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BLACKFOOTâ€”Disappointment did not cross Stephanie Palmer's mind when she didn't win one of three vans given away by the National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) which gave away three 2012 wheelchair-accessible vehicles last month. Instead Palmer expressed her amazement and gratitude, "I was truly blown away by the support I received." With over 22,000 votes, Palmer came in 14th place and was in the top 3 percent to be considered for the vehicle.
Palmer had hoped to receive the van as part of the contest to aid her own mobility. Palmer was 14 weeks pregnant with her second child when she went out to eat with her family in Pocatello in January of 2009. It was a typical evening filled with laughter and good conversation, until Palmer started experiencing excruciating sharp pains throughout her arms.
Knowing something was not right, her family members rushed Palmer to the emergency room. There Palmer sat waiting to see the doctor for 45 minutes.
During this time, Palmer lost feeling in her hands completely. Frustrated with the wait they raced to Bingham Memorial and then transferred again to yet another hospital. By the end of the day, Palmer was paralyzed from the neck down. She spent the next five months in the hospital until her baby was delivered and came home in June 2010 to a completely different life. Palmer now has limited use of her hands and arms and is restricted to a wheelchair.
Since the time Palmer has been home, she has been to Walmart only three times and once to Wendy's. Palmer desperately desires to have more mobility.
"Everything would change. I could take my kids to town and get them an ice cream cone. I could go to church and drop Jack off to pre-school. It would be a night and day difference how easy it would be."
Palmer currently is a single mother living with her parents, Terry and Debra Hansen. She said, "There's no just running to go out to dinner. There's nothing simple anymore."
Palmer still has a chance at recovery although there will always be some permanent damage. She goes to Boise for rehabilitation for two weeks at a time. While at rehab, doctors changed her diagnosis to transverse myelitis possibly a result from receiving the swine flu vaccine.
The competition buoyed up Palmer's spirits, "Facebook was always covered with people sharing the link and asking their own friends and families to vote. It was humbling to read the kind things people posted and to watch the votes steadily climb." she said.
Palmer is a fighter and continues on her quest for mobility. While she may not have won the competition, she works hard as a parent and at rehabilitation. Setting goals on her personal blog to learn to do her own hair, get dressed by herself and other simple tasks show how seriously she takes her recovery.
"It was so awesome to feel so supported in learning to live this new life. Now I will find a used van and get financing to purchase it. After I have the van, my next big goal is to learn to drive again."