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Her Twist: Paraplegic Kristina Rhoades Takes On a New Career in a New Town - Cure Medical
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CURE ADVOCATE KRISTINA RHOADES of Atlanta, Georgia, soon will be moving with her husband, Jacob, and her daughter, Kamryn, to New Mexico for a dramatic change in their lifestyle and work. Rhoades is a paraplegic, injured as a result of domestic violence when she was 10 months old. Rhoades has used a manual wheelchair all her life and doesn’t know life without a wheelchair. 

Right now, my husband and I do freelance speaking, life coaching, marketing, social media, consulting, writing, photography, video and movie work, and I’m working on my first book. Shortly, we’ll be moving to New Mexico to start a spiritual wellness retreat – The Flower of Life – that will be serve people with disabilities, among other groups.

“My wheelchair never has been a limiting factor for me. I’ve never let it be one.” – Kristina Rhoades

I have a master’s degree in organizational leadership and an undergraduate degree in mass communications, with a concentration in public relations. I know that any organization or company I work for will always need someone who can communicate, speak, write and shoot photography and video.

I’m also passionate about leadership and inspiring people to be all they can be. So, when I looked at a master’s degree program I thought I could use for the rest of my life, regardless of what area of interest I went into, or where I lived, organizational leadership seemed to be the right course of study I wanted to follow. If I were to go to work for a big company, a small business or a nonprofit or start my own company, I would have to know how to be well organized and how to be a leader, and this program supported that goal.

One of the things that my master’s program taught was how to move through different types of changes. I had moved through a number of changes in my own life. I wanted to know how to deal with those changes and help other people deal with change. I felt that my master’s degree would give me an umbrella of knowledge that would strengthen me – no matter what I did with my life.

One of the biggest changes for me, though, came when I was pregnant with my daughter Kamryn.

Kristina Says Being a Mother is the Greatest Job Ever

Jacob and I were excited when I got pregnant, but I never dreamed about all the new things I’d learn about being pregnant and in a wheelchair. By the time I got pregnant, I thought I pretty well had using a wheelchair figured out, and that I was pretty much unstoppable.

But as my belly kept growing, I couldn’t push my wheelchair up a hill, and I couldn’t do many of the things I was accustomed to doing in my wheelchair.

Near the end of my pregnancy, I hardly could transfer out of my wheelchair. So, I had to learn new ways to do the ordinary things I had done before I became pregnant.

One of the big advantages of having a child is that I get to see the world through Kamryn’s eyes.

I’ve learned how she views me, other people with disabilities and people who are different in any way. Being a mom is one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had. I love being a mother! Through Kamryn’s eyes, I’ve seen what unconditional love looks like.

Children are so open and nonjudgmental. When they’re young, they can see the world without much baggage. They don’t recognize or understand the word, stereotype. Children don’t look at people in wheelchairs like people who aren’t in wheelchairs look at those of us who are.

Kamryn doesn’t look at me and others in wheelchairs with sadness.

Many times when people in wheelchairs are grinning from ear to ear and having a good time, people still look at us sometimes with a negative connotation, because we have disabilities. However, Kamryn views me and other people in wheelchairs as heroes, because we can pop wheelies, jump curbs and do a lot of other cool tricks that most people can’t do.

She believes we can do anything – even though something may be difficult to accomplish. Being able to see those characteristics in her has been a great breath of fresh air for me.

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Kristina’s Biggest Change Yet: A New Career in New Mexico

For the last five to 10 years, I’ve been exploring and experiencing different types of life changing body and mind therapies and practices – everything from nutrition therapy, fitness and working out to acupuncture, massage, meditation and yoga.

Because I’ve had a spinal cord injury for more than 30 years, my condition is referred to as an old injury. But I’ve been able to lead a healthy life even with my spinal cord injury.

For years, I’ve been entirely prescription medicine free most of the time.

A big part of leading a healthy life as a person with a spinal cord injury – and anyone else – is supporting your mental health. I think the state of someone’s mind is often ignored when we think about having a healthy lifestyle.  Since what I’ve learned has helped me and my family so much, I’m excited about helping others. I’m a lifelong learner. My education hasn’t stopped after obtaining my master’s degree.

I want our retreat, The Flower of Life, to be a middle step between hospitals, rehabilitation and the real world. I want to help people find and experience things that help them feel their best and be healthy.

The Rhoades family hopes to plant seeds of faith and independence in the hearts of guests at the Flower of Life retreat.

The Rhoades family hopes to plant seeds of faith and independence in the hearts of guests at the Flower of Life retreat.

Jacob and I have loved living in Atlanta, but we’re both from the West Coast. So, there’s a tug at our hearts to move back to the West. Also, the weather in the West seems to suit people with disabilities better than in some parts of the East, where the humidity is much higher.

A person’s circulation seems to adapt to western weather and you don’t sweat as much, which is great for people with higher level spinal cord injuries. Also, the option to use medical cannabis is increased in Western states where it is legal.

Since we home school Kamryn, her education isn’t a problem. We also want to offer different programs to the homeschooling community. The rules and regulations for homeschooling offer more freedom in New Mexico and some nearby states.

The Flower of Life Came to Life in a Dream

The idea of moving to New Mexico and starting a retreat came from a dream I had. The dream was so strong it woke me up, got me out of bed and caused me to write three pages of notes on what I thought we needed to do and how to do it. A month or two after my dream, we found this property for the retreat online. So, we’re following our hearts and embarking on a new journey.

New Mexico’s terrain is much flatter and easier to navigate for people in wheelchairs.

The property we’re looking at has 40 acres of land with some buildings and dwellings that we can use to start our retreat. It also has a swimming pool, a sauna and plenty of space to build more facilities as our program grows.

I’m trained in social media and marketing, and that’s one of the vehicles we’ll be using to promote this project and let people know what we’re doing. We’ve already put together a business plan and marketing materials, established some basic social media and built a website prototype – so, we’re already underway. We’re currently in the process of establishing mutually-beneficial partnerships to build launching capital and make this vision a reality.

Another vehicle that we’ll use is the Abilities Expo that conducts shows all over the nation. I’ve been part of the Abilities Expo family for many years and I’ve worked for several companies as a spokesperson at the Abilities Expo since about 2008. Since that time, I’ve attended either one or all the Abilities Expos each year, held in different cities across the United States, as a representative for various products being shown at the Abilities Expo.

Kristina Believes in Rolling with Purpose

The book I’m writing, “Rolling with Purpose,” will be published fairly soon this year. The purpose will be to inspire readers to shift their thinking to healthier perspectives and live with intention. Each chapter of the book is a lesson I’ve learned, and a lesson that I believe that others can use – for example, learning to think critically.

For instance, if I had given up every time I’ve faced a challenge, I never would have been as successful as I have been in my life. Over the years, I’ve learned to think outside of the box and look for solutions that may not be obvious at first glance.

Thinking critically has made me a creative thinker in all phases of my life – whether it’s parenting, my career or other aspects.

One of the problems people in wheelchairs face, for example, is how to get a book off the top shelf. Instead of being concerned about the book on the top shelf, I immediately switch my focus to find some type of object around me that I can use to get a book off the top shelf.

I’ve been in a hotel by myself, gone into an accessible bathroom to take a shower and found the removable shower head higher than I can reach. Or, the towels may be hanging off the top of the shower curtain. To get the towels down, I go to the closet, get a coat hanger and use it to pull the towel down. Then I take the towel and use it to whip the shower head down where I can reach.

I think people who use wheelchairs are forced to be more creative than other people – if we want the same shot a successful, quality life. We have to learn how to use the things aroundus to accomplish tasks that people who don’t use wheelchairs never think of utilizing.

Creativity opens many doors for people with disabilities that otherwise may be closed.

That’s what we want people who come to our retreat to learn, leaving with a sense of accomplishment and independence.

Learn More About Cure Advocate Kristina Rhoades

You can go to Kristina’s Facebook page or follow her blog at www.kristinarhoades.com to keep up with her adventures out West!


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