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Inspiring Neighbor: Linda Vias

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Even without a voice and use of only her right arm, Linda Vias is finding joy in life and setting goals for the future.

The sun felt warm on Linda Vias’s face as she sat in the sea of people, waiting intently for the race to start. Entering her zone, she said a prayer that the airline wheelchair–a chair loaned to her after mangling her own manual ride in transit–would take her across the finish line.

The gun sound, and in usual Linda fashion, she pushed off as fast as her arms could move her. Though confidence propelled her along the familiar course, as she approached the end, something caught her off guard. “I was coming to the last point of the race and sadly, the front wheel came completely off and I went flying out of the chair,” remembered Linda.

Though the exact details of the accident on November 7, 2015 are still fuzzy–because of her head injury–Linda’s body had taken a bad hit. “Because of the fall, I injured my left shoulder, arm, ribs, and head,” she said. It was an accident that would land her in the emergency room at nearby Skyridge Hospital.

Prior to her accident on November 7, 2015, Linda had a successful travel business. She used used email Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) to help customers with travel plans.
Prior to her accident on November 7, 2015, Linda had a successful travel business. She used email and Telecommunications Relay Service to help customers make travel plans.

Two weeks passed before doctors were able to stabilize her condition. Recovery from the head injury had a positive prognosis, but regaining the feeling in her less dominant shoulder, arm and hand was unknown.

Linda was moved to spend the holidays at Lifecare Center at Stonegate in Lone Tree in hopes of rehabilitating her condition. “After I left the hospital, I stayed in rehab until February,” said Linda.

Her days there consisted of daily regimens of occupational, physical and cognitive therapies. While the routine served to restore most of her brain function, her left limb had no improvement.

When continuous therapy reached a plateau, Linda and her family began to make plans to transfer her back home. She looked forward to being back in her own environment with her dog Lyric by her side.

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Her companion and service dog, Lyric.

“It was really hard not to have Lyric with me daily,” said Linda. “I felt like part of me was missing.”

Shortly after returning home from the facility, things took a downhill turn. Blood clots were found in Linda’s legs and she was experiencing debilitating back pain. “I was taken back for a second time to the hospital,” she recalled.

This time her hospital stay would be shorter, having doctors run a series of tests to identify and treat the new pain. She was released to return home once again, with home health visits from nurses and therapists until May.

Starting life again

Since returning to the comforts of home, Linda has had the past seven months to embrace change. Though she has had 27 years to master life as a paraplegic, whose voice was also taken from a lifesaving tracheotomy procedure, her current injury presents new challenges.

“So much has changed with daily activities,” she said. Because of the extent of her injuries from the fall, she never regained the use of her left arm and hand. But just as Linda has always done, she relies on her strong faith and positive mindset to inspire her to discover new ways of doing things.

“First and most importantly, I feel extremely blessed to do the things I can,” she proudly stated. “The biggest adjustment to being back at home has been learning to do things with one arm, one-handed.”

Things like putting in her contacts by herself has come along with practice.

Linda and her daughter Hope at this year's Starlighting ceremony.
Linda and her daughter, Hope, at this year’s Starlighting event in Castle Rock. “I’m so thankful for Hope and her amazing help everyday,” she said.

“It is so different now, but I am so grateful to learn new ways of doing things daily,” Linda continued, “Everything from dressing, squeezing toothpaste, shampooing, preparing food…yes, I’m still trying to tackle cutting strawberries one-handed!”

Rather than letting her challenges get the best of her, she sees each day as a chance to solve the puzzle of how she is going to accomplish tasks most take for granted. “One of my biggest adjustments has been opening doors,” she said.

Of course Linda can’t give enough thanks to all those who donated funds for her power chair, but she feels equally compelled to give thanks to God for giving her the ability to help keep doors open with her head as she uses her good hand to push the ‘go’ button on her chair.

“The Lord gets all the glory! Sure, it’s not always easy, but I try to look at the positive,” smiled Linda. “I’m still able to do a lot things and I’m not in the hospital or rehab.”

And because she can no longer drive her hand-controlled car, she is learning to be more accepting of assistance when she can’t get from A to B because of distance or weather.

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Linda’s son Christian attends Morehead State University in Kentucky.

“Because there aren’t public transportation options in Castle Rock, I’m incredible grateful for the rides I get from my daughter Hope, friends and the Neighbor Network,” she said, “along with the support, love and prayers from my son Christian (who attends school in  Kentucky) and everyone else along the way.”

New adventures

The support from her network has likewise encouraged Linda to tackle new things. Over the past few months, she has found new freedom in the water, becoming a regular at the MAC Center pool on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. “Everyone at the MAC is very patient with me and I’m very thankful for their kindness, laughter and smiles!”

Linda communicates with MAC Lifeguard manager using hand gestures while he assists her out of the pool. "Every time that Linda comes in to swim, it immediately changes the mood and brightens our day," said Tanner.
Linda uses hand gestures to communicate with Tanner, MAC Center Lifeguard Manager. “Every time Linda comes in to swim, it immediately changes the mood and brightens everyone’s day,” said Tanner.

It is the staff’s encouragement that positively offsets the sometimes curious looks from other swimmers. With a smile she said, “There are many funny stories that we laugh about as there are many comments and lots of stares…just call me one-finned ‘Nemo.’”

As anyone can attest to that has seen her in the water, one-handed stroke isn’t slowing her down. “I feel blessed to be swimming now,” she added. With her tunes playing in her waterproof earbuds, Linda can swim upwards of 70 laps per hour; surpassing the timed tallies held by some lifeguards.

Besides giving her freedom of movement in the water, swimming is part of Linda’s bigger plan. “It is helping me train for several 5k races in the Spring and the Castle Rock Half Marathon.” She has even set the goal to enter and complete the full Rock & Roll Marathon next year.

“I will push through the courses using my right arm,” she said. “And I’m so thankful for friends who are willing to steer me when I need it, push me up hills or hold onto me while I’m going downhill.”

So as expected, neither real or figurative bumps in the road are holding Linda back from enjoying life.

Hope, Linda and friends at this year's Rock & Roll Half Marathon, October 2016.
Hope, Linda and friends at this year’s Rock & Roll Half Marathon, October 2016.

“I feel obstacles are a big part of life–yes, things will happen–but it’s the choice we make of how we will handle it,” she said. “Yes, there will be tears, frustration and questions that come about why things happen that aren’t good, but choosing joy, being thankful, helping others and laughing a lot sure makes the obstacles look small!”

We couldn’t have said it any better Linda.

Click to read more about Linda Vias