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The Nathaniel Washington Story; a Personal Profile of Courage, Hope and Faith in the face of Adversity

 

Ė one manís inspirational account of his personal struggle to cope with and overcome the obstacles of  living with a spinal cord injury to lead a productive life in his community.

Nathaniel WashingtonI would like to ask that you close your eyes for a brief moment in time and imagine what your everyday life would be like if you woke up one day and found that your legs were paralyzed and you were forced to use a wheelchair to get around. You now must rely upon others for the performance of simple everyday tasks of self care such as preparing a meal, going shopping, dressing, and even going to the bathroom. This is world of an individual who sustains a spinal cord injury that I have entered. Having a disability such as a spinal cord injury is an experience that changes your life as well as the lives of those around you forever and makes daily survival in this complex world far more difficult and challenging in every way, both for myself and for those who must care for me. 
 
On July 7, 1991 my life as I knew it underwent a dramatic life altering change when I suffered a T-11 spinal cord injury that left me a paraplegic from the waist down. In a split second, I went from being a totally independent person to someone who was almost completely dependent on others to assist me with the simplest functions of daily life. My initial psychological reaction to my newly acquired status was one of depression and mourning for the loss of the activities in my life that I once was able to engage in that gave me feelings of pleasure and personal accomplishment such as riding a bike, playing sports like basketball and baseball with children, and running in the park on a warm summer day. Gone forever are these life affirming physical activities. All that is left are the memories of what was as I look out at the world from my wheelchair and think about what my life might have been like had I not sustained the spinal cord injury that caused me to become disabled. If it were not for strong religious faith and the loving support that I have received from family and friends, I would not have the strength to go on. I am fortunate to also  have a team of wonderful dedicated professional caregivers: my physician, a nurse, as well as others who see to it that my physical and emotional needs are met and support my efforts to lead as productive a life as I can with my disability. My faith gives me the courage to deal with my adversity constructively and whatever obstacles may come my way. My faith has taught me to be a survivor, not a victim, and to deal with life on its own. I survived a very traumatic ordeal that many others would not have survived. I have been given a second chance at life which I plan to utilize to serve as a beacon of hope for others like myself.

I have done a considerable amount of research on my medical condition and have learned that the vast majority of individuals that sustain a spinal cord injury such as the one I did tend to suffer from a host of medical maladies that have a considerable negative impact on a personís overall quality of life and length of survival. These physical and emotional conditions include weight and digestive problems, lower bone density, diabetes, heart, circulation, and mental health disorders. I want to share my story because my disability does not define who I am as a person and how I live my life. My life is not so different from other individuals in our society; I engage in normal activities of daily life, even though I must do these activities from the confines of a wheelchair. I attend church on a regular basis with my family, mentor my children, and participate in community activities such as going to the local post office to mail letters, running errands, and grocery shopping. My religious faith is my strength that gets me through each day and gives me the courage to overcome obstacles and move forward in my life in a positive direction. With the assistance I have received, I have made the adjustments necessary to have a meaningful life of purpose that is helping me to prosper and grow as an individual of worth in society.
      
About Nathaniel Washington

I reside in a small town called Holly Hill in Orangeburg County in South Carolina. I am a 54-year-old adult male who has worked as a sports coach and advisor to young people my entire career.  The traumatic accident that disabled me in the early 1990s changed my life in many ways and gave me a renewed sense of purpose so that I may inspire other disabled people to become the best they can be, despite whatever adversity life places in their path.

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