University of Southern California Mrs. T.H. Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
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Alma got a spinal cord injury when she was a child. She fell from a beam at a gymnastics class. Since then, Alma has lived a very active life. She went to a public school before it was common for people with serious disabilities to do that. Then she went to college. She worked at lots of interesting jobs. She helped out with charities. She made and sold her own greetings cards. She even learned to fly a plane, and went "sit-skiing", river rafting, all-terrain biking and skydiving. Alma's injury hasn't stopped her!

Read more about Alma in these articles...

Alma got a spinal cord injury when she was a child.

→ read more in Listening to Your Body

Alma's parents took turns staying with her at the hospital so she wouldn't feel scared.

→ read more in Friends and Family

Here is what Alma said about how her faith helped after her injury:

"Why the accident? I don't know, but I can't really blame it on God. Maybe there's just some other bigger picture out there that I don't know about, but is there for a reason. I don't know what.... I don't think I would have been around unless He wanted me around."

→ read more in Faith

Alma got a pressure ulcer (which is what a doctor or nurse calls a pressure sore or bedsore) when her tailbone grew "the wrong way" and broke through her skin.

→ read more in Things You Can't Control

Alma fell off a balance beam when she was a child and got a spinal cord injury at C-1 (the highest of the cervical vertebrae, which are in the neck). She is an adult now. Alma works out every day with her helper. She does range-of-motion exercises. She does other exercises, too. Alma has her own exercise equipment at home, but she needs help to use it. Her helper helps Alma to get onto and off the equipment, as well as watching out for Alma's safety while she uses the equipment.

→ read more in Working Out

Alma got a job using a computer that she really had fun doing, and she said:

"Don't just say, 'Take care of yourself.' Take care of yourself, and do something that you like."

→ read more in Doing Things

Alma, Helen and Odel all paint.

→ read more in Don't Overdo It

Alma went river-rafting.

→ read more in Doing Things

Alma loves extreme sports. Alma has gone hang-gliding. She saves her money to try a new adventure.

Alma wanted to try jumping out of a plane. She wanted to parachute. The pros were: excitement, fun, reaching a goal, doing a once in a lifetime thing. The cons were: maybe getting hurt, costs.

Alma saved her money. She found out how to skydive safely. She read about it. She asked teachers. Alma found out about jumping with a teacher. It is called in tandem. The student and the teacher are tied to the same parachute. The teacher does all the steering. The teacher pulls the cords. Lots of people jump in tandem. Ex-President George H. W. Bush jumped in tandem when he was 80. That way, he was safe.

Alma jumped in tandem with a teacher. That made it safer. Alma did what the teacher said. Alma was safe. Alma had fun!

→ read more in Taking Big Risks

Alma and Judy picked what they wanted in their homes. It made it easy for them to get around and use things.

→ read more in Accessibility

Even though Alma works and does a lot of things for fun, she still takes time every day to get out of her wheelchair and rest for a half-hour or more. She has not had a pressure ulcer in years. Alma is productive, but she does not overdo it. Her advice is:

"Don't just say, 'Take care of yourself.' Take care of yourself, and do something that you like."

→ read more in Don't Overdo It

Alma and Frank both listened to their body. They both found the best way to take care of their skin.

→ read more in Listening to Your Body

Alma is a good example of someone who believes in herself. Here is what she said about trying new things. See if you can see the Three Cs in what she says:

"There's a lot of neat things out in the world to offer, and it's neat to try and do different things and to experiment. And if it works out and you like it, great. If it doesn't, you tried it, then you move on. But try to have fun and make the best of what you have."

→ read more in Feeling, Attitude and Believing in Yourself

Alma eats very healthy foods. She likes to eat chicken. She likes to eat salads. She likes to eat vegetables. Alma is very healthy.

She has only had one pressure ulcer. It was because a bone grew in the wrong direction!

→ read more in Eating Healthy and Weight

Alma knows it is important to get support from others. Here is what she said about doing things with others:

"When you're out having a good time, you don't feel pain. I think that being around good people who are fun and happy makes you happy."

→ read more in Feeling, Attitude and Believing in Yourself

Alma interviews people who want to be her helper. She says she can teach them what to do to help her. Alma thinks it is more important to make sure they are honest and she can trust them. She also makes sure that she gets along with them. Alma says:

"You have to get along. You spend so much time together, and it really is a personality match. So that is first, because after that, everything else falls into place. But if that is not in order, then you just have problems all they way."

Because Alma is careful, she has helpers she really likes. They take very good care of her. Alma has stayed healthy and avoided pressure ulcers.

→ read more in Caregivers and Helpers

Alma has found the best way for her to take pressure off. Alma stays up in her wheelchair for 4 or 5 hours. Next, she lies down for 30 or 45 minutes. Alma and her helper check her skin every day.

When Alma sees a red spot, she spends more time lying down. When Alma sees a red spot, she lies down more often. She lies down for more time, more often, until the red spot goes away.

The way Alma takes pressure off might not be right for everyone. Alma listens to her body. She is thin. Alma has not had a pressure ulcer for 35 years!

→ read more in Listening to Your Body, Now I Get It! and Taking Pressure Off Your Skin