Checking in with Diana Luscombe

Most people don’t remember the immediate moments of a life-changing injury. At best, many describe a blur with snapshots of scenes and sounds. But for people who have sustained this type of injury, one thing remains etched on their memory: the date.

For Diana Luscombe, it was June 16, 2007. She was driving with her two small children, one only three and a half weeks old, when she was in a horrific rollover car accident. Miraculously, neither of her children were injured in the crash. But Diana was. She sustained a C5/C6 incomplete spinal cord injury leaving her paralyzed from the chest down. She spent several weeks in the ICU until she was stable enough to begin her rehabilitation at Magee.

“When I first arrived at Magee, I was in a halo and had a lot of anxiety,” she said. “The therapists helped push me through it. They kept me motivated with Locomotor Training and helped me push expectations for myself.”

While she had an excellent recovery (she can stand and now walks at least 600 feet every day), she found herself feeling depressed every year around the anniversary of her injury.

“My son was born on May 21 and my accident was June 16—it was a very emotionally charged time of year,” she said. “I wanted to be excited for my son’s birthday, but I was always very down.”

Balloon 2012 351

Reclaiming the Day 2012

In 2011, everything changed—and it was all thanks to an impromptu motorcycle ride. That year on the anniversary of her injury, a close friend suggested she take a ride with him on his bike. It took a LOT of convincing, but she eventually agreed. And two miles of road later, she had a whole new outlook on her injury and her life.

“I was so pumped that I was able to stretch myself so far out of my comfort zone that I decided to make it an annual tradition,” she said. “I decided that every year on or around the anniversary of my injury, I would do something life-affirming to focus my energy on living rather than on almost dying. I’m taking back the day.”

And Diana is taking back the day in big ways. For Reclaiming the Day 2012, she took a hot air balloon ride. She kept with the flying theme in 2013 and took to the skies for a piloting lesson.

“My dad was a private pilot, so I had been in planes a lot as a kid,” she said. “I reached out to a friend of mine, Cory, who is also a private pilot and told him I wanted to learn—he said he would make it happen.”

Reclaiming the Day 2013

Reclaiming the Day 2013

And make it happen he did. With her dad in tow, Diana flew from Syracuse around upstate New York. By the end of the lesson, she was taking off and landing almost completely independently. Her plan for Reclaiming the Day 2014? Horseback riding with her daughter and mom.

“With the help of my family and friends, I am finding I am way more capable of doing things than I ever thought I would be,” she said. “I attribute the beginning of that attitude to the people at Magee. They wouldn’t let me stay down. They pushed me to live up to my potential, and that’s what I am doing.”

Does she have anything on her wish list for future Reclaiming the Days? She smiles.

“I’m open to suggestions.”

This story is featured in the Spring 2014 edition of Magee’s Can Do! Magazine. To get your copy, please email Kim Shrack at kshrack@mageerehab.org.

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