We were fortunate enough to interview Miss Wheelchair America 2019 and NuMotion Brand Ambassador, Karen Roy. She is an advocate, helping expand medical coverage legislation for wheelchair users and helps people suffering from traumatic accidents overcome new challenges to thrive in life. Why is she the perfect champion? She survived her own tragedy on September 19th, 1987. Karen and her boyfriend had just left a jazz club where her boyfriend had been playing, to find her car broken into. She watched as her boyfriend was hit over the head with a gun. Seconds later, Karen was hit and shot in the back, severing her spinal cord and puncturing a lung. The immense internal bleeding almost took her life.
An amazing thing about Karen is her positivity and resilience. When she woke up in the hospital and learned she wouldn’t be able to walk, her biggest concern was if she would still be able to have children. The doctor told her she could have kids, which gave her all of the strength she needed to push forward. She returned to college within 2 months of her accident and went on to acquire a masters, get married and have three children. Today, Karen’s two sons and daughter are currently college students!
After her life changed, Karen continued working hard and went back to school. She received her Undergraduate degree in Psychology and her Masters degree in Social Work. When her career began, she worked a year helping patients with mental illness. Shortly after, she found her calling, working at a hospital in rehabilitation with people who had gone through trauma. She found it rewarding to inspire others, telling them that they should have “hope that life will look different, but it definitely goes on.” From there, her journey as an advocate for those with disabilities began.
Karen has two favorite tools she has used for over 30 years to stay healthy and feel her best. The first is an electrical stem bike to keep muscle tone in her legs, and the other is her robotic standing device. The electrical stem bike is a bike that provides Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). It works similarly to the way that sports recovery patches work on muscles. The system has patches that attach to the skin, and electrodes stimulate the muscles to push around the bike pedals. The bike is also capable of providing resistance to assist in muscle development. This has provided Karen an incredible amount of confidence, and she talks about the importance of this tool for both physical and mental health.
Karen also uses a robotic standing wheelchair. Standing provides numerous health benefits, including seeing people eye to eye. She spoke about this device and the positive impact it has on someone to see the person they’re talking to face-to-face. Further, standing improves bone density, bladder and bowel function, and bone density, while decreasing joint and muscle contraction. The FES and robotic standing device are two products that she stands by as must-have tools and is a big advocate for. It’s common for insurance companies to not cover the cost of these devices, as they are considered a luxury. Karen disagrees. For able bodied people, emphasis on standing, being active, and living a healthy lifestyle is encouraged, but for those in wheelchairs it’s considered a luxury. The importance these devices bring to mental health is huge. “If you’re joyful and can help other people, it changes the whole trajectory of your life,” she says. These tools are so important in the health of both mind and body.
Karen has been an amazing advocate for change and recently received a huge “win” for insurance reform. She testified to help the state of Wisconsin to sign into legislation the “Stand with Dignity Act”. This expanded reimbursement coverage defined under Complex Rehabilitation Technology (CRT) and standing features for power wheelchair users. Improving access to Crt is an important step in the fight of getting insurance companies to cover such devices. She plans to use this to make further change across the nation for people with disabilities.
Karen was crowned Miss Wheelchair Louisiana, and in 2019 she was crowned Miss Wheelchair America. She uses this platform to spread awareness and the importance of positivity. Working now as a brand ambassador for NuMotion, Karen writes blogs for their site about different accessibility tips and tricks, dating with a disability, sexuality with a spinal cord injury, bladder control tips, and so much more. Her blogs can be found on Numotion.com.
One tip that Karen shared with us during our interview was that she finds small backpack style purses incredibly useful. She’s able to put these small backpacks on the back of her wheelchair. She looks for bags that have shorter straps, so they’re not too low to the ground behind her back and she can reach down into it easily. She also suggested magnetic closures or easier latch style closures as helpful. She looks for smaller bags so that the weight of the bag is not too heavy if she has to pull it around from behind her.
We are thankful to be able to talk to Karen. Our goal is to share these helpful tools and the importance of independence and self confidence with a disability. Manufacturing Buttons 2 Button Magnetic Adaptors, we know the importance of self confidence in everyday life, and how much of a difference it makes! It was super awesome to share that ideology and mission with her. You can watch the interview on our Facebook page @Buttons2Button. Read Karen’s helpful blogs @NuMotion and follow her on social media @Lifeispossible.