Every day, people of all ages and backgrounds acquire disabilities.

When you meet Rossford native Vicki Warner you will be drawn to her warm smile and contagious laugh. Her face lights up when she talks about family and reminiscing on her “glory days” living in New Orleans.

You may also soon discover Vicki’s experience with disability is different than most. Vicki explains, “I woke up during the night experiencing severe pain between my shoulder blades. I figured I had lifted something wrong at work. I called my daughter to take me to the hospital. When I arrived in the ER, they put me on an exam bed and when I tried to move myself up, my legs would not move. Both legs became paralyzed. From that time on, I was a paraplegic.”

She was just 55.

Doctors confirmed Vicki had a rare autoimmune disease called transverse myelitis that causes inflammation on the spinal cord. This condition may cause pain, muscle weakness, paralysis, and sensory issues. Rounds of medication and physical therapy began. Working as an aid for many years, Vicki viewed disability through a different lens and understood the importance of staying independent. Experiencing the other side of care was eye-opening for the longtime healthcare worker. Extended hospital stays included Otterbein Portage Valley and Cleveland Clinic, yet Vicki believed in the power of independence and living life on her own terms.

Support looks different through each stage of life. Around the time Vicki was diagnosed, her daughter gave birth to a baby. Sophia was born with a condition that required intensive medical care. Vicki’s daughter filled the role of primary caretaker for her granddaughter while frequently visiting her mom in multiple facilities. At two-and-a-half, Sophia lost her battle with the disease. Tragedy brought the family closer than ever and gave Vicki the strength to take steps to change her life. Discussions with case managers at Otterbein in Pemberville led to Vicki investigating independent living options through The Ability Center. She created a plan with her daughter as her caregiver and soon, Vicki was home.

Our support staff secured public transportation, assisted in purchasing a lifeline phone, and provided a transport chair to Vicki free of charge. In April 2019, Vicki achieved 365 days of community-based living. Freedom for Vicki means shopping at the grocery store selecting items to assemble the perfect family BBQ and exploring flower beds in local gardens. Although Vicki is thriving living life in her own space, her story is still unfolding. Ability Center staff are currently advocating on behalf of Vicki through the appeals process to ensure she receives home modifications from her insurance provider.

Each day living independently marks a success for our entire organization.