Melissa Nunn was only 16 when a family vacation to Hawaii changed her life. While jumping into a waterfall, a feat she had done before, her foot slipped. She broke her neck was immediately rushed to the hospital.
After being stabilized in acute care, Melissa came to Magee for her rehab and to learn how to live life with quadriplegia. She spent four months as an inpatient and several more months as an outpatient. She was injured between her freshman and sophomore years of high school – but she didn’t skip a beat. While at Magee, she utilized the Young Adult and Adolescent Education and Vocational Program to stay on top of her school work. She was able to return to school and, ultimately, graduate with her class.
Now attending Bucks County Community College for a degree in criminal justice, Melissa is all about pushing the envelope and trying new things, injury or no injury. Through Magee’s Peer Mentor Program, she learned about a sport she just had to try: adaptive surfing.
Every year, Life Rolls On brings adaptive surfing to the Jersey Shore. They Will Surf Again is an awarding-winning program designed to empower people with paraplegia and quadriplegia to experience the freedom of mobility by riding a wave with the assistance of adaptive equipment and the support of hard working volunteers. For years, Melissa has wanted to attend, but has been unable to make it – but this year, she finally got her chance to ride the waves.
“I was pretty nervous about it – I don’t like the water,” she said. “I hadn’t been in the water since my injury. But when I got on that board and the waves came, I felt free.”
She explained that adaptive surfing works differently than you might think. Instead of being strapped onto the board, you ride with a volunteer who helps hold you up – which adds all the more to the feeling of freedom.
For Melissa, catching those waves, (not once, twice but twelve times), was a very eye opening experience.
“When I was injured, I knew there would be things I could do – but not to this extent,” she said. “When you’re in the water, you’re not in your chair, not confined. I get to experience something that my sisters can do, that any able-bodied person can do. I can have that same feeling – I just get there in a different way.”
Can we expect to see Melissa back on the board anytime soon?
“Absolutely,” she said. “I am definitely planning on going back.”
This story and more will be featured in the upcoming Fall 2013 issue of Can Do! magazine. Stay tuned for more!