Welcome aboard Megan D. Wellman! Megan will be bringing The Worry Jar to life! This is one of my favorite parts in the writing process.
Google the word ‘worry’ and you will find: definitions, physical effects, quotes, techniques to stop, books, therapists, videos, etc. So what is worry?
To feel uneasy or concerned about something; be troubled (www.thefreedictionary.com)
To feel or experience concern or anxiety (http://www.merriam-webster.com)
To feel or cause to feel anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems (http://oxforddictionaries.com)
Anxious, concerned, and troubled appear to be common words to describe worry.
Since my accident I had several opportunities to speak to different groups of people. Topics have included spinal cord injury, overcoming obstacles, and keeping a positive attitude. It has truly been an honor to share my story with others. It has been very rewarding to hear people express the ways I have touched their lives and inspired them. I feel very blessed to share this new gift.
If you need a speaker for an event, contact me through the comment section and I will be in touch.
Feeling Free and Flying Underwater
Scuba diving? Really? I have to see it to believe it!!
May 31, 2009, the Cody Unser First Step Organization’s, Scuba Adventure, touched down in Hershey, PA. Friends of mine at Lebanon Valley College, told me about this opportunity to learn more about scuba diving for those with disabilities. A powered parachuting accident in September 2001, left me paralyzed from the chest down, relying on the use of a wheelchair for mobility. Therefore, never in a million years was I going to try scuba diving, but I was curious to check it out. Sunday morning, we arrived at the sports center at LVC and met my favorite water woman, Mary Gardner (Aquatics Director). I watched the divers in the pool, again thinking, not for me. Rob Dellar, Rick Allwein, and I were invited to scuba on Tuesday, June 2nd. It would have been neat to go and watch, however I had school and didn’t think I could take off.
Monday, I was given the OK to take off from school (Thanks Elaine!!). After pulling some strings at home, getting a doctors ok, and Todd’s work being generous, too…we were Hershey bound. Just down the road I realized that I forgot my camera, however we didn’t go back because I wasn’t going in.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009, we pulled into the Hershey pool (left the bags in the van…I wasn’t going in) and went inside. We gave Michelle, the dive organizer, our paperwork (I’m not sure why…I wasn’t going in) and watched the dive instructors bring in their gear, plus the news reporters were getting set up. As we moved to the opposite side of the pool, I talked to Cody Unser & Beaux and they explained this is a once in a life time opportunity and I should give it a try. The divers were trained, doctors from Johns Hopkins were there, and it was a perfectly controlled environment to try it out. So I changed my mind, I would just put on the wet suit, but I wasn’t going in.
All of the dive instructors and eager participants gathered around for a meeting. Cody pulled up beside me and leaned on the arm of my chair, now I had to stay put. A wonderful instructor named Jim, from Diveheart, came over and began trying different masks on my face. He certainly knew what he was talking about and he was trying to get a feel for the kinds of signals I would be able to give him once I was in the water. So, I was feeling better…wait, who am I kidding? I still wasn’t planning on going in the water.
Mary Gardner gave me an approving head shake. Gail had my wetsuit and the three of us proceeded to the locker room to get into the suit. Those of you who have worked with quadriplegics know that most of us are pretty dependent on caregivers to assist in dressing, etc. I laughed inside just picturing these ladies trying to shove my body into this wet suit. Go ahead, laugh, it is funny. Honestly, it went super smooth, so smooth that I was back up to the pool in 10 minutes. My heart was racing so fast! They put on the boots to protect my feet. The next few things happened so fast it was a blur. Todd & Gail transferred me onto the chairlift at the pool. I barked out orders, someone must be touching me at all times. The chair spun, it lowered into the water and ready or not, I was in. My body was shaking, I was so nervous, plus this new instructor had a hold of me. I was hoping he heard the rule, never let go.
The water was cool on my face and it went inside my suit at the top. My brain started the internal clock, counting down the time until I was freezing. Since I cannot regulate my body temperature, I am always cold. I soon had so many other things to think about I forgot about freezing for awhile. Very quickly my goggles went on and Todd was there, helping. Jim, my instructor, taught me to clear my ears and breathe with the regulator. Next, I went under the water. I needed up right away because it felt weird to be breathing air in and out of my mouth and not my nose. Jim said that was perfectly normal. Each step I took, he would encourage me and tell me how good I was doing. This made me feel empowered, so I would push myself a little more each time. My trust in Jim developed quickly, he wasn’t going to let go and I really felt like he understood me. Maybe that’s because when he worked with me he didn’t see limitations, he saw possibility.
This whole experience was an emotional roller coaster, brining out emotions that I seldom experience simultaneously. While I was going through these amazing transformations, the news crew was watching it all unfold.
Todd used the other regulator and we went underwater together and Jim took pictures. Jim had me all the way to the deep end. Remember, I wasn’t getting in. An amazing amount of trust needed to happen to feel safe and confident to do what I was doing. Unfortunately, I didn’t swim around, that would have to wait until the next time. My arms were frozen in the OK position and I just looked around. Really, I didn’t even move my head much either, just my eyes. I just let Jim hang onto me and take me on an incredible adventure. Once I was finished…I was cold and once again my body was shaking. This time, I wasn’t nervous; I was exhilarated and overcome with emotion from my accomplishment. I wish everyone has the chance to experience this feeling in their lifetime.
The news crews were eager to talk to all of us about our experience. It sure is hard to explain how I was feeling with words. I did my best, but tears of accomplishment and tears of happiness poured out under that scuba mask. I went into that water and in some way, I came out a slightly different person. I DID IT! I am so glad I went into that water. Hopefully, I will have another opportunity to try it again. Since then, there has not been a day that has passed that I have not looked at the pictures, reliving this extraordinary memory!
Meet my scuba instructor and new friend, Jim Elliott. Jim has dedicated his life to bringing scuba to those with disabilities and the name of his organization tells all. DIVEHEART, compassionate individuals, putting their heart and soul into helping others experience this world where there are no limitations. Thank you for touching so many lives and enabling people to feel free and to fly! When you visit this site, please take some time to look at the pictures, testimonials, and newsletters. They will touch your heart!
Diveheart published my experience in their June 2009 newsletter. The following is a message from the president:
THE POWER OF THE POOL…
Trust… Diveheart instructors and dive buddies must have it before they can change the lives of someone with a disability.
When I first started guiding blind skiers in the mid 80′s I realized how much someone with no sight had to trust their guide.
Confidence, control and calm had to be exerted by the blind ski guide while all the time reassuring the blind skier in a loving tone that all was ok and that they were doing fine.
The same applies in the pool, quarry, lake or ocean when working with a new scuba diver with a disability.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to work in a pool with and incredible and beautiful woman who suffers from quadriplegia. Shelly is a bright eyed third grade teacher who lives near Hershey Pennsylvania.
Please read her story and share it with others….I can’t help thinking that as she explains how scuba has changed her life, somehow, this new wonderful friend of Diveheart has changed mine.
President of Diveheart
The thought of writing a book about my accident was planted in my head before leaving the hospital. Funny thing, I always struggled with writing. Majority of the writing in my life by that point was in my graduate work or geared toward elementary school writing prompts. So the initial draft of New Opportunities was rough. I actually wrote it by hand using a tablet and my retractable sharpie marker at a table outside. Composing my thoughts at the computer was hard, besides that I enjoyed being outside in the warm weather.
Dot Perez, the mom of one of my students, was an established illustrator in the area. Someone directed me her way and it was the greatest direction I could have taken. I can still remember asking her if she would be interested in illustrating my story. When she said yes, I was ecstatic!
We sat down and talked. She took it all in, every last event. I pulled together pictures (powered parachute, medical helicopter, my workout equipment) for her and off she went to create her magic. Magic it was. When I opened that first email, to meet Spiney, it was an incredible day. Right there, before my very eyes was the character that instantly captured my heart. Sounds funny, right? Actually, just as a child or pet comes into your life, this character, even though it was non-living, was born and needed me to help it grow.
If only writing were as easy as caring for a pet, I would have lots of Spiney stories. For me it is not easy, but it’s a wonderful challenge that I am glad I have taken.
The story about my accident was vividly unfolding in front of me. As the printer reproduced Dot’s creations, it took my breath away. Each page that I touched brought tears to my eyes. The root of those tears could have been many things; the reality of my accident, the feeling of accomplishment, or the excitement of possible things to come. Either way, the meaning behind that porcupine, named Spiney, was here to stay.
The current environmental and emotional situation I was involved in during this time was going to cause interference in making this book come true. Some people in my life at that time were not excited about me wanting to tell my story. My story was best hidden, covered up, not intended to be shared. I was quickly learning that many of the people involved in my “well being” were there for reasons different than I thought. This is another chapter of my life for another page.
Once I was removed from the situation I was describing above, my life took an amazing turn. Dot and I continued breathing life into our project. A total of two years went by from the first day I picked up my pen until the finished product landed in our hands.
There was tons of work that went on during those two years. The energy consumed by revisions, field testing, looking for publishers, looking for an agent, was exhausting. In order to approach certain publishers, we needed an agent. In order to land a good agent, we needed to have something published. Sounds a bit like the dilemma of the chicken and the egg.
Self publishing was the route that we went. Trafford publishing put together our 1st book. I will always refer to New Opportunities as my first book, because I know there will be many more! There are a couple opportunities already waiting for my writing brain to grow.
December 2005, New Opportunities was delivered to my door. Monica V., from the Patriot News called around the same time, looking to follow up on my status since the accident. No one was around now to keep me from sharing my story and share it I did. The article that Monica wrote that December opened up so many doors for me. Thank you so much Monica, for patiently waiting for me to tell my story. You helped to start this incredible journey that I have been on ever since.
Check out the website www.heyspiney.com, for more information about Spiney and New Opportunities. You can purchase a copy of New Opportunities on Amazon.
Sitting in front of an audience and sharing my story is very rewarding. It’s like following a basic recipe. Each group I meet gets the basic ingredients: the accident, spinal cord injury, the book, Spiney, rehabilitation, overcoming obstacles, and moving forward. However, each group needs its own seasoning. That’s the neat part. I can spice the presentation up so that it tastes good to them. I’m learning how to do this as I go. Can I share the finished recipe? Hmmm…maybe that’s my secret. Enjoy some of the visits I have had the opportunity to mix-up.
- 2009 Story Telling Festival
- TEAM SPINEY
- Team Spiney holding up the pictures.
- We love Mrs. Dietz’s Class!
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