Finding Purpose, Pursuing Passions as an Independent Quadriplegic
Human Resource Department
Please allow us to introduce EB Forst, doctor of physical therapy, author, blogger, yoga instructor, cranial-sacral therapist, passionate advocate for preventative healthcare models, and curator of worldwide cultural travel adventures. EB has an unquenchable thirst for life and adventure, and we are honored to highlight her many accomplishments. In EB’s story, we witness the full expression of what it means to thoughtfully define and develop your own reason 2LIV4, regardless of the circumstances of your life.
Out of necessity and as a result of a terrible accident in her late 30s, EB is also the manager of the EB Forst HR department; it’s a time-consuming all-out proposition to advocate for herself on a daily basis. She is a member of an exclusive group of a limited number of people that have proven themselves capable of independent living as a quadriplegic. A California transplant, she has a strong affinity for the ocean and dreams of one day living closer to it, but she currently lives in Denver, Colorado. Aside from the proximity to Craig Hospital, where EB received her post-accident therapy, she also maintains her residence in Colorado so she can access disability benefits through CDASS (Consumer-Directed Attendant Support Services). CDASS provides funding opportunities for individuals meeting specific cognitive benchmarks along with the desire to live independently. Application to this service can potentially gain access to monthly payments from the state that must be allocated for the specific purpose of privately hiring, training, and paying caregivers at a recipient's sole discretion. Having control over who assists her and for what purpose is something EB views as an integral factor and benefit in maintaining her personal and medical independence. She has eight or nine caregivers on her staff at any given time.
Accidental About Face: Life as an Independent Quadriplegic
In her own words, here is a compelling description of the circumstances and injury EB sustained from the accident that led to her becoming a quadriplegic and how she has assimilated her experience into a moving philosophy about her life.
“In an unfortunate turn of events in my late 30s, I dove headfirst into a swimming pool causing a severe spinal cord injury at the cervical level of my spinal cord leaving me a complete quadriplegic, meaning I have zero sensation or physical mobility below my shoulders. I am completely paralyzed for the remainder of my life. Not being able to walk, run, feed myself, dress myself or even take my own sip of water presents many challenges that I must overcome on a daily basis, yet I have not let this turn of events stop me from enjoying and embracing life. This experience has made me a tougher human being, yet softer in spirit and all the more adventurous, discovering new ways of continuing my wanderlust from the auspices of a power wheelchair.”
EB does not want sympathy, far from it, but she does want you to understand that the execution of basic personal tasks, oftentimes taken for granted by non-disabled people, can become challenges that require careful forethought and adaptive planning for her to live a life defined on her own terms. With her extensive knowledge and educational background, her at-home life is well managed with the same effort and efficacy that would be required by anyone running a successful small business, but traveling presents an additional set of obstacles. One of EB’s superpowers before her accident was packing; the room inside a standard backpack was more than enough space to hold what she needed for a week-long trip. That ease of freedom in travel has morphed into something significantly different; in place of the backpack is what she describes as a “circus” of bags and suitcases, all containing the essential equipment for her daily comfort and survival.
Packing is one set of challenges, the quest for suitable accommodations another. The first question she usually asks is, “what kind of shower do you have?” and in a pinch, she has come up with some very ingenious solutions and creative adaptive measures in order to access such human fundamentals as basic hygiene while traveling. Her ability to improvise or “MacGyver” her way through such hurdles includes the use of a baby pool, a garden hose trailing out of a third-story window attached to a faucet, and buckets of warm water; her good humor and big-picture perspective never fail her. Here she describes what a typical morning at-home shower entails.
“There is a lot you take for granted when you can walk, and showering is one of them. Most people wake up in the morning, throw their legs over the bed, stand up and jump into a quick shower. Front to end probably 20 minutes. On the other hand, if you can't walk anymore – like me – following a severe spinal cord injury, throwing your legs over the bed and hopping in a quick shower is a distant memory. Everything takes time, everything. In fact, spinal cord injuries rob you not only of your mobility but most importantly and exhaustively, your time. My showers are no longer 20 minutes but take almost 3 and half hours to complete. I need 100% assistance with all of it. No joke, it's a process.”
Wanderlust on Wheels
Undaunted, undeterred, and spurred on by her passion for travel, the following is just a small sampling of EB’s collection of stories from her website about her amazing experiences.
“I have been a world traveler my entire life. I seek adventure and embrace life from a positive perspective knowing that life is short and there is so much to do in such little time. Whether it was studying abroad in Sydney Australia, or riding elephants bareback and barefoot in the jungles of Cambodia, bungee jumping out of a tiny airplane over bubbling mud pools in New Zealand or scuba diving ancient shipwrecks in the pristine waters of Thailand, my intense state of wanderlust has always been my driving force. And it is this influence that has guided me to become the person I am today.”
Teacher, Mentor, Box Checker
But EB hasn’t just traveled the world, she continues to take it by storm and makes it a practice to delve into local cultural and adventure activities when she does. She intentionally sets a course to make every experience count to its fullest. EB speaks eloquently about the first scuba diving trip she took after her accident. It was a full-circle reckoning of her fears around water that took root post-injury — another box checked. Having acquired her doctoral degree in physical therapy prior to her accident, EB had already defined her place as the teacher and role model she is today, and she continues to lend her experience and guidance to people newly struggling with spinal cord injuries. Through her work and mentorship of others with similar disabilities, she has reached new heights of meaning and purpose through continuing her many educational pursuits, writing, and an ongoing quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Life Is One Long Breath
EB’s professional development goals united with her passion for yoga and led her to earn additional credentials as a yoga instructor. Through EB’s experiential wisdom, we come to understand that life is all about the breath, the very essence of yoga. It’s been said that life can be summed up as one long, singular-yet-continual breathing exercise. We take our first life-affirming inhalation at birth and release the final exhalation when our time on earth is done. EB’s story is a compelling, strategic example of the fulfillment of the notion that purposefully living the details in-between those two breaths is what matters most; it defines her 2LIV4. The foundational cornerstone of our all-important connection to breath is part and parcel of her life’s mindful journey.
Here are some of EB’s personalized thoughts about how yoga has impacted her life.
“Through my global adventures and life altering experiences, I am on a path of profound spiritual growth, especially through my lifelong passion of the study and practice of yoga, meditation and Eastern based traditions. Understanding the essence of the connection of mind, body and spirit – in my eyes – is the ultimate pursuit.”
Further, she adds:
“My life is moving forward, and I am working hard every hour of every day to keep my mind, body and spirit connected, so I may continue my own life journey and also empower others to be better versions of themselves whatever their abilities may be. Anything is possible!”
From the snow-capped mountain tops of Tibet, to the lush, verdant rainforests of the Amazon, no obstacle is too big or destination too far, simply because EB believes that to be so. We look forward to hearing the tales of her next adventure.
Keep striving and thriving, EB.
For more details on EB’s astonishing, humorous, and well-told life experiences and the spirited philosophy that resizes her every challenge into a victory, don’t miss a visit to her gem of a website, EBForst.com.
For support and resources on living with paralysis, visit ChristopherReeve.org.*
*EB is a blogger and mentor for people with spinal cord injury through the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. The quotes used here were extracted from articles originally published on ChristopherReeve.org.