‘Unparalyzed’ details woman’s journey with quadriplegia

Katie, being a woman of determination, knew she wanted more than that for her life.

By Kathy Lambert, For the Valley Record

Your children are out of school … time to remind them of being safe and getting some good, inspiring thoughts in them.

So now summer has begun. Weather is heating up and fun times are ahead. But sometimes in the sun and fun, we forget to use our head when it comes to safety. If you are a teenager or know a teenager, you know they think it may seem like a long time to adulthood and that they might think they or their friends are indestructible. But when you get into a vehicle that is thousands of pounds, danger can literally be around the corner or on the straight away.

I want to share with you an amazing story in a recently released book by a local woman Katie Mathews called “Unparalyzed.” This book tells about her life as a basketball star and how she was active in sports overall and school activities. One night in 2006, when she was 16, she and a friend decided to tell her mom they were having a sleepover and instead went to a party. On the way to the party, they nearly missed the exit, so the driver made a sharp turn, which caused the car to flip over several times. Katie was pinned in the car.

Two off-duty paramedics were passing in the opposite direction and saw the accident and were there immediately. A paramedic told her later that he did not think she would live, but he did his best to get an air tube in her and have her airlifted to the hospital. She spent five long weeks in intensive care, five months in specialty hospitals and eight months in a therapy hospital to start her return to moving. She was now a quadriplegic with no sensation below chest level.

The doctors told her that she would need 24-hour care for the rest of her life and need someone to help her do even her most basic life functions. Katie, being a woman of determination, knew she wanted more than that for her life. But over and over, others told her what she could not do rather than what she could do. She met another woman who was also a quadriplegic who had learned to do many things. That gave her inspiration.

Katie went to several specialty schools to learn basic skills in new ways. Her coach told her that however she could accomplish getting her pants on, eating, getting into bed, etc., was her way — and as long as it worked, it was her success. Her family and friends were also great supporters to encourage her.

The book goes into what methods she tried to use to become as independent as possible. It is heartwarming to learn about how someone could be so courageous and brave and determined. She went from a healthy vibrant 16 year old with goals to someone who was told all those goals were gone. You can imagine that she went through periods of depression. But she learned how to look for new ways to do things and to be appreciative of each new discovery toward a new level of independence again. She learned that looking for ways to be thankful each day keeps you aware of all that you may take for granted and adds joy to your life.

Later she was able to have her first service dog, Cowboy. But when he died, she was without his help. A few years ago she got a new service dog, Templeton, who is also highly trained to assist her. Both dogs shared/share amazing skills to assist in allowing her more freedom.

Now she has set new goals. She now works full time as a life coach trying to teach and model for others how to be grateful and to think about being safe — and to think about the consequences of driving too fast or not concentrating on the road.

So as you go into your summer, be aware of driving safety. You may even want to get this book to read as it shows strength and the power of determination. Katie has set up a nonprofit called Limitless Journey. She says, “I know the power gratitude and perseverance has in my life, and I want to share that with others. “

Kathy Lambert is a former member of the King County Council who represented the Snoqualmie Valley area.