2016 Ms. Wheelchair Washington

2016 Ms. Wheelchair Washington
Nicole Martini

A Personal Story

As a woman living with Spina Bifida, I have faced many challenges, both as an adult and a child. The most impacting event that I have gone through is, by far, a surgery to straighten my spine, by placing a metal rod around it, at the age of nine years old. The doctors informed my parents that if I didn't have the surgery, it would turn into a life threatening situation due to the fact that my spine was leaning towards my heart. What was suppose to only be one surgery and a two week stay at the hospital, turned into 14 surgeries and a 6 month stay at the hospital.

I developed an infection after the initial corrective surgery. Even though I was under the care of the most respected specialists in Orange County, no one could figure out where the infection was coming from. I started to loose a lot of weight because I could not hold any food down anymore.

Because the doctors were trying to search for the source of the infection, I not only had surgery on my back but my head, feet, legs and stomach as well. I had the rod taken out, put back in, and taken out again. In the end, I left the hospital without the rod that I went in for in the first place. I had my shunt (a tube that drains excess water from my head to my stomach) drained and put back in. I had so many IV's that all my veins were collapsing. I had IV's put in my feet, chest and even neck. I had so many surgeries on my back that I ran out of skin to close my back when another surgery was needed. I was forced to have a skin graph done, in which, I had skin removed from my leg and placed on my back. Then, due to another sudden infection, another surgery was needed once again. I had gone through so much pain with the skin graph, I didn't want to experience that pain again. I then went through 98 treatments of Hyber-Baric Oxygen (HBO) to close my back naturally over a three month time period.

Although I was just a child, I live with the physical and emotional scares and pain from this experience every day. My back did not completely close after the HBO treatments. I still have a 1-inch hole on my lower back that never closed. The original surgery, scheduled for January 2, 1995, turned into an experience that would impact, and remain with me, for the rest of my life in an unbelievable way. I have now turned what most would consider a traumatic experience, into a reason to keep going and be a mentor and advocate for all those living with a disability. Always remember, everything happens for a reason! I am a living testimony of that. Even though you may not see it now, as long as you keep the right mindset, there can always be a life changing, positive outcome in every situation. Be encouraged!