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Jamie Duplechine

At the age of 15, as an unlicensed and quite inexperienced driver, I made the choice to get behind the wheel of a 1995 Geo Tracker. Being the rebellious and overly confident teenager I was, I figured I was invincible. My life changed forever on July 21, 1995, as I woke up to bright lights, a lot of beeping, and a doctor telling me that I would never walk and possibly never breathe on my own again. There are no words that can truly describe the way I felt. I was a young woman with dreams of getting married, having a family, but first needing to get back to school, yet I was paralyzed.

After returning home, it was all about getting into outpatient therapy, but the looming question remained:  Was I going to go back to school? Yes, I decided! I focused less on rehabilitation and therapy and more on opportunities of leading a "normal" life. It wasn't about accepting how life was for me now, it was more about adjusting to a different way of living. Therapy was quite frustrating (as I'm sure it is for everyone), and moving on and getting into the "living" aspect was more important for me. Interestingly, my rebellious attitude and confidence has gotten me to where I am today.

In 2015, I was greatly honored to represent our great state as Ms. Wheelchair Louisiana. During my reign, I learned how to better advocate for myself, but most importantly for others – especially those who may not feel they have a voice.

Now I am also honored to serve as an active board member of BIALA, an active member of Toastmasters, a member of the Image & Resource Committee of LATAN, and a board member of Louisiana's Statewide Independent Living Council. I am also a team member of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation's Peer and Family Support program.

We all have a choice to either neglect life and let it pass us by, or embrace it and go along for the ride… I have chosen, despite my physical limitations, to jump back into the driver's seat and move forward with life.

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