Quadriplegic Jesa Lopez has the Heart of a Dancer

Jesa Lopez has always loved the spotlight.

Jesa Lopez has always loved the spotlight.

Editor’s Note: Jesa Lopez of Oklahoma, an avid dancer, planned to travel the United States with a dance troupe and forego her senior year in high school to begin her dancing career as soon as possible. But then life put a huge obstacle in her way – an insurmountable obstacle, most would believe. However, at 32-years old today, the dancer in Jesa Lopez wouldn’t allow her to give up on her dream. Not only does she dance today, but she has a new goal and a new challenge to teach the wheelchair world how to dance. Part 1 of a 5 part series.

The summer before Jesa Lopez’s senior year in high school she was participating in the pom squad (the dance team at her high school), preparing to go to cheerleading camp and working at Discovery Zone, a learning center for kids. In those days, instead of cell phones, many young people had pagers.

“On June 21, 1996, I was driving down the road when I got a page,” Lopez recalls. “I dropped my pager and reached down to get it.” In the time required to reach down and pick it up, her vehicle crossed the center line of the highway, and she hit a minivan head on. Her vehicle was totaled and the Jaws of Life had to be called in to pry her out of the car.

She broke her neck at C6, C7 and T1 vertebrae and all the bones on the right side of her body. Her stomach was torn, one lung was punctured, the other one was collapsed, she had a bladder injury, her pelvis was shattered, her skull was cracked, and part of her brain was exposed. The driver of the other car only suffered a broken knee cap and collar bone.

On the way to the hospital, Lopez faded in and out of consciousness. She remembers asking for her mother and then later seeing the bone in her arm sticking out of her skin. She remembered the pain, and once again asked for her mother. After that, she was unconscious for several days.

Lopez recalls, “I didn’t wake up for a few days after the accident. When I did wake up, I saw that I had a respirator and a feeding tube and was unable to move any part of my body, which I knew meant I was probably paralyzed. My mom was told that I might not ever wake up, and if I did, I’d probably have brain damage.”

Jesa wondered if she'd ever be able to dance again.

Jesa wondered if she’d ever be able to dance again.

Lopez’s mother and friends came every day to the hospital. When she was unconscious, they sat with her, talked with her, played music and tried to let her know that they were there. Once she regained consciousness, they showed her pictures and asked her who was in the pictures. “When they showed me a picture of my dog, I recognized my dog, and I smiled,” Lopez explains. “My mom said, ‘Okay, she doesn’t have brain damage if she can recognize her dog.’”

When Jesa was in rehab her physical therapist told her she would never walk again, but she didn’t accept that prognosis. She told the PT, “No, I will be on the field and dancing at the first football game.” But when the first football game came and went, Jesa said, “Okay, I’ll be dancing at the first basketball game.” Even though she couldn’t move her hands very much, she was getting some mobility back. She refused to accept the fact that she was a handicapped person.

Next: Jesa Lopez Decided She Wouldn’t Be Disabled 

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 athttp://www.nighthawkpublications.com

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