Stories of Hope after a neck injury

Meet a Quadriplegic Mom Raising Twins

to have a child it’s one of life’s biggest  decisions made immeasurably more difficult  
if a parent is disabled Lee Cowan introduces us  to a woman who made that decision and came away  
doubly blessed sisters can help you climb a tree  those are silly koalas Dani Izzie and her husband  
Rudy insist there’s nothing really extraordinary  about how they’re raising Lavinia and Giorgiana  
they’re twin girls out here in rural Virginia  oh a cake a happy birthday cake double the fun  
always means double the chaos I’ve had periods  over the past two and a half years where I’ve  
been very tired just like any other new mom  you know okay we’re just two normal people  
raising twins alongside their parenting  challenges are their personal challenges
please check I have paralysis in both my  lower and upper limbs but thankfully her  
paralysis isn’t complete hey Rudy can you  help me real quick my hands are paralyzed  
so my fingers I can’t move them individually and  my triceps specifically are paralyzed in my arms  
and then my core my abdominals and my back muscles  are paralyzed you want me to help no we often do  
things probably different than other people do it  but Dani supports me and I support her it’s just  
different yeah just go forward a bit there can  be people around who boots say it’s not normal  
there’s a sock in there and this is proof well  yeah it is did you always want to be a mom yes  
I had my injury almost 15 years ago initially I  was like I still want this but how Dani had always  
been easy going and outgoing she grew up outside  Washington DC went to college abroad in Rome  
Adventure it seems was in Her Bones but in 2009  when she was only 23 she slipped on a bathroom  
floor and snapped her neck paralyzing almost  everything from her chest down the first two years  
coping were the hardest she says both physically  and psychologically when you’re always thinking  
of how you’re gonna walk again you’re living  your life waiting but there came a moment when  
her waiting stopped and it was a moment straight  out of Hollywood I can’t be like this Frankie One  
Night in her acute rehab facility the film Million  Dollar Baby how about that playing you might  
remember Hilary Swank plays a boxer who ends up a  quadriplegic so despondent over her situation she  
asked her trainer played by Clint Eastwood please  don’t ask me help take her own life I’m asking is  
this what my life is supposed to be like be so  devastated that I go die shouldn’t I try to get  
in a wheelchair shouldn’t I try to live shouldn’t  I think about falling in love and getting married  
and having kids and pursuing a career what was  the answer I think the answer was really adapting  
to my life with a disability and accepting that  having a disability is not the end of the world  
pretty big acceptance though isn’t it yes but  I’m tenacious that tenacity in part is perhaps  
what led her to putting herself out there  on dating apps that’s where she met Rudy in  
2016 their first date whiskey and ice cream  whiskey and ice cream great date he was so  
easy to talk to he didn’t have any qualms about  my disability so that was nice for once right
soon after their wedding they sought out an  OB GYN who confirmed what Dani already knew  
her paralysis didn’t preclude her ability to have  children I got pregnant right away it was Rudy who  
first realized that they were getting a lot more  than they bargained pool sounds like as they’re  
supposed to be two she said why why and I was  like too what the lady was like you didn’t know  
we were like no we didn’t know both babies have  normal heart rates both babies have normal fluid  
and there’s no evidence of any trouble with them  getting along in there a friend of hers who was  
also a filmmaker suggested Dani and Rudy make a  documentary film their entire wonderful adventure  
and put it out there for all to see it’s almost  the ultimate clickbait right quadriplegic woman  
gives birth to twins during the pandemic I’m  having strong regular contractions the result  
Dani’s twins a documentary that continues to be a  fan favorite at film festivals I just don’t feel  
comfortable videoing myself I wanted to filming  was just come here and awkward at first okay  
um but as Dani became more confident on camera  she became more confident about her message too  
Society doesn’t think we’re capable of being  good parents Prejudice pure and simple although  
more than three hundred thousand people are  living with a traumatic spinal cord injury in  
this country most of them are men there aren’t  even numbers on how many moms are living with  
paralysis let alone those who have twins I’ve had  many friends who are also quadriplegic women who  
are told that they should have their tubes tied  based on what I don’t know Sigma when Dani began  
posting about her pregnancy most were supportive  but there were plenty of internet trolls too  
there are some pretty nasty comments saying  that I’m selfish that I shouldn’t be having  
children how can I take care of children when I  can’t take care of myself taking care of myself
for babies in April of 2020. six weeks early  Lavinia and Giorgiana finally arrived to have  
my body do something right it was just very  empowering I was like wow I’m in a quote-unquote  
broken body but it’s not broken it is strong  it made me feel powerful as a woman look I got  
it yeah say good job Mama good job Mama but  it was also pretty humbling multiple feedings  
diaper changes this takes so much patience I  swear but she and Rudy are a well-oiled team  
typical day with twins eating sleeping nursing  pumping it’s exhausting and she does all of this  
while working a full-time job we just got our own  company off the ground access social a digital  
marketing firm that connects businesses with  the disability community what little time is  
left in her schedule she devotes to a private  Facebook support group she started called Quad  
Squad with 400 members many of them moms they  understand each other in perhaps ways others  
can’t we share pictures with each other we get  our questions answered to share our experiences  
you better keep up Lavinia and Giorgiana now three  have unwittingly proven Dani’s critics all wrong  
he’s thriving and so are they there are  dictionaries full of tempting superlatives  
you could use to describe this family of four but  there’s one in particular that Dani would ask you  
not to use inspiring I think it’s wonderful that  people feel inspired and I’m inspired by other of  
my friends with disabilities as well but I don’t  want to go to the grocery store and have somebody  
come up to me and say randomly you’re so inspiring  why because I’m at the grocery store I want to be  
seen as normal I want to be seen on the same level  as everybody else I don’t need to be inspiring  
come on this way she’s a wife and a mom who may  have lost what so many of us take for granted but  
these days she says she’s never felt more whole  it feels like I got a gift two of them two yeah

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