1. My name is Earlasha Williams.
2. I was injured on May 2, 2000.
3. My injury level is C1-C7 (Cervical Left) Incomplete.
4. Life threw me a curveball that literally knocked me flat on my back! It rocked me to the core of my very soul. Two short months after giving birth to my daughter, a massive tumor was discovered growing inside of my spinal cord. I underwent a nine hour surgery to have the tumor removed. The benign mass, an Ependymoma, was successfully detached in its entirety. However, it was entwined within my nerves. Therefore, my spine had to be severely manipulated in order to completely eradicate the growth. As a result of that procedure, I became an instant quadriplegic – paralyzed from the neck down – and fully dependent upon a respirator to help me breathe.
By the grace of God and my tireless efforts, I have advanced from quadriplegic (paralyzed from the neck down) to hemiplegic (paralyzed/severe weakness on one side). I have regained:
The ability to breathe on my own
Bladder, bowel and moderate trunk control
Use of my right side and some use of my left side
The capability to rise up into a standing position - from my power wheelchair - with minimal assistance
Take several steps with my Rifton walker, in spite of the overpowering tone, hyperextension and spasticity in my left leg. (I am now able to independently step and/or drag my leg forward, before my caregiver has to advance it for me. My movement and rhythmatic pattern is slow and oftentimes looks robotic (lol), but I'm moving!
Despite my advancements, I am still wheelchair bound and require the maximum assistance from my caregiver’s to perform all of the simple, basic functions of everyday living. The past 17 years have definitely been the most tumultuous times of my life! Outside of being a dedicated and dutiful mother, I have also been a SCI Advocate and a determined overcomer, throughout these challenging times.
I have been a member of the UC Davis Medical Center’s SCI support group for the past 14 years. Additionally, I became a volunteer administrative assistant to the group facilitator as well as a certified peer counselor. Throughout the years, I have been responsible for performing various duties: administrative services, counseling and encouraging newly injured victims and their family members, aiding and assisting other survivors with interviewing and hiring new caregivers, locating and securing accessible housing, transportation, grants and accessing other local community resources for the disabled. I thoroughly enjoy all of my responsibilities, and I am very passionate about my work. Although my life has been forever changed, I truly believe that I was predestined to be at this place in my life right now. I have always been a humanitarian and a great support to those in need, but now I am an advocate as well! My tragedy has become a triumph because it has enabled me to be an inspiration and a living testimony to others.
5. The Be Perfect Foundation awarded me a $2,500 scholarship to participate in an aggressive exercise-based therapy program at SCI – FIT. Their charity afforded me an opportunity to embark upon and explore a new path on my quest for healing. The last several years I have been doing aquatic therapy with my caregiver. The only person that has not abandoned or given up on me is God! He has been my biggest cheerleader until most recently. After joining SCI – FIT, I have gained a newfound support system and formed some new friendships. Being in a therapeutic environment is not only healthy, but it is also rewarding and stimulating as well. Likewise, breaking up the monotony of my regular therapy routine has been extremely beneficial to my recovery. I am pushing past my limitations and discovering my strengths. The Be Perfect Foundation's monetary assistance has helped me to make the otherwise impossible, achievable!
6. Sadly, the medical system is rigged! My insurance provider will only pay to keep me comfortable and wheelchair-bound. They are only willing to pay for basic, traditional physical therapy, which includes a yearly cap amount. Therefore, being able to attend SCI – FIT would have simply remained a dream, if it were not for the Be Perfect Foundation! They unquestionably restored my hope, through their actions and efforts to facilitate SCI survivors with the reaching their therapy goals.
7. Since I have been attending SCI – FIT, I have gained some invaluable rehab knowledge and tips. I have learned about some aspects of the human anatomy and the specific muscle groups that I need to target and strengthen. In particular, I have discovered that my rectus femoris – it is a teardrop-shaped muscle that is attached to my kneecap – is severely weakened. It is the primary reason why the hyperextension in my left leg is so strong. More so, it is the culprit that is hindering me during my gait and ambulation training. Once I re-strengthen it, I will regain the ability to bend and straighten my knee with ease. This upturn will ultimately be a breaking point in my recovery process because I'll be able to initiate my steps with more ease and control.
8. Some of the goals that I have set for myself are to tighten my core, strengthen my left side and be able to get down on my knees. I am proud to say that I have achieved these goals to a certain degree. I no longer need my daughter's full support to do sit ups, while my wheelchair backrest is at a 70° angled tilt. I've strengthen my abs to the point of being able to perform the motion by myself. I have lost 2 inches in my waistline, and my quad belly is not as extended as it used to be. I have regained some more strength in both of my left extremities - triceps and biceps in my arm; quad muscle in my thigh, hamstring muscle in my calf and dorsiflexion in my ankle. Also, I am now able to sit on my knees without being in severe pain for the first time in well over 10 years. I wasn't confident about attempting to assume the position, however my trainer at SCI-FIT encouraged and pushed me beyond my fears. In that very moment, I truly learned that my abilities far outweigh my disabilities!
9. My pressing future goals are to secure enough grant funds to continue attending SCI-FIT and find a part-time job that will allow me to telecommute from home. I altered my original desired schedule, in an effort to stretch out my current grant funds. Even still, my membership is at risk because once they are completely depleted, I will no longer be able to participate in the program. Also, I am in desperate need to secure a part-time job to help supplement my income. Living on a reduced, fixed monthly income is extremely challenging. Especially, for a disabled single mother. All of my volunteer efforts are noble, however they do not pay any of my bills. When my daughter goes off to college shortly, my nighttime care will fall solely on my elderly mother. My daytime caregiver consumes all of my state hours, helping me to meet all of my major needs throughout the day. The only way that I can pay for a nighttime caregiver is out of my own pocket, which means I need to earn some extra income to help pay for those services. Some of my future goals are to:
Learn how to walk again.
Further my higher education to achieve a Masters Degree in Human Services in Social Work to counsel and advocate for SCI Survivors.
Start my own nonprofit organization to provide quality-of-life grants to SCI survivors for a host of various needs.
10. Sponsors, I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank you for your generous donations that you have made to the Be Perfect Foundation . Your blessings provided me with a grant to attend SCI-Fit. Your contributions and goodwill has afforded me the opportunity to maximize my recovery and totally improve my overall welfare! I undoubtedly would not be able to explore this newfound journey, without your monetary support because the membership fees are simply astronomical. Living with challenges and limitations are an everyday part of a spinal cord injury survivor's life. Obviously, the most devastating impact is the loss of mobility. However, simply struggling to survive on a limited monthly income is equally difficult. Endeavoring to pay for the sizable, out-of-pocket membership fees myself would have definitely been an impossible mission. I unquestionably would not have received a favorable outcome in the situation, if it were not for the aid and benefits that I received from the Be Perfect Foundation. Thank you for filling in the gap, where my insurance coverage has lapsed. I am humbled and extremely grateful that you chose their foundation to bless because you could've easily chosen another one. In closing, your offerings are truly a refuge and catalyst for helping to improve the quality of life for disabled individuals. Once more, thank you very much for your benevolence, efforts and assistance.