Meet Jamie Duplechine

Meet Jamie Duplechine

Posted by Community Admin on Mar 21, 2016 9:33 am

My name is Jamie Duplechine and I am a Peer Mentor with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Peer and Family Support Program. At the age of 15, I made the choice to get behind the wheel of a 1995 Geo Tracker and utilized the vehicle even though I was not a licensed driver. Not only was I unlicensed, but I was also quite inexperienced. Being the rebellious teenager I was, I made the ultimate decision based on the fact that I thought I knew everything and I was invincible, so nothing was going to happen to me.

It was July 21, 1995, as I woke up to bright lights, a lot of beeping, and the doctor telling me that I would never walk and possibly never breathe on my own again, that would change my life forever. It was at that point I realized I didn't know everything and something had, indeed, happened to me. There were no words that can truly describe the way I felt… so many thoughts were going through my mind. It was all new to me and I wasn't sure what I was capable of doing now that I was paralyzed. I was a young woman with dreams of getting married and having a family, and I knew I needed to get back to school. 

After returning home, it was all about getting into outpatient therapy, but the question remained:  Was I going to go back to school? I made the decision to go back to school about six weeks after I was home. I only had a year and a half before graduating. I didn't focus much on rehabilitation and therapy as I did focus more on opportunities of leading a "normal" life. I think that was my way of coping with everything. It wasn't about accepting how life was for me now, it was more about adjusting to a different way of living. Therapy was quite frustrating (as I'm sure it is for everyone), and moving on and getting into the "living" aspect was more important for me. I guess I just looked at my life and said, "Well, this is the way life is going to be, so get on with it and live." I looked for those opportunities that seemed impossible. I guess I'm still quite rebellious!  I know that it was that rebelling attitude that has brought me out and gotten me to where I am today.

Twenty years post injury, I finally found a SCI Support Group through someone I had befriended who was a "fresh" injury. Through her and the dc36c77ae9ef7d9b3c3b529a94279870-huge-ja
support group, I met several awesome people, one of which was Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana 2014. We became friends and she felt that I would be a great candidate for a participant in this pageant. I, reluctantly, decided to give it a go EVEN after I found out that I had to deliver a speech. 

Becoming Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana 2015 has given me more confidence and has helped me grow in so many different ways. I have learned how to better advocate, not only for myself, but most importantly for others – those who may not have a voice or for those who, like me at one time, didn't realize that I had a voice. Through the organization, I have had the opportunity to meet so many fantastic people – those that I was able to help, those who were able to help me, and other instances where we helped each other. Lifetime friendships and memories were created throughout my year as Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana.  I most certainly didn't realize that after being paralyzed for 20 years my life could be changed so drastically.  This year also made me realize that I now live my life for others.  I would encourage anyone in any state to take advantage of their state's "Ms. Wheelchair" organization, or if your state doesn't currently have one, see about starting one.

I have days where I struggle, still, because I long for a companion to "do life with," but I maintain through a positive mindset.  I keep busy through reading, volunteering, keeping positive people around, and looking for different opportunities in order to help others.

Jamie Duplechine

Peer Mentor

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