Life on Wheels

NRRTS values the consumer. One facet of our mission is to facilitate the well-being of the consumers our Registrants serve.

These are stories of real people and the challenges they face every day.

Photo of Donelle
Photo of Donelle
Diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when she was six months old, Donelle Henderlong got her first power wheelchair when she was four years old and nothing has stopped her since. Making her way through public school in mainstream classes, many of which were honors classes, after graduation Donelle chose to attend Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana to pursue a teaching degree. “I wanted a traditional college experience away from home and chose Ball State because it is one of the more accessible campuses for people in wheelchairs,” she said. “The school is nationally known for its wheelchair accessibility and its teachers’ college has a great reputation. It is also known as the school that David Letterman attended.”
Photo of John
Photo of John
There was a time in John Morris’ life when he could not envision his “tomorrow” much less imagine it as a “greater” place. Now a dozen years later this has become his mantra. John has used his personal catastrophic experience to help develop a retrofit suspension system for manual wheelchairs that is helping many others and he is helping to make tomorrow a greater place.

John is a C-4 quadriplegic as the result of a snowboarding accident when he was 18 years old. He is very familiar with the difficulties of life in a wheelchair. “Five years after the accident while attending Colorado State University (CSU) I made the switch from an attendant operated tilt-in-space wheelchair to a power chair,” John said. “When I experienced the much smoother ride of the power chair I wondered why it had suspension but the manual wheelchair did not.” A business idea was born.
Photo of Amberley
Photo of Amberley
“At one point after my accident I developed a pressure sore from time in the saddle and my doctor told me I couldn’t ride [my horse] any more. Well, that wasn’t going to happen!” This declaration by then 19-year -old Amberley Snyder perfectly illustrates the grit and determination that has taken her from a life-altering automobile accident eight years ago to the fierce competition of the pro-rodeo circuit today.

Amberley’s love of horses began when she was a child and by the time she was a teenager she was competing in barrel racing, pole bending and breakaway roping. In 2009 the high school senior qualified for the National High School Finals in pole bending and won the National Little Britches Rodeo Association All-Around Cowgirl World Championship. The hard work and competitive spirit that helped Amberley soar in the rodeo arena also made an impact on other areas of her life.
SMA Does Not Define Our Boys
SMA Does Not Define Our Boys
Fraternal twins, Dallas and Dylan Moore were born November 29, 2011 to Dwight and Tiffany Moore. Dallas is the oldest by six minutes and during the first few months the boys developed at what would be considered a normal rate. At six months Dallas and Dylan were able to sit unassisted and had good head control. At ten months Dallas began to “army crawl,” one of the first methods of moving around for most babies and could pull up on his knees into a crawling position. Dylan crawled at six months and was pulling up to stand at eight months.

At this point things, began to change for the boys and their family. With twins, it is essentially impossible for parents not to compare each child with the other. “For a while we thought that Dallas was just an easy-going baby compared to Dylan who was very outgoing and active,” Tiffany said. “But when Dylan began to crawl, pull up and cruise around furniture I began to be very concerned because Dallas couldn’t do these same things.”
The twins’ mother was particularly qualified to take note of potential developmental problems in her young boys. Her younger sister Nicole, who was also a twin, had died from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1, a genetic disease, at age 10. SMA is considered by many as one of the most prevalent genetic disorders and is the most common genetic cause of infant death.
Photo of Brady
Photo of Brady
When Anne Thomas remembers hearing her six-year-old son say “Mom, I love you” for the first time she still feels goosebumps. “After spending the first years of his life with no way to communicate, Brady’s ability to use a communication device to express his feelings and wants was a tremendous blessing.”

Brady, who is now 17, experienced a traumatic delivery and suffered a seizure soon after he was born. “Brady was officially diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy when he was a year old. Early on we knew he would have lifelong challenges, but we were unaware of what degree,” Anne said. “I have been blessed with a wonderful husband, Blake, who is very supportive and a team player. Our youngest son, Matthew is 12 years old and a typical healthy kid. We are both committed one hundred percent to our sons and their care. Blake and I joke that Matthew keeps us on our toes in different ways.” Anne recalled that after being accustomed to Brady not crawling when Matthew started moving about she thought “Oh, my! What am I getting in to?” She further explained how the family handles the responsibilities of their sons. “I didn’t return to work after Brady was born due to his care. Blake and I have a divide and conquer approach with our boys. It’s a team effort.”
Photo of Blake
Photo of Blake
“I just can’t say this enough: make the best of what you’ve got,” Blake Perkins declared. “It may not be beautiful. It may not be poetic. It is what it is and you just have to do your best. ”These are words Blake lives by and this positive example is one of the reasons he was honored as a “Hometown Hero” in 2016 by WBKO, An ABC affiliate television station in his hometown of Bowling Green, KY.

Without this optimistic view of life, there’s no way to know what Blake’s life would be today. Following a motorcycle accident in 2011, he was paralyzed from the waist down. At the time he was attending Western Kentucky University (WKU) with the intention of becoming a Physical Therapist. In an interview for WBKO, Blake explained that immediately following the accident he broke down and was emotional for about a day. “After that it was about how do I get better, how do I get back to living life the way I want to?”
Photo of Madeline
Photo of Madeline
It is difficult when talking with 23-year-old Madeline Delp to believe that this vivacious, outgoing Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina USA was once a shy, withdrawn girl. When she was 10 years old Madeline suffered a debilitating injury to her spine in an automobile accident. “After the accident I was extremely withdrawn and had low self-esteem,” Madeline said. “For so many years I didn’t want to talk about my injury or the pain I was experiencing not only from my injury but other things that were going on in my life.” The young girl who was now using a wheelchair for mobility “put on a brave face and never let anyone in.”

About four years after the accident Madeline spent a year at a rehabilitation center in Detroit, Michigan. Those 12 months changed the course of her life.
Photo of April
Photo of April
On April 25, 2014, April Ross and a friend were sitting in a car in a residential neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia when April saw movement outside the
passenger side window. Although she couldn’t see a face, April was surprised to recognize the torso of her estranged husband. “I remember thinking that
he wouldn’t shoot me,” April said. But he did shoot her. Three times. April was struck in the face, arm and back, causing a spinal injury that left her
paralyzed from the chest down.

After almost three years of marriage, April, a Fulton County assistant district attorney, had filed for divorce from Tranard
McConnell. The divorce papers were served on April 24. The shooting occurred the next day. “I never thought something like this would ever happen.
Photo of Jenny Siegle
Photo of Jenny Siegle
When Jenny Siegle was 9 months old she was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord which resulted in her being a C4/C5 incomplete quadriplegic. Jenny credits the steady support of her family for instilling her confidence and shaping the belief that she could do anything she wanted. “My parents have never treated me differently and all my life have had the same expectations of me as my able-bodied sister,” the now 34-year-old said. “I am thankful that people recognize me as ‘Jenny’ and not ‘Jenny in a wheelchair.’

This attitude all began with my family and this is all I’ve ever known. I have always believed that even though you’re disabled, nothing should get in your way. You should strive to reach your goals.” When Jenny was 2 years old she became the youngest person in the state of Colorado to be approved for a power wheelchair and when she was a bit older, often used her wheelchair to pull her friends on bikes and skateboards.
Photo of Luke
Photo of Luke
“Every time I see a clock and it’s 2 o’clock, I think about the time I received that phone call,” Tim Siegel said. “Our family hasn’t been the same since that moment on July 28, 2015.” Siegel is referring to the kind of telephone call every parent dreads; a call notifying him that his 9-year-old son, Luke, had been critically injured in an accident. In the blink of an eye the Siegel family was changed forever.

Luke Siegel suffered head trauma and skull fractures when the golf cart he and a friend were riding in overturned. After spending over a month at University Medical Center in Lubbock, Texas, Luke was transferred to Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, for rehabilitation services. After four months at Cook, Luke and his family returned home to continue daily therapy. In recent months Luke spent two weeks in therapy at the Cerebrum Health Center in Fort Worth and soon he will spend time at the Neurological Recovery Center also in Fort Worth where he will have the benefit of a treadmill-type machine that replicates walking motion as well as other therapies.
Photo of David
Photo of David
“I want people with disabilities to be at the table to share their opinions and make sure that services provided to us have our perspective.” These are words that David Allgood lives every day in his role as Director of Advocacy at the Center for Accessible Living in Louisville, Ky.
David believes the single most important act of advocacy is something everyone can do. “People with disabilities are the largest minority in the country and the most powerful thing we have is the power to vote.” He believes that “if people with disabilities would become educated on issues that affect them and cast their vote we could become the most powerful minority. But if we refuse to do this, we’ll get the benefits and services that others hand us.”

David encourages those with disabilities, as well as their family and friends, to make it a priority to register to vote and learn how candidates stand on issues that could affect their lives. “If you don’t have accessible transportation, take advantage of absentee voting. There’s really no excuse not to cast your vote.”
Photo of Jessica
Photo of Jessica
On a typical spring school day just over 13 years ago Jessica Patterson caught a ride home with a high school friend. The young driver misjudged his turn down the road to Jessica’s home and another vehicle collided with the car on the passenger side where Jessica was sitting. “I was seriously injured,” Jessica explained. “I tore two holes in my aorta and lost blood flow to my legs.” The teenager was left an incomplete paraplegic. She is unable to move her legs but still has feeling below her waist.

Jessica spent the next two months in inpatient rehab transitioning to outpatient treatment at the hospital for more than a year. She then began outpatient aquatic therapy and continued with that for two years. She couldn’t return to school, but teachers brought her homework and tests so she could complete the school year. “I returned to school the following fall and finished high school with my class.”
Photo of Ericka
Photo of Ericka
Ericka Sutton was born in New Jersey almost 32 years ago and it appeared as though she was a healthy baby. “Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except my mother noticed that one of my eyes seemed unstable when I would drink from my bottle,” Ericka explained in a recent interview. “However, when I began to integrate into day care and other situations with children my age, there was an obvious difference with my development.” Ericka’s teachers would explain to her mother that although Ericka was trying to walk, she was unsuccessful and was not developing physically as other children her age were.

“Doctors would tell my mother that she was being neurotic and over protective,” Ericka said. But Noreen Sutton did not give up until she found some answers.” After seeing several doctors with no definitive diagnosis, Ericka, now 4 years old, was examined by a doctor who reassured her mother that he would do everything in his power to find out what was going on.
Photo of Molly and Jeremy
Photo of Molly and Jeremy

In 1995 Molly Hale was in an automobile accident that left her with a severe spinal cord injury. Specifically her fifth cervical vertebra was fractured with a dislocation between six and seven. We wanted to talk to Molly and her husband, Jeramy to find out what has changed for them during the 20 years since the accident. How does a 67-year-old woman reconcile an aging body with such a disability? How has her husband adjusted to this alternate lifestyle? What has changed for the couple and what stayed the same? Molly and Jeramy both agreed to interviews and provided very honest, meaningful answers to our questions.

As is typical with most individuals in their mid-60s, Molly feels the challenge of an aging body, however, what may not be typical is her exercise regime. “I continue to work out in a warm water pool, continue to ride horses (hippotherapy) and continue to train in martial arts,” she explains.
Photo of Jody
Photo of Jody
It doesn’t take long when you are talking with Jody Hunt to realize this guy is optimistic about life and enthusiastic about the future. Although he’s been through some tough times, Jody’s sincere commitment to his advocacy efforts, as well as the support of fellow advocate and girlfriend, Suzanne Kotch, have added some very positive dimensions to his life.

Make no mistake, though, there have been (and continue to be) challenges. Almost 20 years ago, symptoms of Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) disease began to affect Jody’s ability to do his job and, along with other illnesses, weakened him to the point that he could no longer work. CMT is one of the most common inherited disorders of the peripheral nervous system. Symptoms of the disease are a progressive loss of muscle tissue and touch sensation across various parts of the body.
Photo of Spencer
Photo of Spencer
It wasn’t so painful it prevented her from fulfilling her summertime school teacher duties. Yes, even some teachers have to work in the summer. Soon the discomfort was too much to bear and in the middle of the day, Val left the math professional development class she was attending and went to her doctor. After a battery of tests at the doctor’s office, she was sent to the hospital for additional tests and a consultation.

The results were devastating and would change her and Steve’s lives forever. Val was told she had HELLP Syndrome. The H stands for hemolysis, which is the breaking down of red blood cells; EL represents elevated liver enzymes; and the LP is for low platelet count. It is a rare and life-threatening pregnancy complication usually considered to be a variant of preeclampsia. Both conditions
usually occur during the later stages of pregnancy, or sometimes after childbirth, but not this time.
Photo of Ana
Photo of Ana
In October 1957, Grunenthal, a German pharmaceutical company, introduced thalidomide to the world. Like so many other discoveries in the field of pharmaceutical science, thalidomide was touted as another in a long line of new “wonder drugs” that was destined to alleviate pain and suffering associated with a myriad of illnesses and afflictions.

Some said thalidomide was a “sure cure” for coughs, colds, headaches, and, believe-it-or-not, insomnia. It was also being recommended to thousands of pregnant women throughout Europe, Great Britain and many other countries around the world as an effective drug to relieve the nausea brought on by morning sickness.Soon after its release, the glowing virtues of thalidomide quickly vanished and was replaced with a dark, sinister cloud of regret that would haunt young mothers and their children for the rest of their lives.
Photo of Melissa
Photo of Melissa
On her return to the United States, Mitchell felt a deep grumbling within her soul to reconnect with her red, white and blue heritage. Part of her need was driven by lessons taught to her at a very early age by her mother that it is our duty to help others who need help.

The greater stirring inside Mitchell stemmed from the fact that she had left for France while the dark shroud of 9-11 remained draped over the shoulders of her stunned nation. As the time for her to return home drew closer, a feeling she had missed — the surge of patriotism and the call to serve her fellow countrymen — grew stronger. I doubt many of us would have taken the extraordinary steps Mitchell did one year after terrorists leveled the twin towers, to relearn what it means to be American. Yet, when you talk with Mitchell, even for a short while, you learn her life is nothing less than a series of extraordinary steps one after another after another.
Photo of Jill
Photo of Jill
Not long after Jill wiele graduated from the University of Iowa, she was invited to move to Maine. Yes, Maine; where the summers are muggy, humid and downright miserable, especially if you have no air conditioner. Winter can be charming too, if you’re a polar bear. The average daytime temperature in the winter is 48 degrees. Fifty-eight inches of snow is pretty much a sure bet. Wiele is quick to sing the praises of Maine and says it’s a beautiful state, just not the best place for someone to live who uses a wheelchair.

Had Wiele ever been to Maine before she made her move? No. In fact, the only time she’d ventured far from home, prior to moving to Maine, was when she flew to Washington, D.C., with her mom to attend an educational conference. Not only was it her first plane ride, but it was also her first time to fly with her electric wheelchair. She was genuinely excited about attending the conference, but was actually using the trip as a test flight for her move to Maine.
Photo of Ashley
Photo of Ashley
Her soft, gentle voice conjures up the image of a little angel hovering invisibly in that holy place lying between Heaven and Earth. Even though her voice is that of an angel, her words are those of a mighty hardened warrior who has endured the slings and arrows of many, many battles that could have easily ended her life, but didn’t. The scars of her health wars are evident, but are never seen as a burden to this little “Warrior-angel.” Her grit, tenacity and indomitable spirit have been her shield and sword, and have served her well as she fought and conquered an army of challenges few of us could never begin to fathom. Never bitter, only blessed is her mantra. Service to others is her self-imposed marching orders, which she follows daily.

Ashley Speicher was born August 17, 1985. Her mom and dad, Diane and Jim, were instantly filled with joy the moment their first child entered the world. Unfortunately, their joy faded rapidly as their precious little girl’s health began to deteriorate. They discovered her tiny heart was under attack by glycogen storage disease.
Photo of Alexia
Photo of Alexia
Simply by saying Waterbury, Conn., images of a beautifully tranquil, picturesque New England community more than likely wanders through your mind. The reality is Waterbury is just what you imagine. Nestled in the Naugatuck Valley, the history of this charming city began in 1674 as a small Town Plot section. Then, on May 15, 1686, the settlement was officially named Waterbury and was admitted as the 28th town in the Connecticut colony.

Today, many well preserved landmarks, which remain precious to the residents of Waterbury and Connecticut, dot the streets, parks and riverside walkways. Whether you look north, south, east or west, you are likely to experience a view of Waterbury that could easily be the backdrop for any number of Norman Rockwell’s famous paintings. The 1,700 pound statue of Benjamin Franklin sitting in front of the Silas Bronson Library and clocks and clock towers seen from miles away are just a few of the distinct elements making Waterbury a must-see. Interestingly, Waterbury had and still has a love affair with time and the tools designed to display the seconds, minutes and hours constituting our days and nights.
Photo of Erin
Photo of Erin
Often, while reflecting on certain chapters of our life written in our youth, the phrase, “There but by the grace of God go I,” pops into our heads. A slight chuckle and nervous smile sometimes follow, but deep inside we know there is really nothing to smile or laugh about. We know we dodged the virtual bullet.

Disgrace or even worse missed its mark. For reasons we may never know, we miraculously escaped the consequences of our risky behavior. Many times, a single blinding glimpse of our mortality is enough for us to see the light and change our ways. Unfortunately, for thousands of teenagers and young adults who drink and drive, they fail to escape consequence, and in a blink of an eye, become a statistic. Some survive and remain convinced they are invincible. Many have perished leaving family and friends mournful forever. Others live, but are changed in ways they could have never imagined.
Photo of Ernie
Photo of Ernie
Ask any guy or gal who has “oiled-up” even one ball glove in their lifetime will tell you shortstop is one of the toughest positions to play in baseball, if not the toughest. Some may argue third base; the legendary “hot corner” is the place where many all-time greats etched their names in the history books. Others will add catcher to the debate. Yes, the catcher has many duties, plus the wear and tear on their body makes young men old before their time. But, the number six position on “America’s Diamond” is where superior athleticism and bulldog tenacity has been showcased since the first two baseball teams took the field in 1846 at Elysian Field in Hoboken, N.J.

The shortstop or SS position, as identified in respectable scorebooks or team rosters, is located in the “alley” between second and third bases. Baseball statistics validate the fact there are considerably more right-handed hitters than those who hit from the left side of the plate. Consequently, all those right-handed batters, and a lot of lefties too, hit more balls in that alley patrolled by the shortstop than any other space on the field.
Photo of Jennifer
Photo of Jennifer
There are many who have battled the invisible demons giving depression its quiet, yet formidable power. For reasons that are obvious and those that are not, depression can creep into one’s life and bewilder the mind, confuse the body and imprison the spirit. More than 15 million Americans suffer in silence believing they can conquer their illness alone, but few do. Their suffering is routinely magnified by the social stigma attached to those who publicly profess their depression.

Many times our “toughen-up” culture turns its back on anyone who would dare suggest they might be even a bit depressed. Unless one's pain comes in the form of a black eye, bloody nose or broken arm, the tendency is to offer little sympathy and quickly toss out a flippant quip such as, “Life is tough; get over it.” Those types of comments incite some to say depression itself is less painful than deflecting the heartless sling and arrows of stupidity.
David Leonard is a self-professed athlete. As a young man he loved to lift weights and run, maybe not as quite as much as Forrest Gump, but he did love to run.

“Sometimes on the way home from junior college in Ithaca, N.Y., I’d have my buddy let me out of the car and I’d run the rest of the way home. I’d run 15 or 20 miles,” David said.

He remembers vividly the first time he ran in a marathon — 26.2 miles — in Lackawanna, N.Y. He also remembers hitting that invisible wall many runners experience somewhere around mile 22.

“It was like someone flipped a switch. I used up all my energy. I felt like I had nothing left, but I knew I had to keep going. I was going to complete the race and cross the finish line,” David said. “At the time, I didn’t know finishing this race would become a metaphor for my life.”
Photo of Carol
Photo of Carol
The Castletown River runs through the ‘border town’ of Dundalk, Ireland, and then empties into Dundalk Bay. They call it a border town, because it rests snugly against the invisible line dividing Ireland from Northern Ireland.

Records indicate this region of Ireland has been inhabited since at least 3500 B.C. In ancient times, Dundalk was written Dundalgan, linking it to the Irish mythical warrior Cú Chulainn. You can see on the banner flowing beneath the town’s classic crest the following words: Mé do rug Cú Chulainn Cróga which means, “I give birth to the brave Cú Chulainn.” This larger-than-life folklore hero is best known for his displays of strength, courage and sheer determination while still just a teenager. It was prophesied by many this warrior’s great deeds would be remembered forever and results in everlasting fame.
Photo of Molly
Photo of Molly
Molly Hale grew up in Gilroy, Calif., the southernmost city in Santa Clara County, just down Highway 101 from the San Francisco Bay area. Back then, it was a small town with a population of approximately 5,000 residents. Today, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000 people call it home. It also has the unique title of “The Garlic Capital of the World.” Consequently, residents have little fear of vampires walking the city’s streets.

For Molly Hale and her three older brothers, it was the perfect place for children of all ages to live and explore and grow. Gardens, orchards and wide open spaces made for a natural playground for the kids of Gilroy to roam in idyllic comfort from sunrise to sunset. They would hop on their bikes, packing BB guns and .22 rifles and regularly head for a rock quarry not far from home. Riddling tin cans with tiny holes or trying to pick-off a vermin or two until the long evening shadows whispered, “It’s time go home,” was heaven on earth for them. Huck Finn would have been jealous.