Quadriplegic Jesa Lopez Turns Disaster into Dance

Jesa Lopez has always loved the spotlight.

Jesa Lopez has always loved the spotlight.

Editor’s Note: Jesa Lopez of Oklahoma, an avid dancer, had 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 4 of a 5 part series. 

Normally new tires on your wheelchair make the chair roll better, But Lopez’s tires were designed for outdoor use. “They were sharp and thick, so every time I would transfer, I would hit thes tires,” Lopez remembers. “I got an injury that caused me to go to the hospital, and I was there and on bed rest for 2 years.”

Lopez has been in and out of the hospital more than 100 times since then. Because of her spinal cord injury, her immune system was already compromised, and she got pneumonia very easily. She also developed a number of severe kidney and bladder infections that required hospitalization. She became allergic to some of the medicines and even had a reaction from a powerful antibiotic that caused skin damage similar to what a burn victim would have. The pain was so bad Lopez suffered a stroke while in the hospital.

When the hospital was were doing tests for the stroke, her kidneys shut down, and she went into kidney failure. Then she got an infection in her bones and had to have part of her thigh bone and a section of her hip removed due to the bone infection. Every time she got better, she’d go back and work at the shelter for victims of domestic violence. After one hospital stay, she received a letter from her job explaining that she’d run out of family medical leave at the job and was terminated and no longer had her insurance.

Jesa finally was able to dance again.

Jesa finally was able to dance again.

Lopez ended up in a long-term care facility. While working with physical therapists, she learned different types of exercises to keep her muscles in shape. “My physical therapist started moving me back and forth, and one day I said, ‘This is like ballroom dancing,’” Lopez explains. “The physical therapist picked-up on my comment and got me to work harder at my therapy, because we called it dancing. I choreographed a dance for us to do, the therapist got in a wheelchair too, and we performed our dance. From that simple beginning, a spark was lit inside of me that maybe I could learn to dance in my wheelchair.”

As Lopez studied wheelchair dancing, she found there were no wheelchair dance instructors in Oklahoma, but she discovered that there was a Wii video game that had dance routines on it. Lopez began to dance with the game and taped herself dancing with the game and put the videos on YouTube. The makers of the game were interested in her story, and how the game had helped her. She explained how the dance videos had helped her to develop more muscles, become stronger and improve her more range of motion. She hadn’t used those muscles required for dance in years and never had moved her arms in the way she moved them to dance with the game. So, the makers of the game asked Lopez to continue to make videos and put them on YouTube. Then other people in wheelchairs could see they could use this video game to learn to dance, and that dance would help them in rehab and to strengthen the muscles that they still had.

Realizing she could dance again was a pivotal moment in Jesa's life.

Realizing she could dance again was a pivotal moment in Jesa’s life.

“I told my occupational therapist that I wanted to dance again,” Lopez mentions. “The therapist had just hosted an expo and a dance group with disabilities performed. She gave me the number for the dance instructor and  I signed up for classes. Getting back into dance again was really a pivotal moment in my life. I was me again. I was free again.” Her passion for dance after all these years returned as did the desire that never left her to become a professional dancer.

Tomorrow: Ms. Wheelchair Oklahoma Jesa Lopez and Her New Career

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

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