Where do I begin? When, after 26 years, everything about your life changes in a second, how can you put that into words? The best way to describe my life was work hard, play hard. I can honestly say that I loved life, tried to live it to its fullest, and family and friends were definitely at the center of it. Rarely would you find me home on a weekend…I loved to travel, spend time outside, anything but sit still. Then, in a split second, doing what I love, I suffered a C1-C2 spinal fracture and have been paralyzed from the neck down ever since. Maybe I’m lucky…I had already done more in the first part of my life than many do in an entire lifetime. Those memories are what motivate me. When you live and love everyday life that much and it’s suddenly gone, it’s what drives you to have it back.
From day one, my family was told I probably wouldn’t wake up, if I even made it through the night and at best I would not only be paralyzed but severely brain damaged. Miraculously, I remember almost everything and after two years, I’m in bad shape but a thousand times better than what the experts predicted. Through the amazing care I’ve received, opportunities for advanced therapy, support and prayers of family and friends, I have seen improvements that never should have happened. I can breathe and talk on a pacer, feel pain throughout my entire body, ignite most major muscle groups, and wiggle my fingers and toes with concentration. Most importantly, doctors reclassified me from a complete to an incomplete injury. What does that mean…no one really knows except that it’s a sign of things to come. To me, it’s a way of showing everyone who told me what I physically couldn’t do what, in fact, I will do…get back the life I once had. For two years, that is what has inspired me most.
I have also gained strength through the support and well wishes of others. In the hospital, I heard from many people that maintaining friendships was often difficult and, sometimes, impossible. I can’t express how fortunate I have been. My friends and family have stood by me unconditionally. In fact, I have reconnected with people that I haven’t heard from in years and even made many new friends. For those who know me well, I have always loved being able to connect people; throwing parties and bringing friends together. That is one thing I miss the most and the desire to start a foundation derives from this. Bringing people together and being able to “work” again while helping others gives me a small piece of “my life” back. To see just a glimpse of what my friends have done for me and get to know me better you can read my story at www.caringbridge.org and visit kalipung.
To view an article about Kali in the Alma College Alumni Magazine