Hello Muskego! I missed you!
As a Muskego native, I was very excited to be invited to share my thoughts on Patch and have the opportunity to connect with the community again. For those of you who don't know me and my story, let me introduce myself and share some insight on where I've been, what I've been through and who I am today. Those of you that do know, bare with me, I'll make this long story as short as possible.
My name is Jenny Addis. I grew up in Muskego and graduated from Muskego High School, Class of 1991. Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have supportive parents and four brothers that I looked up to more than anything. I was living a life that seemed perfect and what most people would call "normal".
Until, that unimaginable tragedy, a parent's worst nightmare, struck me, my family, friends and quite honestly the entire community.
It was March 16, 1997; I woke up that morning like any other day only more excited. I was planning a bachelorette party for my future sister-in-law at Kelly's Bleachers in Wind Lake that night. The girls and I spent the day shopping and did something we didn't do often. We sat down at the kitchen table, discussed the night ahead of us and how everyone was going to get home safely. Originally, I was driving my sister-in-law, but at the last minute plans changed. I was now driving alone. As I was getting ready for the night, my boyfriend/fiancé offered to pick me up. Of course, I took advantage of having a designated driver.
Later, as planned, my designated driver, along with his two friends, picked me up after the party. I remember grabbing my jacket, saying goodbye to my friends and the four of us headed home on Racine Avenue towards Muskego. We were only minutes away from home when I realized my life was in jeopardy.
The next decision...profoundly changed my life forever.
My designated driver started driving erratically at approximately 85 miles per hour. We approached a bend in the road when he decided to pass another vehicle on the right hand shoulder of the road. My last recollection was watching the gravel consume the truck as it began to fishtail. He counter steered, but the truck lost traction. As we went up and over the ditch, the truck rolled 3-4 times before smashing into a tree. It landed upside down and sometime during the impact I was ejected out of the truck. I remember coming to...I was physically numb and my breathing was severely compromised.
The Flight for Life transported me to Froedtert Memorial Hospital. The next time I opened my eyes, I was in the ICU; my body numb and lifeless. I had injured C3, 5 and 6 of my spinal cord...paralyzed from the neck down...now a quadriplegic. Surgery and time would be the deciding factor of my fate and what life as a quadriplegic really meant.
I was the only one severely injured, out of the four of us, in that horrific accident. Thank God! Of course, the careless and irresponsible driver, that put so many innocent victim's lives in danger, walked away unscathed. His Blood Alcohol Content was .21, more than two times the legal limit. He was arrested that night for driving under the influence. Later, charged with first-degree reckless endangerment while causing bodily harm.
It's crazy how in mere seconds, one person's lack of judgment and poor decision making, turned my once “normal” life into anything but normal. I went from being an active, independent 24 year old woman to a woman dependent on everyone around her for everything. I was stripped away from my livelihood, career, dignity and most importantly, my independence! I struggled with the loss of everyday capabilities we all take for granted, such as walking, writing my own name, doing my hair, applying make-up, brushing my teeth and having the function to go to the bathroom on my own, just to name a few. I spent the next two months in the hospital with vigorous and intense occupational, physical and recreational therapies learning how to live life in this new and foreign state.
The questions seeped throughout every pore, such as why did I survive that tragic event? Would my nephew look at me as the same auntie as I was prior to this injury? Was it possible to get "normal" back? What was my purpose now in life? For now, the questions would go unanswered.
It would've been so easy to quit, struggle after struggle; obstacle after obstacle, but I chose to fight the fight instead! Today, I am living life as a thriving C5-C6 quadriplegic. I know this sounds impossible, but my life has changed in a positive direction and in many amazing ways.
As I healed, not only physically, but emotionally, I became more in tune to my new life. With the encouragement of my Occupational Therapist, Debbie, I became Ms. Wheelchair Wisconsin in 2000. My reign became a significant time in my life that constituted another new beginning. That next year, I represented the state of Wisconsin in the National Miss Wheelchair America Pageant in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My platform was simple "the consequences of drinking and driving". I found a purpose in life again and a new found confidence and strength.
In turn, it naturally jump started my career as a motivational, inspirational and educational speaker. Over the years, I have spoken to schools, colleges, universities, churches, conventions and conferences bringing awareness and education to a countless number of children, teens and adults of all ages on issues ranging from the consequences of drinking and driving, good decision making, abusive relationships, living life with a traumatic injury to overcoming adversity, just to name a few.
I'm also an avid volunteer for such organizations as the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation, Fashion Show for All Abilities and the Ice Age Trail Alliance. Through adversity, I've learned how important it is to give back and the need for us all to play an active role within our communities.
In June, I was awarded a Jefferson Award for my efforts by Channel 9 News and Marshfield Clinic. I'm honored to receive such a prestigious award. I always thought that a Jefferson Award winner had to be someone famous, a celebrity, actor/actress, philanthropist, not me. To be categorized with outstanding individuals that I've looked up to throughout my entire life such as Oprah Winfrey and Lance Armstrong is quite humbling!
No one believes tragedy can hit their home. We have this mindset that it happens to other people, not to ourselves, our loved ones or someone we know. I learned very quickly just how real and fragile we really are and how life can change in just the blink of an eye. I've also learned that if you are staring in the eyes of adversity, don't give up on yourself, just dig a little deeper, that strength to overcome is in there. Give yourself the opportunity.
As I begin my new blog spot, I'd like to turn it into a relationship with my readers and interactive. I want to hear from you and what may interest you about issues such as, the consequences of drinking and driving, living life as a quadriplegic, volunteerism and overcoming adversity in general. Keep in mind, I'm an open book and nothing is too personal.
FYI...Paralysis does not discriminate.
Mark your calendars! Set your DVR to Today's TMJ-4 on November 6, 2012 at 9:00 am. Spend the morning with me and The Morning Blend Host's, Molly Fay & Tiffany Ogle. Tune in as I share my fashion secrets, get real about the "real" consequences of drinking & driving, living life after paralysis & more! Tell a friend or better yet...tell them all!
You can also watch online at: http://www.themorningblend.com/
On November 15, 2012, a banquet will be held to recognize all the local Jefferson Award winners. At this banquet, a panel of judges honors one of the local Jefferson Award winners as the overall local winner for the year. That person will then travel to Washington D.C. to represent our area at the National Jefferson Awards Ceremony where a national winner is chosen. Stay tuned...
Do you know someone who's self-less acts have made a huge impact in your community? Nominate someone you know for a local Jefferson Award by going to https://www.jeffersonawards.org/nominate/local.
* Learn more about my story at: www.InspirationSpeaks.me.
* Facebook: “This Is How I Roll” or www.facebook.com/jaddis1
* Read more about my nomination, one on one interview with Melissa Langbehn, Anchor of Newsline 9 and hear more about "ordinary" people who have done "extraordinary" things by going to: