Paralyzed woman hopes her story will inspire others
She plans to run the New York City Marathon one day — she just needs to walk first.
Though Kelly Tyler has been confined to a wheelchair nearly 14 years ago, she refuses to stay there forever. Together with her doting family, Tyler fights daily to spread hope and encouragement to anyone who needs it.
She recently shared her story — every high and every low — in her first book, “Walk it Out.”
“I always knew I would write a book, but I didn’t know what it was going to be about,” she said. “I just knew when it was time to start writing.”
Tyler lived in Wichita Falls until she turned 18 when she left to attend Baylor University.
She met and married her husband, Ryan, during her sophomore year; their first child followed soon after. One more child and a literature degree later and her life was running smoothly, going according to plan.
A few years later, her plans changed.
Tyler wasn’t feeling well in November 1995 and made an appointment with the doctor. Despite her resistance, he encouraged her to accept a tetanus booster. After a lengthy argument, she relented and took the shot.
Ten short days later, she was paralyzed from the neck down.
“It was definitely the shot that set everything off,” Tyler said. “That is the only thing they could come up with.”
Tyler was thrown by the unexpected loss. She had a husband and two young children at home to take care of.
Doctors told her any recovery should take place within the first year; nearly a decade later her health was the same. She was able to move her right arm and hand, but everything else was frozen in place.
“It has changed my life in basically every way,” she said. “Parenting has been difficult. I have to ration my energy. We just kind of help each other.”
Tyler never gave up hope she would walk again. Her faith in God and love for her family kept her going day to day. She and her husband were able to have a third child. She kept him strapped to her chest as a baby, caring for him any way she could.
“It really got interesting when we had a baby,” she said. “I have a very incredible husband, who is very protective. There is just this rock of love.”
After about 10 years, she became able to move her left arm and hand.
“They were completely paralyzed,” she said. “I have a lot more use of my trunk, too, where before I had none. They said that I would not get anything back after the first year. Eventually, I did anyway.”
She was finally able to drive again, to be a little more active. She used the renewed strength to write her first book.
“I thought it was going to give people hope,” she said. “There is life after the whatever. As long as there is life, it needs to be good.”
Since it’s release in December, Tyler has had multiple book signings and speaking engagements near her North Carolina home to as far away as the Ukraine — always encouraging others to give.
“There is no going back,” she said. “Always find a way to give to others. When you’re giving, you’re not thinking about your own situation.”
In the past few years, Tyler has been looking for her own ways to give back. On a trip with her husband to Jamaica, she visited The Blossom Garden Children’s Home in Montego Bay. She asked the staff what they needed.
“The babies’ diapers were only changed once every other day,” she said. “They needed more diapers.”
After purchasing several herself, she took the cause to her husband’s boss at a business dinner that night.
“We told him what we did,” she said. “He gave a speech and asked that if anyone else wanted to give to the orphanage, there would be baskets at the door.”
About $1,700 was raised that night, and the bank matched every penny.
“That’s how life happens,” she said. “Just when you least expect it. Now, we’re just trying to do whatever we can.”
Tyler and her husband founded The Neighborhood Connection, a nonprofit organization that helps orphans.
She stands by her advice: Helping others is the best way to help yourself. As she continues to fight for a complete recovery, Tyler remembers her purpose — to comfort others in similar situations.
“I just always want to encourage people,” she said. “I think anything is possible.”
For more information on Tyler’s story, visit her Web site at www.livingthecall.com.