Jesi Stracham

On January 18th, 2015 my life changed in a way I never expected. It was a beautiful 60 degrees in Charlotte, North Carolina, a perfect day to go on a motorcycle ride.

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On January 18th, 2015 my life changed in a way I never expected.  It was a beautiful 60 degrees in Charlotte, North Carolina, a perfect day to go on a motorcycle ride.  I jumped on the back of the R1 like I had many times before. We left the traffic light, gaining speed quickly when I saw the SUV going for the u-turn.  I began hitting the driver of the bike, screaming, but he didn’t stop.  I closed my eyes and tucked into the driver's back.  The last thing I heard was metal crunching before everything went black.

The first week in the hospital was a blur. I barely recall the many visitors I had.  What I do remember is a dream of my deceased grandmother telling me it wasn’t my time and I also remembered my parents saying they enrolled me in a clinical trial and that it was my only hope at recovery.  At first, I didn’t take the situation seriously because of the trial.  I was sure the trial would work and I would only be paralyzed for a few months…even though I was only the second person in the world to receive the neuro-spinal scaffold. After I became healthy enough, I was sent to an inpatient rehabilitation where I learned the skills to live as a new paraplegic. After 3 long months I was finally going home, not realizing the obstacles that lay ahead. 

Then things changed.  Shortly after my two year mark and a follow up with the trial where I was told I had no improvement, I fell in a hotel room and couldn’t get myself up. I posted a meltdown video on YouTube that gained over 40,000 views.  I quickly realized I had a platform to inspire people to live the life they want, but my negative attitude wasn’t doing anything except bringing me down.  I went home from that trip with a new perspective on life. 

I started working out and changed my diet. I started regaining sensation and small movements. I had to make the decision to work. I put in work daily, both physically and mentally.  Some days it feels like I’m moving backwards. This is beyond taxing.  Without regular meditation and self-care, I break down. 

That’s the thing about tragedy.  It isn’t prejudice. It doesn’t care about your age, social class, race, gender. It can affect anyone at any moment. After you are hit with this life changing event YOU must make a choice. Do you give up? Or do you use it as an opportunity to live life to the fullest?

Despite the hardship, I would never take back this injury.  I have a lot of gratitude for the journey my injury has taken me on; it has been more than incredible. It has taught me how important helping others is. It has taught me to open my eyes to a different perspective on life. But most importantly, it has taught me what strength is.

My motto is “stay grateful, stay humble, stay hungry”. Each day I express gratitude for not only what I currently have, but what is coming to be. I feel grateful that I get to be on a journey as incredible as mine has been.  And to think it is only the beginning. I list all of my opportunities; giving myself reason to remain humble throughout them.  Lastly, I list what I am hungry for. What is it I want to accomplish? What are my goals I want to reach? Running through this daily is what keeps my day aligned and my goals on track.

We are disabled by other people’s standard idea of life. We are so busy trying to please others and we don’t take the time to take care of ourselves. People will try to limit your dreams because they don’t believe they can do it.  THEY AREN’T YOU. Take back your life. With consistent work, the life you want is available to you.

I hope as you view this photo and read my story, you feel empowered. The life you want is yours for the taking. It’s about making the choice. You have what it takes to live the life you want. #wheelwithme.