Quadriplegic Ashleigh Justice’s Adventures In Rehab And Rugby

Editor’s Note: Fifteen year old Ashleigh Justice of Phoenix, Arizona, was driving her family vehicle when tragedy struck and changed her life forever. She explains that, “The one glimmer of hope in this world when I was injured physically and mentally and having to adjust to family problems, housing problems and school problems was rehab.” Part 4 of a 5 part series.

The first 2 weeks of rehab I couldn’t do anything for myself. I was still moving very slowly, because of my brain injury. I was in a mental fog and had a very difficult time thinking. I also had a broken collar bone and shoulder blade  I couldn’t do anything on my left side. However, when that part of my body began to heal, I started learning how to do transfers. I never will forget what a big accomplishment being able to make that first transfer from my wheelchair was. Being able to transfer myself was my first real triumph since the accident. My next triumph was when I was able to write my own name, since I had limited mobility in my hands. Next, being able to lean over in my wheelchair and being able to pick something up off the floor was my next big accomplishment. When I could pick up my hairbrush, I felt like I was really getting better. When you lose all your physical abilities, including your bowel functions, and life breaks you down that much, then when you start to have little successes, they become major triumphs. You appreciate the little triumphs too and start to love them. I developed a love for everything I could do. I feel like even now that I’m always recovering. But, my initial recovery took about 3 years. That’s when I began to accept who I was and started participating in wheelchair sports.

Ashleigh Justice wasn't able to do many day to day things in rehab, but she pulled herself out of that hole and made many accomplishments.

Ashleigh Justice wasn't able to do many day to day things in rehab, but she pulled herself out of that hole and made many accomplishments.

One of the major benefits I got from wheelchair sports was that I didn’t feel guilty or self conscious for being in a wheelchair and having to rely on others to help me. Wheelchair sports allowed me to express myself and to regain the personality I’d had before my injury.  I finally loved who I was. My favorite sport was wheelchair rugby, which was one of the few sports that a quadriplegic could do. I had some mentors from the hospital who played wheelchair rugby, and they encouraged me to try the sport. I went to a rugby clinic and fell in love with it. I was able to learn so much from my rugby teammates. Nationally only about six or seven girls played wheelchair rugby, and I was the only girl on my team. Rugby was challenging enough to allow me to feel like I was really accomplishing my goal of getting better.

Rugby made Ashleigh Justice feel great!

Rugby made Ashleigh Justice feel great!

The competition was level enough that I didn’t feel like I was being overshadowed by the boys. I was a player – I wasn’t just a girl or just a quadriplegic. To be honest, I really enjoyed knocking the boys down. When I could knock a guy out of his chair, I really felt awesome. But, most of the time, they knocked themselves over trying to get to me. My being able to snatch the ball away from a guy or passing the ball over his head really made the guys angry, and then they’d come after me. They didn’t back off just because I was a girl. The day before I met my husband was the last rugby tournament I ever played.  

About Ashleigh Justice
As a 10-year veteran of SCI and TBI,  Ashleigh has lived with her injuries (the result of a rollover car accident) since she was 15 and has overcome many challenges, including most recently, becoming a parent. She has spent many years mentoring other people with SCI and has discovered that with the right attitude and the right amount of knowledge, nothing is impossible. Today, Ashleigh writes a blog for brain and spinal cord injured individuals (quadriplegia mainly) called The QuadFiles, sponsored by AdvisaCare.  It’s a compilation of resources, stories and motivations – see www.theQuadfiles.com for details. 

Next: Life After Wheelchair Rugby With Quadriplegic Ashleigh Justice

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

3 Responses to Quadriplegic Ashleigh Justice’s Adventures In Rehab And Rugby

  1. Pingback: Jesse Billauer the Quadriplegic Surfer Phenom « catseyesk

  2. What a inspirational story. Amazing!
    I just became engaged this year to my childhood sweetheart Michael Steven Lee. He is also a C-7 quad. He is now a fulltime student at Pierce college, his dream is to help newly injured people with spinal injuries. This month he was told that he has to move out of his lifelong home and he literally has nowhere to go. Every building, condo, townhouse and home’s in Southern California are not at all wheelchair accessible. Do you have any suggestions? We have called and emailed the LA housing dept., The dept. of rehab, Triumph foundation, Christopher and Dana Reeves foundation, local hospitals, churches and realtors, but no one seems to know exactly what to do or where to turn. The foundations are all amazing and have wonderful people running them, but they don’t know what to do for Mike. Mike’s parents have both passed away and he has no family left. Do you have any suggestions on what to do? I am very worried because I do not want him to be homeless with nowhere to go. He is such a wonderful caring person. Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this. I am grateful for any help or direction you maybe able to offer.
    Kind Regards,
    Andrea Kinman
    (regarding Michael Steven Lee)

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