so that you can know more about her; you will definitely want to read this because Angela, also known as Ang, is a very interesting, fun, down to Earth, smart as a whip kind of lady!
I will warn you, this blog piece is long, I tried to edit some of the answers that Angela gave me but her answers were so awesome, valuable, and meaningful that I had a really hard time doing this. Please put some time to the side and read this in its entirely and share with your friends because honestly you never know who this piece will touch. Thanks.
What were you like as a kid: "I was really shy when first meeting people and always observed people around me. Once I became comfortable I was very stubborn and ornery. In addition, I was a major tomboy and loved playing basketball, riding bikes, playing in ditches, looking for crawdads, cheerleading and looking for the next adventure. As a result of my active lifestyle, I was very accident prone; so accident prone that my family and I joked that if something 'weird' happened that it would happen to me."
When and how did you become disabled: "On March 7, 1996, at the age of 14, I was in a car accident that resulted in a collapsed lung and I broke my neck injuring my C-1 and C-2 vertebrae; those are the first vertebrae's in your spine and your brain stem is above your C-1 vertebrae. I was very lucky because breaking these two vertebrae's paralyzes you from the neck down. In addition, I could not breathe on my own and was on a ventilator for 8-9 months."
20 minutes before my accident (Angela on the right)
Did you ever want to 'give up': "I had days where I just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. It's not that I didn't want to live, it's that I did not want to live as a quadriplegic. I always tell people the first 5 years are the hardest. I just wanted to wake up and 'poof' the dream be over. It's like mourning the person I thought I would be; for example at the age of 32 I thought I would be married and starting a family by now. Different stages of my life will bring the pro's and con's, it's something that I have to adjust to."
What made you not give up: My faith in God, we've had a lot of one on one talks, my immediate family, we are not the perfect family but we love each other and that has taught me not to give up, and friends who constantly encourage me to pursue a dream or goal; such as run for Ms Wheelchair Texas and learn to paint. In addition, my mom has always been a huge source of strength for me and I have put her through the 'ringer'; I would have major meltdowns and take it out on her. It has been 18 years since my accident and she truly put her life on hold so that I could have one and she never gave up on me."
What do you want people to learn from you: "I really want people to learn that my disability does not define who I am. The only limitations I have are the ones I put on myself. Of course I am going to need help doing this but that is what life is all about, setting goals and never being ashamed to ask for help."
Sometimes people feel uneasy or uncomfortable when they approach or are around someone in a wheelchair; what suggestions can you give people to make them not feel uncomfortable: "I totally use sarcasm to turn an awkward situation into a more relaxing situation. I've learned that when you are comfortable with yourself that others are comfortable with you. I actually get really embarrassed when meeting someone for the first time because they always try to shake my hand. I can tell by the look on their face that they are embarrassed which in turn makes me feel bad; so before this can happen I try and introduce myself and give them a polite nod of my head. Some people who are disabled are in different stages of their lives and may react differently but I can tell you that the biggest pet peeve is being stared at, patted on the head and hearing outlandish comments such as, 'but you're so beautiful to be in a wheelchair.' Disabilities don't discriminate."
What are some things in your life you have done that would make some people say was not possible: "Breathe on my own, eat without having to use a feeding tube, hiccup, talk, sneeze, have sensation and movement below my level of injury; kicking my legs and moving my fingers. In addition, go on a hot air balloon ride, participate in a fashion show, TV and magazine interviews, public speaking, reading my book to elementary students, painting and scuba diving."
Lastly,what are your successes in life: "I started my own fashion line called Heels With Wheels. We are currently on the search for a co designer and are taking resumes. I published two books, 'Sampson to the Rescue' and 'Ashley's First Day of School' and am currently working on the third book. I became a Ms Wheelchair of Texas Ambassador, advocating for people who have a disability. Currently I am in the process of starting a non profit organization.
I've been a Myspace/ Facebook friend (yes, Myspace- google if you don't remember what that was) of Angela's for at least 6 years and have enjoyed watching and learning of her successes in her life. She has amazed me not only because she is so talented and determined but because she is genuinely nice and caring. It is funny because I actually got to meet her once at an event that we both have grown to love, Hope 4 Tiny Hearts, and I froze up. I felt like I needed a keyboard and computer screen in front of me to talk to her but that feeling did not last because she broke the ice and broke into some gossip.
After my daughter got home from school and told me about their special guest I immediately ordered Angela Irick's book 'Ashley's First Day of School', so that I could donate it to my daughter's first grade class. I think that it is important for kids, and adults, to understand that just because someone talks different, looks different, or has a disability does not mean that they don't have a million other similarities and common interests as the people around them. In addition, I plan on writing a short review of this book in the coming week, so I hope you take the time to read it and consider purchasing the book for your family or for your child's school/ daycare.
I huge thank you to Angela Irick author of 'Ashley's First Day of School' for taking the time to let us get to know her. Feel free to follow Angela's journey on Twitter https://twitter.com/AngelaIrick or on her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AngOnARoll .
Written by: Aimee Fauci