actorartathleteauthorbizcrimecrosspostcustomerservicedirectoredufoodgaminghealthjournalistmedicalmilmodpostmunimusicnewsworthynonprofitotherphilpolretailscispecialisedspecializedtechtourismtravelunique

I am Rachelle Friedman Chapman aka "The Paralyzed Bride". I am a 27 y/o quadriplegic. AMA

Feb 27th 2013 by Rollingonwheelz • 48 Questions • 1695 Points

In the summer of 2010, at my bachelorette party, one of my best friends playfully pushed me into a pool. My head hit the bottom of the pool, and two of my vertebra shattered. The broken vertebra damaged my spinal cord enough to leave me permanently paralyzed from the chest down. At that moment, my world fell apart, but I stayed as positive as I could be. My fiance at the time(now husband) was away on a camping trip with his family. When he heard the news, he rushed to the hospital, and never once left my side. In the following year, we appeared on various media outlets and talk shows together. It's been a very exhausting but interesting 3 years.

At this point, more than anything, i really would like to work and have a sustainable income. It's incredibly hard to find a job that is compatible with my situation. Constant nerve pain, mobility issues, etc. For the time being, I speak at churches, organizations, and other various groups.

I love meeting and talking to new people. Please add me on twitter, facebook, etc. thanks!

http://www.facebook.com/rachelleandchris?fref=ts

https://twitter.com/FollowRachelle

http://www.rachellefriedman.com

[email protected]

PS - I'm doing my best to answer questions, my typing is somewhat slowwww, but keep them coming!

Q:

What adaptive technology has been the most useful or important for you? What area/tasks would you most like to see more adaptive technology developed for?

A:

The iPad is everything! Unfortunately I have to borrow from my mom but it's the easiest way to type and search the web. I love it. Honestly I don't use a lot of adapted technology. I just find regular things that happen to work, water bottles with thumb loops, grip cases for phone, easy open pill cases. Things like that. I do want some adapted exercise equipment but it can get expensive. I wish they made adapted hair tools for girls!!


Q:

She may be too busy to answer this one at the moment, so I'll answer as per my experience. Mass movements (biceps/triceps for arms, quads/hamstrings for legs) are the easier motions to get back with rehab. I'm not sure how much movement she has, I haven't read this entire thread, but fine motor skills are the hardest to regain. I still have trouble with my right hand 11 years later, and I was lucky enough to be able to walk again.

My guess is she has a large amount of muscle "tone" in her forearms, which help her to grip things. Muscle "tone" as it was explained to me when I was in therapy was the muscle tightening up because it wasn't getting used, and so you can use it to your advantage when paralyzed.

Edited for grammar.

A:

This is right!


Q:

Do you still hold a grudge against the friend who pushed you? Are you still friends with him/her? What has s/he said and what does s/he think about your situation?

A:

I love her and have no grudge. I'm not saying its right but I've horseplayed by a pool and pushed people. I've pushed her. What happened was an accident. She obviously has guilt and it has been a process. She's a lot better. I know she hates seeing me in the chair but this is a situation we have to work through together. She's my girl.


Q:

I consider myself pretty jaded by the internet but that made me tear up.

A:

Aww :)


Q:

Did you feel this way from the beginning? Just after it happened, i mean. Or did you have to work through feelings of anger and resentment? Im not sure how i would feel about it, yes its an accident, but the push was not.

A:

The push was not but ice done the same to her. Ok so I push her 5 times and yay we are joking around! She pushes me and on the 5th push I get hurt. So that makes her the careless evil one? I just didn't see it that way. I was never angry at her


Q:

When stem cells work as we docs like them to , you'll be propably able to walk again in a couple of years.

Edit :Time for work! today , 4 Kids puked at me. I can stand puke , but it's not a enjoyable thing. Blargh.

A:

Docs have been saying that for a while. We will see!


Q:

Meanwhile, how do you feel about robotic exoskeletons for those who cannot be treated with stem cells?

A:

I think they are cool! Right now the are for paras with hand function


Q:

I'm in law school right now, and I just spent the semester reading about ridiculous lawsuits; like when an aunt sued her 6 year old nephew for pulling a chair out from under her, or when a 9 year old's parents were sued because their child pushed a 6 year old. Your case would be a slam-dunk for a personal injury suit.

That you were able to forgive your friend gives me faith in humanity. You have all of my upvotes for not contributing to the over-litigious culture in America.

A:

Thanks so much! Yea I just don't believe in that. Plus what would I really get out of suing my 20 something yr old best friend?


Q:

What was your husband's reaction to the fact that your relationship with him would never be the exact same? And how did it change, exactly, other than the fact that he has to help you out a lot more? Very cool to have you here!

A:

Well things did change but I can't say in a bad way at all. Obviously our sex life is different. There were no "logistics" before and we could be way more spontaneous. Now we have sex of course but probably less because I might be in pain or something like that. Money is a factor because we were pretty even on that level before and now we rely on his teacher salary. So it does add stress but we work through it. I'd say we are more passionate and clingy with each other. I think we are just so happy because my injury could have been worse. We are lucky to have each other.


Q:

Can you feel the sex? Is it at all enjoyable for you? What would happen if you got pregnant?

Please, i hope i am not offending you. I am just very curious, and you seem very open about your situation and willing to share.

I have great respect for you.

A:

I've answered the sex question A LOT on here :). I can. And I hope to get pregnant sometime


Q:

not trying to be crass, but do you still have feelings "down there"? I am not very educated on paralyzing injuries. Is everything from your chest down not working? forgive my ignorance please.

A:

Paralyzed from chest down completely. I have no feeling but my body still reacts


Q:

Congratulations on your marriage! I was really moved by your story and your resilience of spirit. Have you always been a person who was able to handle the hard stuff in life? In what ways has your abrupt physical disability changed who you are as a person?

A:

Thank you so much!! It's hard to say because I've never been faced with something like this but I'm just a logical person I guess. I had a great support system and I had Chris (love of my life). He deserved to have the girl he planned to marry. I don't mean physically but emotionally. I remained my funny, joking, outgoing self for me and all those around me. I think I get a little more reserved around new people because I have no grip to shake their hand. I do appreciate life more!


Q:

There was another AMA from a quadriplegic a while back that went in to agonizing detail about the nightmare that was him having no control over his bowels. Is that true of you and most quadriplegics as well?

A:

Yes anyone from the waist down will most often have this problem. Some paralyzed people can feel but be paralyzed. So that helps. Usually a suppository is used. I personally have a device to do my own digital stimulation. As long as you go on a consistent schedule you shouldn't have accidents


Q:

How do you feel about stem cell research?

A:

I'm 100% for it. I was before the accident and I am after. I have a friend who traveled to Israel after his accident for stem cells. He was my level of injury and got his hands back


Q:

Do you know the time scale with which stem cell treatment might be a viable option for yourself?

A:

It's impossible to say


Q:

Have you ever considered writing a book? While I have had some poor luck with my own writing, I think in a situation like yours people would really like to hear your story. (Not to mention you could make some money at it?)

A:

I am writing a book!! I just recently signed with a publisher. There is barely any money up front but hopefully it will sell well!


Q:

I think you would be an excellent candidate for Google glass. Go to their website and apply. You are an amazing person and hope you find a stable job you enjoy.

A:

Ill have to look into it!


Q:

Something similar happened to my mother when she was 30. She was pushed out of bed by her fiance, did a forward roll, and severed her spinal cord. She was completely paralyzed from the neck down.

My tip for you: keep at your PT. My mom was completely paralyzed for over 3 years before she starting making some progress. She can walk now (after YEARS of work, and with a lot of difficulty); she's somewhat of an anomaly, because her doctors still aren't entirely sure what caused the recovery (she has the same injury as Christopher Reeve if it helps).

A:

Well some people are complete and some are incomplete. I wish I could do more pt but I can afford it. My insurance deductible is too high


Q:

If you're near any university that has a PT degree program, maybe consider contacting them for some pro bono therapy. That's what our program does. It helps students for the future and helps patients achieve more than they could while under the leash of the insurance company.

Edit: And I don't know about your state, but Arkansas' physical therapy association is in talks with our state legislature to get co-pays to a more acceptable level for patients. As of now, we are considered specialist care and co-pays are higher, which results in non-compliance of patients. We're trying (and I think our representatives agree) to get primary-care co-pay schedules to be the norm in our care so that it's easier on the wallet of the patient, and we don't see a increase or decrease in reimbursement.

A:

Interesting. Thanks for the idea!


Q:

What did you enjoyed doing before the accident and what do you enjoy doing now?

A:

I. Loved. DANCING! Danced from time I was little and beyond. Took hip hop and ballroom dance in high school. Loved working out too but now I need special equipment to do that. Loved wake boarding, snowboarding, tennis. You name it. Now I play a sport called wheelchair rugby for the Raleigh sidewinders. I handcycle too


Q:

Dear Rachelle, You play wheelchair rugby? You are awesome! I've always wanted to see that. I play sled hockey for the Spacecoast Hurricanes, we're hoping to get the hockey team from Raleigh to play us....if we end up in Raleigh, I would love to meet you.

A:

I want to try hockey!


Q:

As someone who loves to dance, I can imagine how hard that would be. However, what is the best thing that has come out of the accident?

A:

It sounds corny but I know I've impacted people's lives and it makes me feel like the accident was not in vain


Q:

How did you and your husband meet?

A:

I like this question. Perfection. If I were to describe my life in one word before the accident, that's what it would be be. I had graduated college from east Carolina university and headed towards Raleigh to settle down with the love of my life. Chris and I had met in college at a party on Halloween weekend my freshman year. I was actually super interested in his friend but chris was part of that group and of course we made friendly conversation. I asked him if he had ever salsa danced before as i was determined to teach anyone my skills on the dance floor. I grabbed him and started to teach. "where are you from!" I yelled over the music and drunken frat guys.  "Virginia Beach". What a crazy coincidence. We grew up in the same town only to meet for the first time in north Carolina.  From that night on we remained very close, but I could have never imagine that this guy would be my future devoted husband. We had so many connections to. My Uncle was his dentist and mine. We went to same community pool and never new each other


Q:

Hello, How are you typing? Is someone typing for you or do you use some contraption to type?

A:

I'm using my moms Ipad to type. I just hit the buttons with my pinky knuckle. I can use a computer but I just put my thumb on a key and press down with my arm muscles. It takes forever though


Q:

Ill be darn. I'm on my S3 and I tried typing this message with only using my pinkie knuckle. That is actually quite difficult. _''

A:

Make your hand a fit :)


Q:

How long did it take for your friends to realize that you were unable to get yourself out of the water. The other question I have is as a person who has had lifeguard training, was there someone there who knew how to properly get you out of the water.

oh and your husband is a true man, he has stayed with you through all of this, he must truly love you

A:

Good question because coincidently I was a lifeguard and so were 2 of the girls. They responded fast but I forgot my training and said get me out of here! We had no backboard. I remember looking all around and moving my head all over the place.

And the man? We are deeply in love


Q:

Do you think your injuries could have been prevented by proper medical procedures immediately after the accident?

4 years ago, I overshot the landing of a ski jump and impacted pretty hard. While not particularly painful, I didn't move after the fall and was placed on a backboard with a neck brace as a safety precaution.

Found out in the emergency room that I broke my T12 vertebrae. Since then, I've made a full recovery. I'd like to think that the proper medical attention from the start help me come out okay and I always think about how things could have been different.

I'm so glad that you have kept a positive attitude. It really shows how strong humans can be!

A:

I really don't think so. The impact was pretty severe


Q:

As a man living with a disability which severely limits me in many ways I just want to say that your story is inspiring. Thanks for being a source of hope.

A:

That means a lot to me. Thank you!


Q:

Obviously, day to day life has changed, but what were some unexpected things that changed in your life?

A:

Oh man this one is tough. I really expected to go back to work within 6 months. But I didn't anticipate the debilitating nerve pain I get in the am and the early morning low blood pressure. On a good day I'm 90/50. I guess I knew I'd have to do things differently. I just thought my routine would return


Q:

There are a lot of prank videos on the internet where it seems increasingly likely for a person to suffer irreversible damage. How do you feel about these videos and do you think that anything should be done to raise awareness of the possibility of these pranks being dangerous?

A:

OMG I watch tosh-o and it freaks me out. I guess there should be water ness but I mean pranks are still going to happen.


Q:

Have you discussed children with each other or with a doctor? I don't really know much about quadriplegic pregnancies but I can't imagine it would be easy.

Sorry if its kind of personal, just really interested. Also best of luck to you and your husband regardless!

A:

We have discussed it. My issue is I take meds for low blood pressure that I won't be able to take. I may just be bed ridden. But that's just me. Manu people with spinal cord injuries have easy pregnancies.


Q:

I'm really sorry for your situation; but really happy to hear that you have a good person by your side.

A:

Thanks so much! I get down every now and then but then remember how super lucky I am to have him.


Q:

Wheelchair rims. Is that a thing?

A:

Oh yea!! My chair has spinners!


Q:

Thanks, I laughed so hard I woke up my husband! lol You are awesome, I would hope that if anything like this were to ever happen to me, I would be even half as aw as-inspiring as you!

A:

But really I'm not kidding. I have spinners. Check out my fb page :)


Q:

I'm sorry if this is too personal, but will you be able to have children? And if not, how does your husband feel about it?

A:

Yes and we want kids badly. The spinal cord controls muscles so everything else is in working order. Once we get financially straight we are going to have one


Q:

How is your friend doing that pushed you? Was it hard to forgive him/her?

A:

She had a really really hard time but its getting better. I think it helps when I tell her about the good things that have come out of this. It was not hard to forgive because it was an accident. I've pushed people before


Q:

What is your favorite thing to Do sexually before the accident and now?

Are you able to orgasm still?

A:

Before the accident I had sex quite often. I didn't enjoy anything over the other I just liked having orgasms! I was a really sexual person so this has been difficult. But I am more sensitive on places like my neck and I really enjoy sex. I don't climax like I used to but I do get excited. And oddly enough my body feels relaxed after.


Q:

I know it's not related to your answer, but just wanted to tell you that your screen name is hilarious.

Glad to see that you still have a great sense of humor!

A:

:)


Q:

How does quadriplegic sex work? Sorry if it's too personal, but it sounds like you've accepted the change. Are there particular ways it needs to be done? Medical issues that arise because of the lack of control you have over your body? Do you still feel it? What is his opinion? Have you had to negotiate anything extramarital or are you fine with the current circumstances? Is there anything you wish existed to help you, but doesn't?

A:

Noooo. Nothing outside of marriage. We are still 2 people in love and I don't deserve that. We still have sex it's just different. Can't be switching positions often.


Q:

How does your husband feel about having sex with a quadripalegic? Was there a period of time after the accident where you abstained from sex? If so how long? When did you decide you were ready for sex again?

A:

We didn't have it until towards the end of rehab. Mostly because we didn't have a big enough bed or privacy!


Q:

Are you able to orgasm since the accident, or is it more an emotional high after sex?

A:

Emotional. But my body feels some kind of release. Still trying to figure it out


Q:

A sex question was inevitable, we all know it.

A:

Or 5,000 sex questions :)


Q:

I was always under the impression that quadriplegic couldn't use their arms.

As I'm sure there are lot's of people out there like me can you explain a little more about the differences as I honestly have no idea when someone says I'm X-plegic what it means.

A:

Good question!! Paraplegic means impairment in 2 limbs. You could be a walking para because you could have a spinal cord injury but still be able to walk short distances or with crutches. Quadriplegic means impairment in 4 limbs. I'm a c6. I have no dexterity and limited tricep strength. Again. You can be a walking quad. The higher the injury the worse paralysis. Does that help?


Q:

How if at all has your relationship changed with your friend? Do they treat you any differently, or do you?

A:

Well it was different in the beginning. Like the elephant in the room. I mean it's hard to act normal in our situation. But I love her to death and we talk everyday. Things are way more normal now. As far as treating her differently I'm just very cautious about her feelings. Don't like to talk about the negative side of the injury around her


Q:

Tell us about the process of forgiving your friend.

A:

I know this is hard to believe but I never had to forgive her because I never really blamed her. As I was lying on the side of the pool I was worried about her.


Q:

As I was lying on the side of the pool I was worried about her.

Please, you are making my problems seem so petty and my gripes like so much pointless whining. Leave me some self-respect.

A:

Lol


Q:

How is your financial situation,?? Does disability take care of you? Or insurance?

A:

My financial situation is difficult. I did not qualify for SSI because I was right out of college and hadn't worked enough to pay into the system. I qualified for Medicaid but at a crazy high monthly deductible I couldn't afford. I do get long term disability through my old job which is 60% of my old salary which was under 30k. And Chris is a teacher. So you can imagine our combined income isn't much. On top of that I pay $625 a month for insurance.


Q:

Are you a religious person? If so, how does that affect your attitude toward research (stem cells etc) that could benefit you some day?

A:

I'm not super religious. Just spiritual and moral