Local mom inspires winning essay
This Week News
Local mom inspires winning essay
Thursday, May 24, 2007
By BRITTINY DUNLAP
Villager Staff Writer
Photo: Stacy James with her mother, Helen, in their Dublin home Wednesday. Stacy was named runner-up in the “Times Mom Stood Up For Me” writing competition. (Photo by Chris Parker/Villager)
Stacy James had 300 words to explain to strangers how her mom stood up for her. She only had 300 words to express how her life changed after an accident and the sacrifices her mother made to make sure she lived a full and happy life.
It only took those 300 words for Mitch Albom to notice Stacy James’ story.
James was named a runner-up in the Borders “Times Mom Stood Up For Me,” writing competition, featuring Albom, author of “Tuesdays with Morrie.”
Her piece, “Broken Neck … Unbroken Spirit,” highlights the moments her mother, Helen James, experienced after receiving a call that Stacy had broken her neck in a diving accident.
James was a junior at University of Cincinnati and was attending an end-of-the-year pool party on June 1, 1991. When she dove into the water she didn’t pass the shallow end and broke her spine in three places.
“I remember lying at the bottom of the pool and I couldn’t feel anything and I didn’t understand what was going on,” Stacy James recalled. “I was terrified I was going to drown to death. That is when one of my friends grabbed me and pulled me out of the pool.”
James was told she would never walk again. After one month in the hospital and three months in rehab, she left with the aid of walking crutches. She uses them to this day.
“I remember one time in rehab I told my nurse that I felt bad for all the stuff my mom had to do for me,” Stacy James said. “And she told me, she didn’t think mom would have it any other way.”
“I never thought of it that way,” Helen James chimed in.
“I can’t say enough about the things my mom has done for me,” James said. “To be able to honor her on national television and meet Mitch Albom would have been wonderful.”
James heard about the contest only four days before it ended. She spent about 10 hours crafting the piece. She submitted it to the competition on April 25.
On May 4, James got a phone call announcing she was a finalist in the competition.
“I didn’t even know what to say at first,” Stacy James said. “We were told we would get a phone call by Tuesday and if I was the winner to be ready to hop on a plane to New York.”
Although she didn’t win, James said it was an honor knowing that Albom read her work and selected it as one the best submitted pieces.
“A good thing for me too, is if Mitch read my essay, there is a chance I could e-mail him and still meet him one day. I have learned so much about living since being a wheelchair, about real life, and Mitch learned that from his interactions with Morrie. I would love to be able to talk to him about that.”
Helen James said she was flattered her daughter took the time to share their story.
“I was really happy,” Helen James said. “I didn’t have a clue what it was and what it was all about. It makes me very proud and grateful.”
“I do things because I’m her mother and her friend,” she continued. “It’s a unique strength that takes a lot of care and thought to be a mother.”
Despite the obvious challenges, James didn’t let the accident stop her from living.
“I was really focusing on my future, not the things that I lost,” James said. “… When I was in the hospital my mother put up a poster that said everything – don’t give up. I could lay there and complain or I could get up and live my life.”
“I just didn’t want her to be in bed for the rest of her life because she doesn’t deserve that,” Helen James said.
James went back to school and graduated with a bachelors degree in communications.
Today, Stacy James works as a motivational speaker and is a published author. She regularly competes in track and field events in the Ohio wheelchair games and was Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2002-2003.
More information about James can be found on her Web site at www.meetstacyjames.com.
Below is Stacy’s essay.
Broken Neck … Unbroken Spirit
By Stacy James
Helen was uneasy all day. “Something’s wrong,” she said at dinner. When she got home at 8:30 pm, the phone rang. It was my college roommate. “Helen, Stacy was in a diving accident. She broke her neck.”
She arrived in the ER to find my head in a C-clamp, tubes down my nose and throat, heart monitors on my chest, and IV’s in each arm, paralyzed from the neck down. She looked down at me, and all I could say was, “I’m sorry mom, please don’t be mad.”
“I’m not mad at you, honey; we’ll get through this,” she said, touching my face.
I spent the night in the ICU; my mom spent the night outside my door. The next day the doctors told my mom I would never walk again. She never told me.
“Imagine yourself running along the beach,” she said, sticking with me for a month in the hospital and three months in rehab. She learned to give me shots, medicine, and stretch my legs. She helped me re-enroll in college and accompanied me to class, taking notes, because my fingers were still paralyzed, and typed my papers at work. She lifted my heavy wheelchair in and out of the car, driving me to therapy three mornings a week and to class at night. Two years later, I walked on crutches to graduate magna cum laude, my mom by my side.
In 1999, my mom walked with me to complete the New York City Marathon in 11 hours. Today I am grateful to be a wheelchair athlete, Ms. Wheelchair Ohio 2002, a motivational speaker and an author. For every dream, I can count on my mom to be cheering. She never let my broken neck break my spirit.