As a stringer for our local weekly paper, I have agreed to a fairly narrow focus and human interest pieces are right up my alley. I was called on to cover a guest speaker at the Rotary Club and that was another of those occasions when I was so touched by the strength of the human spirit that I was grateful to be capturing the story. In this case, it was Nichole Rider, a woman who at age 22, was a trim, athletic college student and basketball team member who had been raised in Wyoming with a love of sports and outdoor activities. She had only a few seconds warning before the automobile accident that broke her neck and damaged her spinal cord plunged her into unconsciousness. When she finally awoke, unable to move, her parents and twin sister had spent sleepless hours not knowing if she would live.
The prognosis was grim – little more than a five percent chance that she would gain movement below her shoulders. In the months that followed, Nichole endured extraordinary pain as she battled the odds, determined to regain as much of her body as she could. The nerve damage that affected her hands was too severe to allow her to play wheelchair basketball, but wheelchair rugby was another matter. Adaptive skiing – sure, she did that, too. Although she spent many hours on the local lakes in Wyoming both growing up and after her accident, it was a trip to Miami where she became involved with Shake-a-Leg, Miami, and fell in love with sailing thanks to adaptive seating and special rigs. Nichole has not only participated in more than a dozen competitive regattas since then, but also developed sailing and kayaking clinics that she teaches. She is engaged in numerous other activites and supports causes that are too many to list here, but her inspirational story can be accessed at a shared web site of http://www.cleverpig.org/NicholeRider/
Her slide presentations are sprinkled with messages such as, “Say Yes to Life,” and when you watch her deftly manuever her wheelchair (that’s after she’s driven herself in her adapted van), you can’t help but admire her. Nichole is headed back West for a few weeks and then plans to relocate to South Florida where she has a much longer boating season.