Gaylord Specialty Healthcare

Meagan Ricci: Tenacity and Faith after a Spinal Cord Injury

November 02, 2022 Gaylord Specialty Healthcare
Meagan Ricci: Tenacity and Faith after a Spinal Cord Injury
Gaylord Specialty Healthcare
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Gaylord Specialty Healthcare
Meagan Ricci: Tenacity and Faith after a Spinal Cord Injury
Nov 02, 2022
Gaylord Specialty Healthcare

Gaylord's ThinkFirst Program is part of the National ThinkFirst Association, which is committed to educating youth about the devastating and life-altering consequences of poor decisions that can lead to a serious brain or spinal cord injury.

In this episode of the Gaylord Specialty Healthcare "Think Possible" podcast,  32-year-old Meagan Ricci, shares her journey of being paralyzed from the waist down. Just 18 months ago, Meagan was in a car accident that resulted in a T6 incomplete spinal cord injury from a car accident. Today, she is miraculously walking and back to coaching her gymnastics team.  Tune in to experience the hope and passion for life that got Meagan back on her feet and how faith has carried her through the toughest times.

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare is a long-term acute care hospital in Wallingford, Connecticut.

To learn more about ThinkFirst at Gaylord

Learn more about the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation




Show Notes Transcript

Gaylord's ThinkFirst Program is part of the National ThinkFirst Association, which is committed to educating youth about the devastating and life-altering consequences of poor decisions that can lead to a serious brain or spinal cord injury.

In this episode of the Gaylord Specialty Healthcare "Think Possible" podcast,  32-year-old Meagan Ricci, shares her journey of being paralyzed from the waist down. Just 18 months ago, Meagan was in a car accident that resulted in a T6 incomplete spinal cord injury from a car accident. Today, she is miraculously walking and back to coaching her gymnastics team.  Tune in to experience the hope and passion for life that got Meagan back on her feet and how faith has carried her through the toughest times.

Gaylord Specialty Healthcare is a long-term acute care hospital in Wallingford, Connecticut.

To learn more about ThinkFirst at Gaylord

Learn more about the ThinkFirst National Injury Prevention Foundation




Meagan Ricci 

Host: Hello all and welcome back to our Gaylord Specialty Healthcare podcast. This is Megan Palmer occupational therapist hosting the Think First series and today we are here featuring Megan Ricci. She is actually one of our newly VIPs Voices of injury prevention for the Think First program who incurred a spinal cord injury, [and] spent a lot of time doing rehab and is now back on her feet again, which is a miraculous recovery. 

Host: So, Meagan, Welcome to the show! 

Guest: Hi, how are you?

Host: I want you to tell our listeners a little bit about yourself, kind of where you grew up, what your passions are. 

 Guest: Well, I'm Megan, and I love cheerleading. That's one of my passions. I'm from Waterbury. [and] 32 years old. I'm a case manager for dual-diagnosed clients in the community, but I didn't start there. I was an athlete in high school and then I moved in transition to the college scene. And I definitely met different colors of like people and characters and had different encounters that made me feel like helping people with something I wanted to do, especially because of my own life experiences. And so, from there I became the case manager I am today.

My injury occurred because I was doing my case management notes in my car for quietness and I was on the passenger side of my car because my key, I had a safety feature on the driver's side and I used the heated seats, so I fell asleep doing work, no seatbelt reclined back. And I woke up in the hospital six days later. 

I found out that someone that I knew, decided to take my car without my permission while I was sleeping and proceeded to go somewhere. They didn't make it five blocks before hitting a car at an intersection and then hitting a tree and then leaving me behind. A pedestrian gave me CPR and I crashed twice. They told my family I'd be brain-dead because of the lack of oxygen. But I have a 3.5 G. P. A. So, they were mistaken. And I broke my T3 to my T9 with a decompression of my T6 meaning that my T6 vertebrae were leaning against my spinal cord causing the damage and could have severed me if I wasn't sleeping. Sleeping saved my life. I had to decide whether I was going get fused or not and there wasn't really an option there. So, I got fused with my T4 to 8 with decompression at T6. I wore my shell, I don't remember the name of my shell…  

Host: It’s the TLSO. The Thoracic-Lumbar-Sacral Orthosis (TLSO).

Guest: It's like a ninja turtle shell. 

Host: Big, it goes from your neck down to the bottom of your spine 

Guest: And everyone used to make fun of me because I would have it super tight like a corset but I mean I just had to support myself because I'm trying to create stuff when I wasn’t supposed to. But I was in that. So, I woke up, I was in a coma for four days. I have a brain injury too that no one talks about because it's a miracle that I'm walking. But in reality, it's a miracle that I'm talking and I can go to school and function. Because although I have a little bit of memory issues, which probably is contributing to medicine more than the brain injury itself, the fact of the matter is that I probably shouldn't even be able to talk.

So, I overcame both of those situations, which was great and God is good for that, and came here on May 15 and started my recovery with you and Tim and BJ and everyone else. 

Host: Yeah, I was actually your therapist too. 

Guest: Yes, you were.  

Host: I don't know. I'm wondering. I'm sure some of our listeners are. How did you sleep through an accident like that or that someone started driving your car?

Guest: You know, I don't know. I was a heavy sleeper. I always have been. I worked three jobs. I scheduled days off, so I worked 29 days a month and I scheduled one day off to go to church, and see my mom who's passed away, so, I visited her. But other than that, one day I worked every day of the week. I had, like I said, three jobs, so I probably slept five hours a day, if that, and ran on coffee and energy drinks. 

Guest: So, like I said I fell asleep doing my work. The intention wasn't - I own a home on a dead end, so I was in my driveway - the intention was like you know, I'm Italian, so everyone comes over to the family house, and it's big, and everyone's loud and stuff and I could have [gone] to my condo but it was across town, so why I have a room here.  But I had to do my work, so I went outside to do the work. The intention was never to drive away or go anywhere or fall asleep in the car, it just happened and I have a bad habit. I've always had a bad habit, I love my car, I was always in my car, so I've always had a bad habit of falling asleep in my car. I'm comfortable with that because I worked out of my car, that's what case managers just do. So, I'm a traveler, so you know, I guess it was easy to fall asleep in the car because I've done it several times before. As far as sleeping through, I'm a heavy sleeper. The car was in 2017 so I rode smoothly till he hit something and I don't think that I would sleep the entire time. Like I don't remember anything except waking up in the hospital but they said I was combative with first responders, I was combative in the ER, and they had to sedate me. And then I was in my coma so there I think that um your mind tends to block out trauma and block out things to survive. And I think that my mind decided to not preserve those memories because they weren’t pleasant. 

I also think that it happened fast enough, that my awake response didn't happen fast enough and I think that I hit my head really hard, which knocked me out. So if I woke up I was knocked out, I think that when I did respond it was off adrenaline, like being revived um probably made me combative, I was shocked back to life. I don't remember any of that, I do remember hearing my mother and grandmother who were both passed away just rushing me. 

So, we all joke in my family that everyone has a Megan tone because I tend to be me. And so my mother would always have like this tone, like you know you're [going] to be in trouble tone. So eventually it was like come on Meg, let's go hurry up Meg. She hated being late and then it was like Meg let's go hurry up, like she was like really urgent, you can hear the urgency and the like we're [going] to be late kind of thing, and my grandmother just soothing her, like she's coming, Lucy, she's coming. So, I don't really know what that was about. I don't know if it's my subconscious, you know, making it up. I am a religious person and a person of faith. I believe that they were pushing me to stay where I was so that I could be revived. I always joke with people and say, you know, I was too bad for hell, the devil didn't want me and God wasn't ready for me yet. So, I got sent back here. That's why I could pass away so many times and come back. 

Host: You’ve got a lot of good work to do. 

Guest: But I do believe that - I think that it was just a way to protect myself, that I stayed asleep in the whole incident. And like, even in the coma, I don't, I even with pain, like, I don't remember feeling pain. I'm sure I was like giving a lot of medication, but I think I feel more pain now than I [did] then. And I think that pain is a welcoming burden because I know how it feels to not feel anything. So, pain is welcoming. Oh dang, I wish I had my phone, I texted someone the other day. I said I've learned to welcome pain because I know how it feels to not feel anything at all. And so, pain is a welcoming burden because it makes me realize that that part is coming back or it's alive. I can feel whatever.

Host: You're talking about it because you were paralyzed from T7 down. 

Guest: So, I couldn't feel my hips, my stomach, my legs, my feet. I was totally paralyzed. I felt like I felt the muscles but nothing moved. That's ASIA Bm then there's C, D, and E. Usually people don't make it to E but I did.

Host: That's the classification of spinal cord injuries, correct? 

Guest: So B means that you can somewhat have a sensation of feeling but not move and you don't really have sensation when people touch you feeling you just feel inside of you, I guess. C is when you have a little bit of like sensation and movement but you can't walk or do anything productive. D is you can and you know be ambulatory with a device. And by ambulatory they mean like hobble like you don't have to really walk anything as long as you're moving an inch forward is considered walking. That's what I've learned. So to be my class level walking is really rare because most people don't come out of it like that and I get that. So that's the and then E is that all injured areas came back five out of five and strength sensation and range of motion which I am. And I believe Dr.Rosenblum said I'm like one of the first that he's like go that way. So, for him to be in the game as long as I've been boring and to say that was pretty cool because I was so focused on the ASIA skill and they all kept saying don't focus on that. But I think in my mind first off mentality was the reason why I made it out of this and walking with God. So, in my darkest moments, I didn't have visitors, there was during Covid, there was no one around. And so, in my darkest moments, all I had was me and my faith, which really taught me to rely on myself and my faith because you know, you can't control people and where they are, but you can control how you respond and you can control how you, you know, internalize it and then, it was just a matter of like, it was just, it was a lot of things combined that I think got me to where I was. But the mindset really made a difference because if you can believe it, you can achieve it. But the minute you say I'm done, and I feel that's it, you're over. [It’s] like you, you preset it. Like everyone makes fun of me, right? Because of this tree, they cut the tree down where we hit, so now I have the stump at the end of my main road that reminds me every day what happened. And so, I've been taking pictures so you can see it decay and I told people when that tree is gone, I'll be all better. And I wanted to contact the city to cut it myself. So, this last month actually in September, which is really a milestone for me because my mom passed away in September, so it's a month for me, but in September they not only cut the tree down, but they planted a new one! So, I'm going to take a picture of the new one because I always say like I'm, you know, I'm [going] write a book one day, like God's phoenix arising or something because of my situation. But I've always made an acronym for the tree dying reflected me, rebirthing and growing. So, the fact that there's a new tree there and I can stand walk, run and jump. Even though I'm not at the point where I can work full time yet, my goal was to be there within five years, and I'll make it there before that, I know that because of how I'm pacing, and that's pretty awesome because I'm not supposed to return to work ever. So, I think that that's cool, but when I passed the tree, now I see this little tiny tree and I think, wow, like it really came for circle and manifestation really works because I've been talking about this tree getting put down. And then the city just does it and then puts a new one there because I'm talking about rebirth and you know growing from a situation and letting it be the best of me. 

A lot of people think that I should have anger and resentment, but I don't think healing can happen where hate happens because the Bible says, you know that God can't dwell on what the devil does. It also says thou hast not because thou asked not. I believe that forgiveness is for me and not them and in order to heal, I can't hate, So I had to pick one. So, I picked healing of course, because hating you doesn't help me at all. And everything I've asked for I've received because I believed it was coming and I just made it happen because I believed it. Like, I truly believe that's how I got better.

Host: Now, whatever you're saying is that does not come easy. You know, it doesn't come easy to our listeners, like the people, the person who got in that car and did that to you, I know you don't want like specifically talk about them, but what did that have to do with the people you surrounded yourself with then and then the people who stuck by you and you are surrounding yourself with now, has that changed? Is that you have a different perspective? 

Guest: I mean, I dated the person who crashed the car, so it definitely affects me now dating because you look at a perspective of an emergency situation, you know, how do you stack up, and not only that, but I was broken up with the person at the time and they obviously wanted to make up and felt entitled to still do as they please, but in reality, I think that it's important to know the people you surround yourself with and to realize that you have to prioritize yourself while still caring for others. I was always someone who took care of everyone around me, but no one took care of me. Not that they didn't want to, I just didn't allow it. I was very independent and very headstrong. My mother raised me to be the head of the family because I was the oldest born and even though she adopted older than me, that's not what was happening when she was raising me. So she raised me the way she did, and so I was just very headstrong, you know, like I said, I worked three jobs, I volunteered at two different places. I was just very involved in everything and everyone and not myself, I joke all the time and said God had to make me hit a tree to slow me down and people laugh like that and they're like, you can't be and I'm very serious. The only way he was going to stop me at that point was to stop me physically. Because I was so involved and everyone else and everything else. I wasn't even working towards what I wanted to do. I wanted to motivational speak to people and I wanted to have my own nonprofit I wanted to go back to school and everything I wanted to do kept being put off because other people had more predominant needs. But in reality, that's not what it was, it was just my character. And so this situation taught me a lot about having that character, but also providing that person to myself, like how I am to everyone else to care for myself that way. And the situation taught me that the only person there is going to be God. I have support. They are not the same. Because a lot of people showed me their true colors, A lot of people can't handle it when they know that you're a strong independent person and now you're knocked down, and in a wheelchair. And how do I look at you? You know, I had a lot of people who I don't think could handle the idea of who I was being, the person that I have to be now because I'm in this situation and you know, it's easy to say, I'll be there when stuff gets real. But now imagine the strongest person, you know, in your life being crippled, can you look at them in the face? Can you act normal? Can you not let your emotions show? Like people had to work with that it wasn't just, it was me that went through it, but other people had to deal with the consequences of what I was going through because they had to learn how to deal with the new me too. It wasn't just me learning it and now they have to learn it too. 

And a lot of people didn't want to do the work, and that's okay. I'm not resentful at all.  It takes a lot of work to meet someone where they're at when this is going on. And I think that what people don't realize is like for me, I was set on walking because I had to be strong, right? So, I didn't want to go home in a wheelchair. I didn't want to go home using a device. I [didn’t] want to go home needing someone to help me in the bathroom. And what people don't realize is you take that for granted. Like you get up every morning, you complain, you got to go to work, you know, you complain about the traffic that you're sitting in. You know, you complain because the shower is not hot enough or whatever the case may be. But the fact is you get to sit in the shower by yourself and you get to dilate the water and you know, I remember having showers where they wouldn't make the water hotter because you can't feel, they say, well my upper body feels and it's cold like, you know, but they don't, they have to be within their guidelines and their safety when people are caring for you, it's not the way you care for yourself. It is a humbling experience when you go through it. 

And I think it's important that you know, there's that saying, well, when your friend jumps off the bridge, are you going to follow them? And people don't even realize that you set yourself up to follow them, You, say no, but you're already on the bridge. So, you don't realize subconsciously you've put yourself there to jump, you've already put yourself on the bridge if we're asking that question, you're already next to them. So, you have to think about what made me so trustworthy of that person or of my actions subconsciously that I didn't think about, wait, why am I going on the bridge? What are we doing here? And, so I think it's important for people to sit back and evaluate and perspective, I can't stress enough that is a big thing because the perspective I have then, and I have now [is] two totally different things. I would have been angry three years ago, five years ago. I'm not angry, though. A lot of people don't understand the grace or mercy I have towards people, but at the end of the day, who am I? I'm a sinner, just like you, I'm not perfect. I've done things that I'm pretty sure God isn't okay with and you know, I'm not going to judge people, it's not my job. My job is to help people to realize their potential to realize their choices and to help them get where they want to go. My job isn't to judge you. That's what God does. 

So, I pray that the person who did this leaves jail because they're in jail, and they're not just in jail for me. They've done other things that got them caught up, but my case helped keep them there. They're in jail. I'm pretty sure they were intoxicated when this happened. They swear they weren't, I'm pretty sure they were, you don't just have an accident like this because you know, I had a rough morning. So, you were intoxicated and that's what it is. Um, but you know, I really sit here and I think about, when you care for people, you don't reflect, you don't think about perspective. So, I, you know, I could easily care for that person, but as a case manager, I should have reflected a long time ago and seen red flags that maybe I didn't see or whatever the case may be or as a case manager, you know, I thinking, well I just want to be the fixer. I want to fix things. Well, sometimes things aren't for you to fix. Some trials are meant for people to do and go through, including the ones I've been through, I can ask why me, but what's the point? You know, I'm not going to get an answer. It's not going do me any good or I could say that this is everything I got from it. And so I really pray that that person leaves jail and they come home, and they rehabilitate, and they do well, and they learn, and they find God, and they do whatever they need to do to get better. And if they come out of jail and they turn their life around and they become a productive citizen, then guess what? It wasn't in vain. It's still not in vain. Even if they don't do that because of all the good I'm going do with my story like a situation like this podcast. But in reality, it would be even sweeter if both the victim and the person who made the poor choice get the vindication of something successful coming out of something terrible.

Host: Another chance at life. Yeah, it sounds like, you know, this whole time, you've had a lot of healing as well. 

Guest: I have!

Host: And can you tell us how long it has been since your accident and what you've gone through during that time? 

Guest: My accident was on April 30th. My surgery was on May 6th, 2020. The beginning of Covid. I went through 10.5 months of isolation at Gaylord. I lost a few people along the way in the meaning of they just disappeared or withdrew because they couldn't handle the situation. I lost my mother in 2017, and I didn't have like a test of faith or anything, but I was kind of upset about it cause like I didn't do anything yet that I was supposed to do with my mom like get married or have kids. I mean I was a foster parent. So, she saw me as a mother, but you know what I mean. I was really upset about that when the accident happened. It gave me clarity because I really feel like she was up there coordinating my healing and my help and if, you know, she hadn't passed away then who would be the one coordinating everyone? Cause she was part of the glue between her and my grandmother. Maybe that's why I heard them. But I, I also feel like when I came here I had a mindset of like, let's go. And I think at first everyone was kind of hesitant, like, girl, you don't know what you're doing, you don't know what you're in for. Like we can't do this. And I'm like, put me on that bike that moves my legs because muscle memory and they're like, that's not how spinal cords work and I'm like, yeah, but they work the muscles. So if the muscles wake up, they'll wake up and I mean I'm not saying I'm right scientifically, but technically it worked. So I'm just saying.

Host: You were definitely directing your care throughout your whole rehab. Ten months inpatient. Yeah, that's a significant amount of time in a facility. And you went home after?

Guest: Yeah, by day 35, I was stepping with weight off day 78. I walked my 100 ft with a walker. I want to say 4.5 months, and I was introduced to the crutches. That was -that was a feat. It took them another three months, I think, maybe four, to let me walk with them without anyone. Like in the hallways and stuff. It was really hard getting rid of my chair. I couldn't get rid of it because no one wanted me out of it. And then, when I finally got out of it, it was hard because I have to build the endurance to do all the stuff I want to do because I never sat still here. I did a lot of my own therapy in my room. Some of it was directed and helped, in others, I probably did it and asked for forgiveness later. Like, oh, I did this, and oh, you shouldn't have. Well, I did it, sorry. So, I had a lot of those moments.

Host: You were quite a treat as a patient!

Guest: I was a handful and I think that it was important. I want to say that something that stuck with me here is my mother used to raise me, like nothing was like ever, like good enough 'cause I'm the oldest. So, you’ve got to be always going after things. So, it's not that she didn't like acknowledge anything. It's just like, okay, that's great. Now, what's next? Right? I was built with this attitude of like, okay, you graduated high school six months early, but you got to get a degree. You can't go to college. It takes too long. You have a vocational school. So I went to vocational school and then it was like, okay, you're seeing it. But now you have to get management because that's not enough. Like my mom always pushed me. 

Host: You did the same thing in rehab. 

Guest: And so, in rehab, I did the same thing. And I remember, I'm not sure if it was you or Tim, but we, I think it was both of you. We had a conversation one day where it's like, you know, I would like to see you happy once in a while and celebrate your success because, as a therapist, it makes me feel like, you know, I'm not, I mean we're not doing anything for you if, if you're not happy at what's happening, like, you know.

Host: Well, you would take one step, and you'd want to, and you take two steps, and you'd want five, and then you go 10 ft, and you wanted 20. So, like every time you did something, there was always a push to get to the next level, and that is why you're walking today, Meg. That's a tribute to your personality. 


Guest: Absolutely. But that conversation really made me realize that you need to take time to reflect and like pat yourself on the back for what you do. I think that that's a reason why a lot of people get caught up in recovery or in life, in general, is because you know, we tend to add up all, you know, everyone says you can do 100 good deeds, but they only remember the one mistake. And that's true, and so we do that to ourselves. It's like, yeah, well, you could have [done] this, but you did that, and you should have [done] this, but you know, could have [done] that. And so, for me, it was like okay, yeah, I'm standing, but I need to walk, and I'm walking, but I need to do without a device, but I need my balance together, and I still to this day I am that hard on myself. But that conversation made me realize that it's okay to take a moment to reflect and be thankful or be happy or, you know, not just be grateful or show gratitude to God, but pat yourself on the back and be grateful just to embrace what you already have achieved and have. Because you know, you have to stay humble and not, you know, you don't want your passion to turn into greed. So, you want to be able to acknowledge what you're gaining, or it's not worth gaining at some point, you know. And if you're doing it for yourself, you should acknowledge it for yourself. Like it shouldn't be well, I need to do… 

And I think that's what, like, you know, I was told I wouldn't walk in the hospital and I'll never forget the nurse saying, well, I'm glad you have faith because you're [going] need it. It's [going] be a long road. And I'm like, yeah, I know. And like, I don't think she meant it in the way I took it, but I took it very, like, wow. Like, you know, they really don't. And I remember calling my bishop like they really don't think I could walk. And I remember calling my bishop, and I'll never forget that. I said this. I said, you know, bishop, I don't mind worshiping from a wheelchair because my aunt was a spinal cord injury. She lived a full life. She was a severed spinal cord injury and lived a full life in a wheelchair. I have a handicapped van at home right now that I could take the driver's seat out of, and someone could go, and there's a ramp, and they can drive in, lock in and drive. 

So, I knew life was possible in a wheelchair. And so, I think I was upset because it was like, you know, you don't know like the hardware hasn't even set in yet. How do you know what I can do? And who are you like that's not your choice. Medicine is here to help us. God gave us all these tools. But at the end of the day, it's really up to God and yourself.  And I do believe, you know, the Bible talks about healing powers that we have. I believe that mind and manifestation matter, and so you can heal yourself. Like when you, when you speak it into existence, when you believe it internally, it really works. And obviously, I'm living proof. I mean, you know, some people I talk about energy and stuff, and I don't want to talk to you because you're messing up my energy or my vibe, and they didn't understand that. Or are you practicing witchcraft? No, we didn't call it witchcraft when God gave Moses the staff that parted the Red Sea or turned into a snake, like, I just believe that the energy around me matters and the energy I give off and I keep in matters. 

And so, you know when I was here that that reflection or that need to reflect really mattered because I had to in the hard times, I had to be able to say yeah, but look at all that you've done. Because when you get set back, you think about the setback. You're not thinking about, well, even setbacks I'm still further than they said I would be, and that was important to know or to grasp. So, it was something that I learned here to bring with me home because, you know, I’m my hardest critic, but people are critical of me. And so being able to realize that that reflection is important was something that I really had to grasp. 

So, I remember when I was going through this with the nurse, and I was so disappointed. You know, I called him a bishop, and I said, you know, I could raise it from a wheelchair, but I just want them to know that if he wants me to walk, I'm going to walk. Like, who are they? Like I could walk. They don't know. And I really, I swear to God, I believe because of that statement, God was like, girl we're going to show him. But I think that it was important that I was just grateful. Like I could have woken up brain-dead, as they said. I could have. I could have woken up worse than I was. I could have started at A instead of being with the ASIA skill. Like there were, it could have always been worse. I was educated a little bit about spinal cord injuries because my family has some issues. So, I knew that the possibility was there for some type of recovery, and I knew that regardless you can, you can have a full life sitting down if that's what you wanted to do. I just knew that for me, I was way too active for that to be the case. And I knew like I did my research and my studying, and you know, your first 90 days is the trauma phase, and then you have a year of like your plasticity being double, which is like the fluid in your spinal cord that like heals you. That's the only way I can explain it. And, and so, you know, I'm going through all of this research and understanding, and it's like, okay, so for me, everything was like, we [got to] get it done in a year, or we got to get it done in 90 days and, and they're like, you're not even supposed to move for 90 days, like relax. 

And so. I think it was just important to really stay focused on what I saw and what I wanted for myself because, like when I came here, everyone was open-minded every time I say, well, why doesn't this? I was very curious and asked 100 questions, and you and Tim were very careful to say, we don't know yet, or we can't tell yet, or we got to wait and see, or I don't know, or your situation is very unique and different. And so, you know, you didn't give me a straight answer. So that open-mindedness also helped me be able to explore the possibilities. Whereas in the hospital, they were just like shut, closed case, you're done. 

And I think knowing your rights in a situation is important. Like you have the right to deny medal care medical care of any kind. So, when they want to put you in a convalescent home, you can say no. When they want to put you in a group home, you can say no when they want to send you home without homemakers, you could say no. Like you can advocate for yourself. And it's important to know that if I didn't like you said, be proactive in my recovery, I wouldn't be here.

I would not have [gotten]10 months at Gaylord. I would have got Money Follows the Person, what you can get after being hospitalized or inpatient in any facility. So when you switch facilities, that still counts like, you know nobody, and if I wasn't a case manager and no one told me this when I got here. Like it's important to know your rights and to ask questions and to find out what you can do because coordinating your care is important and you know, you might get someone who's passionate about their job, but no one's [going] be more passionate about your care, but you. And it's important to be involved. It's important not to check out. 

I remember when I wrote a paper for my English class, I said, you know, I remember going into the gym the first few days. It was so sad, everyone looked defeated, like they already accepted their fate, and I remember looking around in the room thinking I will not, I refuse to let this be the reason that I'm held back from what I want. So, I tried to do everything they said I couldn't do because I'm stubborn. and if you tell me what I can't do, I'm [going] do it anyway. 

Host: And now you're out there influencing our youth. You did your first presentation for thing first last week and what like what are your messages to the kids? How can you help them make better decisions so that they don't end up in a situation similar to yours? 

Guest: My favorite model is impossible, it is only the task at hand to think - I'm possible. You're just reading it wrong if you write impossible and impossible. The only difference is space, so be aware of it. I find that to be something that really motivated me through my recovery, choices, you can't control what everyone else does, but you can't control how you respond. And there is no mistake, there are poor choices, and there are good choices, and there are lessons and blessings. So, depending on how you decide to, you know, taking what you're going through is how it's going to affect you. So, it could be a lesson, you might not learn the lesson the first time, so it's going to come around a few times. So, it's just paying attention, or it could be a blessing. And like a lot of people say, well, the accident was a lesson. No, it was a blessing because it showed me a lot of things, it gave me a lot of insight for myself, [and] for others. It gave me a lot of ability to be able to get my messages across.

Like I've always felt this way, but I never, I never had something that could be related to people or everyone like, like, you know, I have a history, I could talk about before my accident. But maybe only the urban crowd or the younger crowd can relate or, but now this situation, my older clients and my older people and, and people who don't relate to the other lifestyle I've lived can relate to this one. So, it just gives me a broader platform to be able to reach people, and so I let people know, I let the kids know that it's important to be tuned in with that. Like, being tuned in with what you can learn from others and also being aware of like the other choices that they're making and that you don't have to make those same choices. 

Like, I didn't choose to be in this accident. I mean, I was a passenger asleep, but I chose everything after that. I chose whether I got up every day and tried, I chose whether I put my best foot forward, or did I just do the bare minimum. I chose whether to embrace the pain or look at it as a burden. And again, it's perspective, you can see the cup half empty or half full, and so I think it's important for them to know this and, like, you know, your friend, you know, your best friend, you'll get in trouble with right now. But would they come to see you in the hospital? You know, I had 20 [friends].  

I remember one of the presentations to the kids, I said when I got here, I had over 20 friends. Ten and a half months, I was in Gaylord, asked me who visited me. Ask me how many people stopped calling. Phone calls are free, you know. So, remember that when you go out with your friend to do something that's probably stupid, and you probably know you shouldn't do it, or remember that when you want to make a choice, that's maybe an explosive choice instead of a reactive choice. A reactive choice takes a chance for you to reflect and have a perception of both sides of the coin. And I think it's important that you know, they know that anything is possible, [but] you have to put your mind to it. And there's this saying that Einstein says - imagination is the preview to life's coming attractions. I love that saying because it's true and relates to faith, right? What is faith? It's the absence of things not seen, and so people aren't going to understand my faith and my way of healing because they can't see it. It's not something you can pick up and physically read. There's no manual. The same thing with faith - in what you believe, what you see in your imagination, there's no manual, there's no, you know, blueprint to your imagination where people can look at it and say, I understand. There are going to be a lot of things people say you can't do that - are you crazy? You know how many people said I couldn't run, well I run, I couldn't jump, well I jump, I can't lift, well I lift.

Host: Did you play in the snow yet? 

Guest: Yeah, I did, with my dog.

Host: That was one of your biggest goals, right? 

Guest: And you know, every time I do something, you know, there are times where, you know, I even think about, like, the therapist or I think about the times that I had here, like, wow, like, like just this morning, I was walking my dog, I walked down three steps with him in my leash with no holding, no railing. Like, wow, I worked for this. Like this was the goal, right?

Host: You appreciate every little thing.

Guest: Being able to, you know, clean or being able to do something being able to lift the 50-pound dog bag into the carriage, that you know, I wasn't supposed to be able to do that. Can I do it every day yet? No, but the fact of the matter is those days are becoming more, and the days of “can’t” are coming less. And can't mean won't, so my body won't work sometimes, and that's okay. But those days can be lessened by my actions again choices to better myself and my health and to get there. 

I joke with the kids. I said you know, learning to walk was easier the first time when you were closer to the ground, and less inhibited. But I appreciate it more this time because I understand the work and you know, there are times when I'm walking, I have sandals on today. I would never have thought that, or I walked barefoot. I've taken my shoes off to share with the kids, and I made a dance a whole 7 and 8 counts and taught it, and there's a move, I wish they could see me, where you cross your arms, or you cross your legs, and you're in a T, and you turn and you spin. I taught that! I mean, I had to time it right on a better day. But the fact of the matter is that I choreographed and taught a dance that I should never have been able to do, but never say never.

So, I want the kids to understand that what you want to be and what you see, people aren't going agree with all the time, and that's what makes it even more, you need to go get it. That's what makes it more, you need to go after it because they don't think it can be done, and you see it like that's what God put in your mind for you. So, it's not meant for anyone to understand. And I think that if we don't go after our dreams, then we're just living to survive, um, without risk, there's no reward. There are positive risks and negative risks. Make sure the risk you take is positive because then you get better outcomes. Um, and, and you know, I'm sure there are many more things that I could, you know, come up with and think of, and I'm sure as I talk to the kids, I'll have more and be more organized. But I just, I really feel like it's important for them to understand that their choices matter and they do have a choice. You know there's not going to always be an adult around or that the situation isn't always going to be the standard one and you're going have to improvise and to go with your gut. Because your gut's usually right. 

Host: Well, Meagan, you will have a profound impact on so many people, students, and adults, and you're going to take your story into very far places, I'm sure.  I was just blessed to be in your presence and be part of that journey while you were here. It was really inspirational.

Guest: I think that everything happens for a reason. So, I hit the tree at the right time, and I had the right counselors, right Tim picked me, or you picked me, and it could have [gone] any other way, you know, I was a sassy person, I could have got someone who was not able to keep up. I mean some therapists are, to this day, still worried about what I'm capable of doing here because they're like, girl, you do too much. I can't, and that's why I only see certain ones or only work with someone because listen, girl, we’ve got to break out of the box or come on, guy. So, you know, I think that what's important. when I got a scholarship called the Lemonade Grant you had to write about something that happened to you when life gave you lemons, you make lemonade. And I thought this was so me, right? I remember writing in my letter more about the community around me, and it was the people I didn't expect, you know, even on days still like my mother's anniversary, I came here. I was here because this is where I feel the support and the love, and this is where I can be vulnerable. I can't be vulnerable out there, so I had to walk out of here because being vulnerable in the world was never an option for me. But it matters. Your team matters. 

So, you know, sometimes people are in your life for a season, so you have to remove them because their season's over. You know life is like a tree. You have some roots, and very few people are roots. Those are the people you hold on to. Then you have leaves. They come and go, and the season is quick. They're only there for one reason to teach you something or to bring something to your perspective and knowledge, and that's it. And then you have branches, which you have to watch out for because they seem reliable. I had a lot of branches, they seemed reliable, like they were there for me, but they broke. They didn't uphold, and they couldn't withstand the weather, and they broke, and they left me. But the roots, the roots don't go anywhere. No matter how cold the storm or how bad the season is, they keep the tree alive. So, I think it's important to really nurture your roots because those are the things that keep you going during the storm.

Host: I bet, Meagan. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am excited to have you on my crew now and working with you from a different perspective. 

Guest: It makes a dream come true because I always wanted to take my story or even, you know, my past living and be able to use them and speak. I've always wanted to be a speaker. So, the fact that I can do that now…

Host: Well, this is definitely going to be used in a big way, in a national way. The Think First National Association also promotes this podcast too. So, you've made it big.

Guest: As long as someone takes a positive note from it and knows that the thing they were told can't happen, can then it's worth doing.  

Host: Well, thank you, everyone, for listening to this podcast with our featured presenter, Miss Meg Ricci. We hope to see you for our next one. See you all soon!