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Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Overcoming Disability: Inga's Story

PHOTO by Penny Wolin.

Inga’s Story
by Bianca Llamas

What Inga remembers most about waking up that day was the white. It surrounded her, but it was not the comforting white of billowing clouds or down comforters, but the cold stark white that spoke of starched ironed bed sheets and disinfectant.

It was a surreal setting where nothing made sense. All she could remember was who her family was and her job. She was told later that the accident occurred when she was celebrating with her boyfriend in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania. The holidays had passed and winter was raging on.

Inga Lizdenyte, 32, did not know where she was when she woke up. She had been in a car accident, but she didn’t remember it. The result was the loss her legs and the paralysis of her left arm.

Inga had no recollection of the accident. Later, she was told that the driver was speeding, at 100 miles per hour. The roads were slick with ice and snow. The driver lost control and careened into light pole. He died at the scene. At the time of impact Inga’s legs were sliced in half, just above the knee.

Her life seemed a blur. It was not until a few weeks later that her father told her that the driver who died in the accident was her boyfriend, Dalius. After hearing his name she understood.
“Dalius always liked to drive fast,” said Inga.

To most of us it would seem incomprehensible, losing both legs and a boyfriend at once. Yet now Inga reflects that she was able to handle the news fairly well, no doubt due to the morphine the doctors were filling her with.

After being released from the hospital Inga went back home to live with her family, but things were not the same. Like physical therapy, learning to live with a disability and the looks in the eyes of old friends who never knew what to say or do. It took about a year of being stuck in her room to be motivated to take hold of her situation.

“I couldn’t leave my room because I had to wait during the process of home modification. I made the request right away but it took about a year before anything was done.”

“I couldn’t take the humiliation of being carried down the only flight of stairs from the elevator to the ground floor…I only left the house for doctors appointments and rehabilitation therapy”. Life as she had known it seemed to no longer exist. Inga felt that she had lost the freedom she had rarely even given a second thought to.

But Inga was strong. Adjusting to her new life was not easy. She had been forced into a world that required her total dependence on others. Eventually with the combination of therapy and motivation, Inga decided to get on with her life.

“I wanted to live, not exist,” said Inga.

Things were looking up when an American prosthetic expert was able to create two prosthetic legs, enabling Inga to walk again.

But only for a year.

Her thighbone was growing back, a painful process some amputees experience. The pain made it impossible for Inga to wear her prosthetic legs.

There is no longing in Inga’s voice when she describes choosing to use a wheelchair. She is content and happy with her life. Inga’s pristine happiness is what sets her apart from most people and people who have suffered an injury resulting in disability. Part of this happiness is due to her job, Public Relations and Volunteer Coordinator at Disability Services and Legal Center also known as DSLC.

“One of the reasons I love working at DSLC is because this agency helps people like me to become independent and live their lives despite their disability. I have seen, smelled, felt, heard and tasted every emotion that these people are dealing with. I know what it feels like when you cannot live your life as everyone else only because you don’t have access or opportunity due to your disability. DSLC is the primary resource for people who have to go through difficulties as I did. I want the community to know that there is a place where they can get help if they or their family members have any difficulties because of disability. I can share my own personal story with them to hopefully inspire them to take hold of their lives.”

Anyone can find Inga in her office, dubbed “the fishbowl”, working away while listening to up beat electronic music.

Her upbeat attitude and energy is infectious. She admits that she may overwork herself by taking on too many projects but is always satisfied with their outcome.

Inga has a worldly presence and when speaking with her you can only think of how amazing she is. Fighting losing battles and overcoming her past, Inga may be the strongest person you ever meet.

“I could feel sorry for myself, but what use would that be. I am thankful for everything I had to go through, and what has happened to me has made me only stronger. I love my life and my job. I have a purpose and that is to help others like me”, said Inga.

If you have any questions regarding the services provided by DSLC call DSLC, 707-528-2745 or check out their website

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