For Chris Layne, October 28, 2016, started out like most late-summer Colorado days — sunny with blue skies. But this day was extra special because seventeen years before, she had brought her son into this world. However, the events to come would create a new, less joyful memory of October 28.
That day, her son decided to celebrate his birthday rock climbing with his cousin in Clear Creek Canyon. As a concerned mom and nurse, she asked her son if she could accompany them, and to her surprise, he was happy to have her join them. Chris was not a rock climber, so she decided to keep her two feet on the ground and go for a hike. Like a good mom, her only concern that day was for her son and nephew; little did she know, gravity had its own agenda that day.
No more than seven minutes into their adventure, gravity let itself be known, and it aimed its wrath towards mom; Chris slipped on some loose gravel and fell 80 feet. When she opened her eyes, her son was at her side comforting her. At first, she had no idea of the extent of her injuries, but when she looked at her shattered wrist, she knew she wasn’t unscathed. A few tense seconds later, her son confirmed that she had not been moving her legs, and the nurse inside her knew she was paralyzed. After a short helicopter ride, two and half weeks at Saint Anthony’s hospital, and several surgeries, she was released to Craig Hospital. Following two months of learning how to live as an incomplete paraplegic, Chris’s new life began.
Assembling Her Toolbox
Upon being released, Chris had no other option but to start modifying her house and car to help her adjust to her new normal. “We need our tools,” she says, referring to anything that allows someone with a disability to live more independently. Once the renovations were made to her house to accommodate her wheelchair, she had her car converted so she could drive with hand controls. When Chris began filling her toolbox with the critical tools she needed to live safely with her disability, her independence and confidence increased in conjunction.
Advocating for Access
Once her body healed and her confidence rebounded, Chris decided to return to her love of swimming. Unfortunately, she had one more obstacle to overcome — the chair lifts at her local pool were not working. She decided to take a gamble and ask them to install new chair lifts so she and others could use the pool. She didn’t even know if she would be able to swim or not, but she knew it was the right thing to do, not only for herself but for other people living with a disability too. What she had just done was something that many people that have lived their entire life with a disability have never done — advocate for themselves.
To her surprise, the facility installed two new chair lifts so she and others in similar situations could access the pool. Since they had added another tool to their toolbox by installing new chair lifts, it was her turn to take the plunge and either sink or swim. Wearing every flotation device she could find, Chris lowered herself into the pool, and despite her inability to use her legs, she floated. Now that the obstacles preventing her from her passion had been dispelled, Chris made it her goal to swim a little further each day. Before she knew it, she was swimming farther and longer than she had ever thought possible. The day Chris advocated for herself and others by asking the pool to install new chair lifts, and the day she conquered her own fear by lowering herself into the pool, she found her 2LIV4.
In 2020, Chris was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Colorado under the platform Time Heals: Physically, Emotional and Spiritually. She then went on to win the title of Ms. Wheelchair America runner-up. Currently, she serves as the Ms. Wheelchair Colorado state coordinator, where she continues to advocate for the disability community and bring awareness to an often overlooked population.
Finding Your 2LIV4!
Chris’s journey has not been easy, to say the least, but once she accepted her injury, began filling her toolbox, and decided not to let her paralysis keep her from doing the things she loved, her life started to move forward. Chris continues to encourage people with disabilities to get out and experience life — in other words, to find their 2LIV4!