When I remember the past I remember good times in the fire department when the biggest obstacle I had was raising a ladder without losing my gloves. OUCH! I remember being so fast on my feet around the hospital that I saw 2-3 times more patients every day compared to coworkers. Best of all, I remember graduate school and my days as a climatologist at NOAA. I was the first one in the office and the last one to leave. All those long hours paid off when I spoke at a national conference about my research. Soon people started calling me at home about my research and the “Adrienne effect” was named. Next thing I know, I wake up at 2am in the morning laying in a pool of blood. I haven't been to work since.
Ten years later, I am still looking to return to the work force. I still have all the same skills and leadership qualities. Along the way, I have acquired many new skills and new passions. It all started the day I found out I had a progressive form of muscle paralysis, an extremely rare condition that I rarely ever go into detail about. I remember the day I got my wheelchair. I left that hunk of steel in the car so I didn't have to look at it. Not being able to stand anymore, I gave in the next day and went to a wheelchair basketball event; quickly realized basketball wasn't for me. On day three, I went to a racquetball court to figure out how to play pickleball in a wheelchair. The fourth day came and I started playing table tennis. Eventually I started playing wheelchair rugby too.
Flash forward about one year later, I have friends calling me stating someone has proposed a park and want's to talk to me about helping make it inclusive.(www.dispatchnews.com/2015/04/30/all-can-...on-at-lake-kapowsin/) Today I lead the initiative to make para-pickleball a competitive sport. (www.theolympian.com/news/local/article31041666.html) I have hopes of being a leader nationally for inclusion projects including adaptive sports. Inclusion is one of those things that I feel comes with a personal sacrifice. There was a time when every week, someone got in my face yelling at me about something I did or didn't do. Then one day someone said, “if you wanna have a good game don't play with Adrienne.” This time I made it known to everyone watching or listening “that is hurtful.” Then she responded “Adrienne you are a shi*. You suck and you will always suck. Better get use to it now.” She tells me “you know,” and then I stopped her by stating “I don't care what you think, I only care what I think and I think I will get better.”
Soon a lot of people just started refusing to play with me.(www.seattletimes.com/opinion/its-time-to...tes-use-wheelchairs/) Turns out that was one of the best things for me and my game. Finally I began playing with people who gave me a chance at those shots that seemed impossible. Thereafter I started hanging on to those shots to get me through the next derogatory statement and condescending mannerism. Although I still had all my physical issues to deal with, it seemed it was the mental game that kept me from wondering if I should keep trying. In my sleep I dreamt about that shot I made. Then I started thinking about the next milestone shot. All of a sudden, I had something to look forward to. Soon I started even making friends on the court. Then my car engine blew up and all my competitive and paralympic dreams in table tennis and rugby were of the past. I thought I wouldn't even make it to pickleball anymore.
It has been about 6 months now and those few people who didn't refuse to play with me began giving me rides. I continue to play pickleball. Today when I enter a game, I hear comments like “you have skills.” “I'd rather play with you than against you.” After many trials and tribulations it seems my mission of inclusion is more readily being accepted.
Today I feel like I have been reborn. I finally realized that what I was experiencing was the hardest part of letting go and starting over; finding my new beginning. Today I coach para-pickleball and look forward to traveling (still depending on rides) and spreading the impact of para-pickleball, adaptive sports and inclusion. I will never paint a rosy picture of what one can expect but I will advocate, whole heatedly, for those seeking their new beginning too.
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