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From Rock Bottom to National Bronze Medalist

It Is Okay to Mourn the Life You Lost, But It Is More Important to Embrace The Life You Have Gained

Why are you wearing shin guards? As a former cashier, and current employee who works with families, I get asked this a lot. The confusion usually changes to awkwardness or shock when I tell them the truth; these are leg braces. I broke my back when I was 17. The most popular response I get is usually a wince, or an “I am so sorry.” Then they follow-up with a “How did you break your back? A car accident?” As a curious individual, I am very empathetic to these inquiries, but I wish people would not pity me. I had two minor accidents within a few months that changed my life forever. In August of 2016, while jet skiing, my friend and I jumped a large wave. We flipped it and were thrown from it. I knew something bad happened immediately. An MRI and a few weeks of physical therapy later, we discovered that I had two bulging discs in my spine (L4-L5 and L5-S1). At the time, I was in a lot of pain. My doctor told me that I could still swim, but I needed to stop once the pain worsened. I went to practice and lasted no more than 15 minutes in the pool. Two months later, I was propped up on a chair with wheels solving integrals in Calculus class. A classmate of mine startled me and I fell hard onto my right side. I sat there a good 5 minutes, waiting for my body to calm down. In the following months, I had multiple x-rays, MRIs, and consults. I fractured my L5, herniated those two discs, and a cyst opened up in my spinal cord (S2-S3 Tarlov cyst). I was also diagnosed with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. This first picture was of me at rock bottom. I just turned 18 and was recovering from my first round of epidural steroid injections in my back and SI joints. I was tired of months of insomnia, pain, and poor mobility, and was at the point of contemplating taking my life. I couldn’t swim, I did online school, and spent my days stuck on a couch. The second picture was about a year before the first. I used to be a triathlete who used to cross-train for swimming (and I loved it!) and dreamed of one day completing an Ironman. Finally, the third picture was just shy of a month ago at U.S. Paralympic Swimming Nationals. I made the National C Team and got bronze in the 100 Free, 5 years after my injury!

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Taylor Winnett

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From Rock Bottom to National Bronze Medalist

Why are you wearing shin guards? As a former cashier, and current employee who works with families, I get asked this a lot. The confusion us