Living Life to the Fullest as a Quadriplegic

 

In this touching interview Tracy Todd opens up about her life after a tragic car accident in South Africa claimed more than just her physical abilities.

 

Facing challenges that surpass most people's understanding, Todd shows how she has found the courage to not only continue living but to do so richly and meaningfully. In this article she speaks about what she has lost but also about what she has gained throughout her incredible journey.

 

Dealing With Loss

 

Todd not only had to come to terms with losing her ability to move freely but also suffered the loss of her husband, her home, her career and custody of her son as a direct result of her spinal cord injury.

 

She explains that she got divorced from her husband a year after the accident and that custody of their son was awarded to him. She was also a full-time teacher before the accident. "The most difficult thing I've had to come to terms with has been my total and utter loss of privacy and independence," she says.

 

Living as a quadriplegic also means that there are many things that Todd cannot do anymore, such as walking barefoot on the beach or clapping her hands. When asked what she missed most she explained that she missed the small things in life such as reaching out to someone, especially her son, and giving them a hug. "Being able to draw someone you love deeply into your own personal space and feel the love and warmth flow between you is a joy and basic human need that most people take for granted. I miss being able to dance to the sound of good music. I miss being able to laugh out loud until my tummy aches. The list is endless," she confesses.

 

Choosing a Meaningful Life in the Face of Adversity

 

"If I were to be very honest, I would have to admit that I have not totally made peace with what happened but I choose to live a full, meaningful life. In order to get on with life, I have had to accept the fact that I am paralyzed from my neck down because there is absolutely nothing I can do to change it," she candidly states.

 

However, she explains that she will continue to live in hope that maybe one day, somehow, things will change. "Besides, what is life without hope? In the meantime, life goes on," she says

 

Todd also explains that she allows herself to be down as she thinks that it is normal and necessary. "Everybody has a bad day from time to time. However, I've learned that once I'm in that deep black hole it's very difficult to claw my way out of it again, so I am mindful of not allowing myself to wallow in misery for too long."

 

She says that she prays every day for courage and strength to face each challenge. "When I feel too sorry for myself, I try to take the focus off me. I make an effort to reach out to a friend or stranger in need." She also focuses on what she has and can do instead of what she has lost and what she cannot do. In addition she reminds herself to be grateful as things could be worse. "I find that none of this comes naturally, but rather it is a conscious choice I make to be positive," she reveals.

 

Becoming an Inspirational Speaker

 

Todd says that she has learned many powerful lessons along her journey, such as not taking anything in life for granted. She also says that the mind is the most powerful tool one possesses and most people underestimate the power of the human spirit to fight for survival and existence, no matter what the circumstances.

 

She reveals that she wanted to become an inspirational speaker as she desperately needed to regain some sense of self-worth and wanted to find purpose and value in her life. "I didn't want to continue feeling like I was an oxygen thief or a useless piece of flesh, sitting in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I wanted to make a positive contribution to society," she says.

 

Todd adds that she also wanted to set an example to her son so that he could believe her words that anything is possible if he sets his mind to it. She says that she is inspired and humbled by many things including her son, the beauty and magnificence of the planet, the human spirit which has the ability to triumph over adversity as well as the kindness that she receives from complete strangers.

 

She says that the most rewarding part of being an inspirational speaker is when people open up their hearts, bare their souls and share their personal stories with her. "It is such a privilege to share a part of their lives - their personal joy and pain."

 

Her goals for the future involve being the best possible mother to her son, Chad, who is almost 13, to touch the lives of others and to make a positive difference in the world. She also aims to change mindsets, one at a time, and expose ignorant assumptions towards people living with disabilities and finally to publish a book recounting her extraordinary story. Todd lives by the motto: Why walk when you can soar? These words unveil a glimpse of her indomitable spirit which helps others to find their own wings.