DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE - CONGRESSIONALLY DIRECTED MEDICAL RESEARCH PROGRAMS
Ellen Shackelford

Life changed, abruptly and profoundly, for Ellen Shackelford in July 1983. Up to the moment of the accident, she had lived the life of a busy mother, doing ordinary things most of us take for granted: driving, walking the dog, cooking, grocery shopping, the occasional holiday at the beach where she loved feeling the sand under her feet. Then came that July day and a negligent driver causing the crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Although everyone in Ellen's car had been wearing seatbelts, the force of the crash killed her youngest son and paralyzed Ellen. She spent six months at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center in Fishersville, Virginia, learning how to adjust to her injury and "living her life from a seated position." She was told she would never walk again. Never do those ordinary things, independently, that occupied her time before. "It has been a huge adjustment and there are times I'm still in shock, this new way of life has taken me to a different level of mobility."

Ellen's new life took her to the Virginia Board for People with Disabilities, a group that eventually nominated her to serve as a peer reviewer for the Spinal Cord Injury Research Program in Fiscal Year 2013. Although she was initially nervous, because she "thought her view wouldn't make an impact," she participated anyway and "offered her views on the subject at hand." In doing so, she "found out how much her personal contribution made a great addition to the cases reviewed." She came away excited to serve again and felt "blessed to be able to share her thoughts and views with like-minded individuals." Her involvement with the SCIRP has helped her to "have much hope for those involved in finding a cure;" as an advocate, she reflects, "It takes a village to change the world! We are all responsible to contribute to change. No one's part in it is small or unimportant. There is something for us all to do. What I know for sure is that as a person living with a SCI, it is up to me to be the change I want to see. I will continue doing my part by serving and educating individuals, and am confident that as long as I touch at least one person at a time, I'm doing what I have been called to do - ADVOCATE!!"

Last updated Wednesday, January 27, 2016