With the right of way at a nearby 4-way stop, her bus started to accelerate through the intersection. Life had never been easy for Nat by any means. But in a few moments, nothing would ever be the same.
A few months earlier in December 2012, the WWE House Show had just ended, and Nat had been watching the event with her parents and some of their friends at her house. Nat and her father decided to roughhouse a little in the living room when she suddenly lost her balance. Reaching down with her left hand, Nat braced for impact. The full weight of her 12-year-old body came down on her hand, and she immediately knew something was off. Later, Nat would recall the moments leading up to her fall as the last of her life without pain.
Nat looked to her right and noticed a car heading straight toward her bus. Going well above the subdivision speed limit, the car showed no signs of slowing down, let alone stopping.
After the wrestling incident, everyone dismissed Nat’s injury as a simple bruise. But the next morning, she woke up in excruciating pain. Her left hand had ballooned and turned purple. What followed was a series of doctors’ appointments to figure out what was going on – from pediatricians to a children’s hospital to a sports medicine clinic. Each medical expert she saw told her the same thing: “This is out of my league. I can’t help you deal with this.”
They sent her to a rheumatologist, where the room quickly filled with doctors and nurses who had never seen anything like Nat’s condition. Her hands were two different colors and measured at completely different temperatures. Although her injury was isolated to her hand, Nat had dissociated her entire left arm. She walked as if her arm was no longer a part of her body, subconsciously protecting people from touching it or bumping into her.
There was no way around it; the car was not stopping as it accelerated into the intersection. Nat watched in horror as she realized a direct collision was imminent with right side, row 6.
Nat was finally referred to a world-famous hand specialist in Houston who took one look at her hand and delivered the grim prognosis: CRPS.
The McGill Pain Scale measures the amount of pain caused by various conditions based on tens of thousands of respondents over decades of research. Ranked at the very top, above both childbirth and amputation without drugs, is complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Often referred to as “the suicide disease,” people with CRPS describe the pain as an intense, searing/burning sensation. The worst part is that for most people, that pain never goes away and can be magnified by something as simple as running water, clothes rubbing the skin, or even a slight breeze.
From the moment of Nat’s fall, she’s ranked her pain level at a “10” on a scale of 1-10. She’s felt unfathomable pain, higher than anything you or I have ever experienced, every moment of every day since. At least for Nat, like many people with CRPS, that pain was isolated to one area of her body. But that was all about to change.
The car smashed into the bus, precisely where Nat was seated. Her legs got pinned under the seat by a metal bar as the car jostled underneath the bus. A familiar sensation permeated through her entire body, and Nat knew it right then and there. She now had full-body CRPS, the worst version of the worst kind of pain known to science.
This time, Nat didn’t need a doctor to tell her what was happening to her body. Life instantly became even more chaotic. She soon became reliant on a wheelchair for mobility. She was in and out of countless doctor appointments to try to manage the pain. She became a regular at the local hospital. At one point, she was even medically kidnapped when someone in the hospital thought she was making up her disease and called the Department of Children and Families.
Before CRPS, Nat was a social butterfly. She organized and attended sleepovers with her friends. She was involved in various sports. CRPS changed all that.
In the years that followed her second accident, Nat chose not to become another statistic to the “suicide disease.” She graduated from high school and planned to dedicate her life to helping people in the medical system with situations similar to hers. She even landed on studying American Sign Language Interpretation at Saint Petersburg Community College to help people with disabilities communicate during their hospital stays.
Her favorite thing is to get out and play adaptive sports, especially basketball, hockey, and archery.
Is it any surprise that she’d be a natural at everything she puts her mind to?
But despite her positive attitude and desire to help others, life for Nat is full of challenges she just can’t overcome on her own.
Nat’s mother, Myrna, would love for her daughter to be able to get out more, but mobility has become a major issue over the past few years. Their sedan can no longer accommodate Nat’s wheelchair. Years ago, going anywhere meant Myrna would strain her back to lift Nat and her heavy wheelchair into the car. The sheer brute force of lifting Nat over the years has taken its physical toll on Myrna and Nat. Nat now has to rely on public transportation to leave her house in any capacity. To make matters worse, she lives on a county border where it takes weeks of planning to set up transportation and hours of waiting for it to arrive.
Let’s just call that less than ideal for someone that wants to become more social and has plans to change the world.
Nat and her mother knew the only way for Nat to live her best life was to get a wheelchair-accessible van. They scoured the internet for resources that would cover the high price tag. Spoiler alert: the list of people who will help is extremely short. When they found Chive Charities at the top of the list, they filled out an application and waited. Then they waited some more.
When she finally heard back from Chive Charities, the response was also less than ideal. “Sorry, we just don’t have the budget to help you.”
But this is where things get interesting.
You are probably aware that Chive Charities changes the lives of 1-2 families’ each week, averaging $30,000 per recipient. That impact is driven mainly by the contributions from our monthly donors to our Green Ribbon Fund and one-time donations. When we meet to select our upcoming recipients each quarter, we max out that funding and then some. But we always hold out hope that more funding will magically appear from somewhere else, so we hold back a list of maybe applicants that could turn into yeses. The reality is, every applicant who we review in those meetings is deserving of our support. It’s heartbreaking and feels unfair to say no. We just can’t fund them all.
What Nat didn’t know when we told her no was that she was actually at the top of that maybe list.
Behind the scenes, we were spinning our wheels for over a year to make Nat’s grant feasible. She was in the dark the whole time, assuming an accessible van just wasn’t in the cards for her.
Little did she know, there were a couple of heroes waiting in the wings.
We contacted Mishap72, who helped us support Evelyn in her time of need, and another anonymous donor to see if they’d help us bridge the gap and finally make Nat’s wish come true. They were more than willing to step up.
The only thing left was to let Nat know the good news. It had been nearly a year since we had told her we couldn’t help her. I jumped onto a Zoom call under false pretenses and couldn’t help but get emotional when I saw her reaction.
Thanks to our angel donors and the everyday donors who lead the way, Nat’s 2019 Grand Caravan from AMS Vans just arrived this week for a total impact of $50,000. We even prepped the van so Nat can install hand controls once she passes her driver’s test.
A matter of 3 seconds changed Nat’s life in so many ways. 3 seconds to survive an accident, 3 seconds for a couple of angel donors to say yes – and 3 seconds to get the surprise of a lifetime.
In case you haven’t noticed, we change lives weekly around here. Nat is just one of 565 inspiring individuals who renew our faith in humanity and inspire us to make the world a better place. We’re hoping there are thousands more in the future. Take 3 seconds to sign up as a donor yourself and start changing the world with us RIGHT HERE.
Editor’s note: if you’d like to become an angel donor to one of our worthy “maybe” applicants, please contact me at email@example.com