Michelle Carston: Resiliency

Recently, I watched a documentary on The Learning Channel, Paralyzed and Pregnant, 4 Years Later. The woman documented in the film, Michelle Carston, was 23 and on vacation when she was injured, leaving her with a permanent C5 injury. Paralyzed and Pregnant, 4 Years Later is the story of her life as a woman, as a mother, and as a human being, who just happens to be a quadriplegic.

This amazing story looks at the life of a woman with a disability, raising her four-year-old son, and enjoying life. She shows us how her acquired disability takes an enormous amount of energy and a new acceptance of her limitations and strengths; she tells how she was able to move on from her disability. When she first had her accident, her doctors told her she would never be able to feel anything; however, in about a year’s time, she regained some of the feeling in her toes and also has limited function in her arms. In the video, she stated, “My life was like a light switch that just flipped. I went from knowing myself as one person, to having to relearn to a whole new person. I switched into…survival mode. I had to relearn everything.”

Michelle states that after her injury she had to discover the ‘new’ Michelle. On a daily basis, Michelle endures hardship; she is unable to sit upright in her wheelchair and needs around the clock care in order to get dressed, be lifted into her wheelchair, and eat. Paralyzed from the neck down, she is fully dependent on her live-in caretaker for her basic needs, including transportation. Michelle passes out on occasion, requires medication for frequent bladder infections, and there is a very possible risk that she won’t live long enough to see her son grow up. She doesn’t let these obstacles deter her from living life. Michelle dates, goes out with her friends, has birthday parties for her son, and is the life of the party. Michelle utilizes a video camera and radio to talk to her son from her bedroom. In addition, she uses other assistive technology devices and adaptive equipment so she can use the internet, brush her hair, hold a telephone receiver, and put on her own makeup.

This documentary is a great example of how strong-will and determination is a prerequisite in living a productive and meaningful life, with or without having a disability. In the face of adversity, Michelle shows us that even though she lives with a disability, she is able to do the things she always dreamed of: getting married, giving birth, raising her son, and having loving people surround her. Here is a woman, who, in spite of having a disability, learned how to make the best of her situation and accept her ‘new’ self. Michelle is a great example of learning how to be our best self, and not allowing disability to prevent us from moving forward in life.

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