I met Yvette at the Abilities Expo in Atlanta in March. It was a complete God-thing, and I am so happy that He arranged it! Yvette is a mom and wife, and her adorable boys wrote a book, which she will talk about below. Yvette is a classy, well-spoken woman, and she is going to do a great job representing her state at the national pageant next month as Ms. Wheelchair Northern Georgia USA. Meet Yvette!
- Tell us a little about yourself?
I’ve been married to my best friend for 11 years. We met after I was recruited from Barry University, South Florida, as a Networking and Systems Engineering college hire by IBM during a Technology Conference. He was living in Memphis, TN at the time. We married on the property where we live today with our two amazing sons: Isaiah (8) and Elijah (6).
Most say he's a GREAT man for hanging in there and taking over after the injury. He believes he is fulfilling his purpose and God's perfect plan to care for, protect & provide for his family to the best of his ability...no matter what. He never complains, always has a smile on his face and a song on his heart. I am so blessed to be his wife, the Mother of his children and his best friend. He has been, and always will be, my knight in shining armor!
- Tell us about your disability?
I suffer from a condition known as Chiari Malformation, Type I. Although it is a congenital brain malformation, it was discovered during a Traumatic Brain Injury in 2011 when my brain dropped into my spine. It is believed that I suffered from a stroke in my brain stem during an operative procedure to correct the condition which unsuspectingly left cognitive impairments and learning disabilities in the left brain as well as limitations in the spine and lower extremities. The condition, itself, is said to traditionally lead to very early and numerous operations very early in life, is passed from a mother to her girl-child, type II/III can be deadly and it is very similar to the condition, “Spina Bifida.”
- What is your platform/motto in life?
“The scene of our GREATEST disappointment is the setting of our most POWERFUL miracle!” Everything about our outward tragedy was a blessing from the moment the excruciating feeling of a red, hot knife cutting through my bones and fire shooting through my veins led us to the emergency room that night to the day we walked into the operating room and never walked out. Some may say that we pulled a bad card that day. We say, the card didn’t have to be pulled at all. There was just as much of a chance that the high neurological risk in BOTH parental case histories could have just as easily left me on the operating table. I could’ve also been born in a wheelchair and/or spending my entire life in and out of surgeries (as the condition suggests). But God had a different plan for my life. The life I live today is not for me but for those he has placed in my path and the purpose He has placed on my heart.
As such, we believe that it is important to leave a benevolent legacy. Our inclusive service platform is, “Dream.Write.Hope….Building a Legacy of Literacy, Today” for children with ALL abilities who aspire to be Junior Authors. Regardless or the categorical determination of child’s disability status, determination or eligibility under ADA, FAPE or IDEAS qualifications, DWH believes that every child reserves the right to dream and leave a legacy of hope for future generations. It only takes one generation to change a world. Why not now?
- What are your favorite activities?
During rehabilitation, I had the privilege of learning how to play Chess! For the first few years of recovery, I was a serious fall risk and still have some limitations. Otherwise, I have an insatiable love of the outdoors and rigorous sports. As such, I have discovered the world of Adaptable Sports! I am learning to slowly move into Paralympic sports related activities such as sled hockey and snow skiing. In the meantime, nothing beats enjoying being in the pool with the boys and watching them engage in the various sports that we shared prior to my injury: ice/roller skating, tennis, horseback riding, lacrosse, fencing, soccer and Tae Kwon Do.
- What is something we might not know about you?
When Isaiah was born, I went back to school to get a second degree in Early Childhood Education and Montessori to become a better mom which led me to qualify for a full tuition paid scholarship doctorate opportunity at Harvard School of Education just weeks before my TBI. I had just returned from an Earthquake mission where I assisted a medical relief team between Dominican Republic and Haiti by interpreting in (up to) 5 languages for Military, Census, families, media and medical. I was the greatest service opportunity of my life.
- What are your future plans?
I would like to pursue my education in service to the community that I believe my condition has led me to serve. Regardless of my medical outcome (whether I ever walk again or not), I believe I was truly meant to be a servant leader in a community that I’ve grown to love and respect so much more than I can articulate. Our entire family has fallen with me and they have also grown with me in ways that no other lesson, book or classroom experience could have taught us. Our experience has been organic and absorbed through every fiber of our being. None of the lessons have been wasted on us nor will they be forgotten.
- What is the biggest obstacle you have overcome?
Fear of Failure. In retrospect, my husband could see the health-related danger signs leading up to the fall. All I could see was the rise: I was a full-time graduate student Summa Cum Laude, Vice President of the Golden Key Honor Society, participating in Literacy in Africa at the University level, I had a fortuitous meeting with the sitting US Secretary of Education who agreed to mentor me while I was attending his Alma Mater. All while performing with excellence at the largest IT Company in the world. It was arguably one of my best (outwardly) performing years in education and career. My husband was happy and my children were flourishing. We were ‘ready’ to pack up and move to Cambridge…or so I thought.
I had a really long way to fall, a really hard place to land and a really long time to lay there. I was so used to fighting that I thought I had to pick up where I left off. Do better than before. Fight the refusal of corporate to take me back and traditional academia to see me as normal. Prove to everyone that I was ABLE even when the reports said otherwise. Then when I stopped PUSHING and allowed the answers to arrive at a place of serenity, I realized that the measurement of, “Failure” went away when I changed my perspective of SUCCESS.
- What is the best advice you would give to someone with a recent injury/diagnosis?
Live LIFE Forward. Life does not end at the diagnosis! There are THREE major areas I would recommend a newly diagnosed or disabled person to focus on:
- Your Self
- Personal Priorities
- Your Family
- Family Priorities
- Your World
- Educate Yourself
- Expand Your Social Networks
- Celebrate Your New Normal
- Anything else you would like to share?
Our transparency has been our therapy! We have had the privilege of therapy through writing. I believe that when I allowed my children into my transition and recovery, it also gave them permission to heal and help others going through the same/similar situation to do the same. So when they asked to write a book for kids by kids about what they were experiencing, we excitedly welcomed the opportunity for them to GROW through their experience outwardly. The result is, My Mommy had Brain Surgery & I’m Okay!, a small book about a big journey that has inspired classrooms struggling to make the brain FUN with a real story of inspiration, diversity, sensitivity, bullying and instruction - leaving an impact on young minds and hearts for a lifetime. A second book, about the 4/4’s for Newly Disabled and Diagnosed persons ™ followed.