In early September, we were connected to a Ukrainian man named Pavlo through a counselor. Pavlo was injured more than 30 years ago while serving in a war with Armenia, and was reluctantly brought to the US 15 years later because there were very few resources in his home country. He'd spent the last decade and a half eking out a meager, isolated existence in federal housing despite the massive language barrier and very little local family support.
We brought one of our care baskets to Pavlo at his home a week later and spent some chatting with him with the help of a virtual interpreter. We told him about our upcoming events, but he was unsurprisingly skeptical about whether our community could have much to offer him.
We recruited a Ukrainian interpreter for Day 1 of September's 10th Annual Paralysis Meetup & Resource Expo and were delighted to see Pavlo show up to the first few hours of the event, where he connected with a couple of other longtime chair users who showed him a few new techniques for transferring in and out of his vehicle. When he left early on Saturday, he was still unsure about coming for Day 2.
A sudden illness kept Sunday's interpreter from being able to attend but Pavlo showed up anyway, opting to use his phone's translate app to bridge the language gap. He was initially content to observe the dozens of exhibitors from afar until the folks from Access Tennis Seattle recruited him to join them on the court for a tennis demo.
It wasn't long after Pavlo hit the court that a genuine smile began to spread across his face. He played for an extended amount of time, and when he finally rolled away, he grabbed his phone and rapidly typed in his translation app, "I played for the very first time!!"
From then on, Pavlo's whole demeanor changed, and he stayed through the entirety of the event, enthusiastically watching wheelchair rugby and basketball demos from the sidelines. We tried to egg him on to play a little rugby, but he laughed and said he wasn't quite ready for anything that intense.
Fortunately, Pavlo found another lower key recreation at last month's Halloween Bowling & Billiards event in Tukwila! Check him out!
Pavlo's story emphasizes how the power of community transcends the usually formidable barriers that lead so many people living with paralysis to remain isolated and miss out on life changing opportunities to stretch their comfort zones and Do Life!
Of course none of this would be possible without the generous souls who have consistently given their time, talent, and treasure to make all our programs available and free of charge to our members. As the giving season approaches, we would love if you would consider a meaningful donation to our cause!