It was the week after school started and the holiday weekend was here. Unfortunately,
I didn’t get back. Sept. 2, 2001, I was injured in a powered parachute
accident. During take off, an unexpected gust of wind caused the aircraft to
crash into the field, giving me a C5 spinal cord injury. Most people remember
that September for the terrorist attacks. I was unaware of such happenings until
later, since my focus was recovering from pneumonia and trying to get off a ventilator. After
85 days in the Hershey Medical Center,
I left for home.
You are never prepared for the emotional roller coaster that follows. The best thing for me was to re-engage into things I did before I was hurt. Just writing my name was a big hurdle to get over, let alone weight shifts, therapy, and battling the
mental blocks. I started tutoring at my house, took an online grad course and
got myself out of the house as much as possible.
Every day, month, year, my strength increased whether I paid attention or not.
I learned to lean on family and
friends to help me step back into life. Some days I begged to get out, while
other days they pulled me out. Every day, month, year, my strength increased
whether I paid attention or not. Goal setting drives me. I dream big and do what I can to get there. Frequently,
I make myself celebrate the things I am able to do. Daily, I give thanks for
what I have. Before I go to sleep, I replay my high points. I’m limited in how I can give to others, but I finally realized how to make that happen without
lifting a finger.
“Tough times never last, tough people do.”
of the hardest challenges for me was to write about my life changing event. I think writing is a great form of therapy.
It has a definite connection with the healing process. I never thought of writing as a form of therapy, but upon its
conclusion I realized the impact it had on me. I would definitely encourage others to find a way to communicate their
life changing events or daily challenges, thoughts, etc., as a way of recovering.
is basically back to “normal”. I just do things differently, and for the majority of the time I am ok with that. On
the days I’m not, I have a choice. I can try to work it out, engage in
life or I can disengage and watch life pass me by. Unfortunately, I do have
bad days, who doesn’t, but, they do not define me.
Currently, I am teaching part-time at
Ebenezer Elementary school. I wrote a children’s book, bought a house, became an aunt, fell in love…disability
does not slow me down. Since December 2005, my life has been a whirlwind of opportunity.
You can check out my website to see some of the neat things that have happened!
www.spineyadventures.com or www.michellemariewhite.com
What is the book about?
During take off, the powered parachute
was thrown off by a sudden gust of wind, causing the craft to come down. Shelly broke her neck at the C-5 level, resulting
in a spinal cord injury. Returning to work as a teacher, she needed a way to explain her injury to her students and
As a result, Spiney, the lead character
in her book "New Opportunities" was born. "New Opportunities" is a true account of Shelly's real-life confrontation with disability.
Spiney is a porcupine that experiences an accident resulting in spinal cord injury. Through Spiney, Shelly teaches the
reader three important lessons – that having a disability does not have to hold you back, that when you get “stuck”
you must keep looking for ways to overcome, and that it is cool to do things differently from others.
Shelly realized that both children and adults needed to be educated about
spinal cord injury and overcoming obstacles. The story has provided her with a teaching resource to use with people of all
age levels. For younger audiences, it teaches that it is cool to be different. For older children and adults, it is a
story of inspiration and pursuing dreams.
Shelly presents her story to schools,
church groups, girl scout groups, etc. Contact her if you are interested in having her talk to your group.
Remarks from Family and Friends