Samantha: How to live well on wheels

Did you ever imagine that self-catheterization would be impossible to achieve? Samantha did. Experiencing a spinal cord injury is challenging enough, so needing to use a catheter on top of that was an overwhelming reality. But a positive attitude and bright outlook helped her cope.

Waking up to a new reality

When you meet Samantha, you'll immediately notice her strong, positive personality. It is almost unimaginable that six years ago, Samantha spent several difficult months in the hospital, where she struggled to adapt physically and psychologically to her new reality: life in a wheelchair.

At the age of 17, Samantha fell from a third-story apartment. When she woke up in the hospital, her life had taken a devastating turn: the accident had caused a spinal cord injury leaving Samantha paralyzed from the waist down.

Due to the spinal cord injury, Samantha also lost her bladder control and needed to start using an intermittent catheter. For Samantha, this was one of the hardest parts – but in order to leave rehab, she was forced to learn self-catherization:

I remember not wanting to do it. I kept thinking, "this isn’t fair. I shouldn’t be doing this." But I ended up doing it just to get out of rehab, because I thought that going home, everything was going to go back to normal.

But things didn’t go back to normal. Samantha struggled to accept cathing and had her mom perform her catherisations. It took 4 months before Samantha felt ready to cope with her new reality:

At some point after I got home, I realized that this is my body, and I want it to be only mine. I don't want anybody else to have anything to do with it. So that's when I took control and started cathing on my own. It was scary and it was challenging, because sometimes, I didn't know where to aim. So I would get it wrong, and I would get it right, but overall, I've felt a lot better with it.

Catheters? Whatever

Being paralysed and bound to a wheelchair can be challenging enough, so needing to use a cathether on top of all the other changes the body is going through, can be frightening. But Samantha chose a different outlook on cathing and is now considering it as ‘one more thing that comes with life’.

You have to realise that that's how it's going to be for however long it may be, and that's the healthiest thing you can do for yourself, is be on top of it. So it’s better if they know these little bits and pieces that come with my life and being in a chair.

What has really helped Samantha is sharing with her friends, so there's no shyness or insecurity when it comes to cathing:

I used to be so shy about bringing out a catheter or taking it out in public. I was always worried that it would fall out of my bag and someone would see that I have a catheter with me. But now I can just take it out of my bag and go to the bathroom and it's become second nature to me.

A bright outlook on life

Despite the setback, Samantha graduated high school the same year as she suffered her injury.

Today, Samantha's mission is to be a "normal" teenager, with the same appetite for new adventures as her peers:

I struggled with accepting that I had to use a catheter. I didn't want it to be part of my daily thing. But now, I don't even think about it and it’s a detail that I'm honestly not even embarrassed to talk about anymore.

Samantha has gone on to discover a love for dancing, and together with her wheelchair dance team – the Rollettes – in her hometown of Los Angeles, CA, her will to live a normal life is stronger than ever:

That's given me a bigger sense of independence. With the dance team, we're traveling all over the country, traveling together. Just the fact that we can actually do that and not have to rely on, anyone – that is what fulfills me the most. I'm still able to do what I was doing prior to my accident.

Samantha's best advice, if you’re about to learn self-catherization is to ‘own it’:

If I was in the room with myself five years ago when I was struggling to cath, I would have just told myself to take it easy. It was going to get easier. It's part of life and things happen. I think you just have to own it.

Sign up
To top