Enjoying My Ride
by Tasha Schuh
One step backward. I never thought in my first 16 years growing up that one simple step could change my life forever in such a dramatic way. This is exactly what happened, however, on November 11, 1997, in Red Wing, Minnesota. As I wrote in my book: "On this date, the new Tasha Schuh was born. The Tasha Schuh who will never again stand over six feet tall. The Tasha Schuh who panics at the sight of a sore on her leg because she knows it may take weeks, maybe months to heal. The Tasha Schuh who painfully mourned the death of Christopher Reeve because she could relate so well to his struggles. The new Tasha Schuh ironically remembers almost every detail of her birth, from the first moment of that day." Come with me on a brief journey of how that step led me to where I am now.
I was born and raised in the small farming community of Ellsworth, Wisconsin. My parents owned a grocery store in town, and I often worked there evenings and weekends during my high school years. I loved to have fun with friends and was quite active in school activities: volleyball, basketball, choir, and National Honor Society. Acting was my true passion, however, and as a sophomore I landed the lead role of Sandy in my high school's performance of Grease.
By my junior year, I was excited to learn the more technical aspects of theater, as it had become my goal to pursue a career in theatrical arts. Thus, I decided to take on a role as a chorus member for The Wizard of Oz. Three days prior to opening night, during a hectic rehearsal, I was on stage practicing a scene change when I inadvertently fell backward through a trap door that had just been opened. I plunged 16 feet to a cement floor, landing on my head and breaking my neck. The resulting paralysis took my ability to walk, and less than a week later, nearly took my life.
Following a 16-hour neck surgery and three days of labored breathing, a deadly blood infection known as septic shock set in. Due to my paralysis and weakened condition, I was placed in a coma for eight days as I clung to life. The prognosis for that week was grim; doctors did not expect me to survive. My fever soared to a staggering 108 degrees, triggering concern that if I did live, there was a chance that I would be contending with permanent brain damage. I neither died nor had brain damage—it was a miracle! The battle was not over, however, as being a C-5 quadriplegic would test my spirit and emotions in the coming months. Rehabilitation progressed slowly, but eventually I returned to school in the hometown I had known before the accident. Despite the desire to go back to life as it was, I discovered that there was now a new normal for me as I found it difficult to completely fit back in with the friends and lifestyle I had known prior to the accident. Initially there were many difficult days, but as time went on and I began adjusting to my new circumstances, my outlook gradually began to change.
Fast forward 19 years and I am on a roll — literally! I still call the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin my home, but I am not the same girl who left the hospital in 1998; I am the new Tasha Schuh. Shortly after crossing the Ellsworth High School platform to receive my diploma in the spring of 1999, I left home to create and pursue my new dreams. Along the way, I earned bachelor degrees from Winona State University in Communications Studies, and from Maranatha College in Theology. I relearned how to drive using my arms, built a new home, wrote and released my first book entitled My Last Step Backward, and married the love of my life in 2013. The road that I have traveled includes numerous awards: Ms. Wheelchair USA and the National Rehabilitation Champion Award (both in 2012), recognition by the Wisconsin State Legislature, and the 2014 Winona State Young Distinguished Alumni Award. I am a fighter, survivor, and an overcomer; my passion is to inspire and educate others on how to do the same with their lives. My main keynote, Enjoy Your Ride, challenges people to finish strong in their race of life by pressing forward and choosing to focus on the beautiful scenery that is still there even in the midst of trying times through purpose, attitude, and hope.
One of my favorite audiences is middle and high school students. The recurring theme from the testimonials on my website is: "Tasha is an absolute must in every high school." According to Joe Schmit, Sports Director at KSTP in St. Paul, "If you love the word 'hope' you need to hear Tasha Schuh speak." With the current suicide epidemic and media surrounding bullying, my message helps to positively redirect students and help combat the issues that every school in America is facing. Because of this, my husband and I have created a movement called the PITCrew to stress the importance of having a team in life to help each other succeed and press through difficult times. In addition to schools, my wheels also take me across the nation, sharing this message of inspiration and hope at conferences, health care organizations, and other businesses.
Since the accident occurred that fateful November evening in 1997, my journey has given new meaning to the 1984 lyrics sung by Matthew Wilder: "Ain't nothin' gonna break my stride, nobody's gonna slow me down." And no one has! I love my life and at every turn along the road, I have truly discovered what it means to "enjoy the ride"!
© 2016 Tasha Schuh
Survivor, believer, and fighter — Tasha Schuh is a unique individual with a story that is sure to inspire any age. After a tragic theater accident left her paralyzed from the chest down, Tasha has discovered invaluable lessons that resonate with audiences of all demographics. Since 2007, she has been traveling across the country inspiring and challenging others to overcome and persevere, no matter what life throws at them. Heartfelt and humorous, Tasha's presentations encourage everyone to Enjoy the Ride and finish strong. She challenges her audience to laugh along with her, yet will take them to the brink of tears with the miracles God has worked within her life. Her messages demonstrate the importance of life's little gifts that are often hidden by the larger desires the world throws at us. Learn more about Tasha at her website, www.TashaSchuh.com.
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