One of the best things about Instagram is how you get a peek into people’s so called “real” lives. From celebrities and busy mothers to college girls looking to show off their adorable dorm room, it’s a sea of people from all walks of life. But what We really love about Instagram are all of the fabulous women on there living with spinal cord injuries.From sharing cool photos of their domestic lives to their “Wheelchair OOTD (Outfit of the Day),” the photos some of these ladies are sharing are changing people’s minds of what is possible when living with a SCI. They are beautiful, strong and inspiring women. Here are some of our favorites!
Tamara Mena, J bone 89, Tiphany Adams, uwalk I Glide, Ksenia Bezuglova
These fierce ladies have shown what is possible when you don’t let conditions determine your destiny.
One of these women stand out because her story is incredibly surreal.
Steph Aiello is became a quadriplegic after a violent car crash when she was just 20. She says her passion for make-up helped her reclaim her identity as she adjusted to life with limited hand and wrist function.
San Bernardino native Steph Aiello, 26, was driving back from Las Vegas to California with friends in 2010 when she dozed off at the wheel, after which the vehicle crashed into the desert near Barstow.
The would-be cosmetologist was supposed to start beauty school the next day, but she emerged paralyzed from the waist down, with limited hand movements. And while her immediate plans were compromised, her passion for make-up remained – and she told Daily Mail Online it eventually became a key factor in her recovery.
After the 2010 car crash, Aiello spent months recovering at a hospital in Pomona. She initially lost feelings from her chest down and later recovered sensation in half of her back.
Two of Aiello’s friends were in the car with her during the tragic crash. One of them, whom the 26-year-old called her ‘guardian angel’ in one of her vlogs, did not survive.
Aiello, who said in a video she remembered most of the accident, was left with night terrors and anxiety when she found herself in a car again.
Tragedy struck again on Christmas Day, when Aiello was granted a six-hour permission to spend the holidays at her grandmother’s house in Upland, where 40 loved ones were waiting to see her.
The family got into another road crash just a block from the hospital, when a drunk driver ran a red light and rammed into their car, the Daily Bulletin reported at the time.
We didn’t even make it past the first light,’ Aiello told the Daily Mail Online.
Her mother Sandra suffered broken ribs, a punctured spleen and other injuries that required surgeries and several days in the hospital. Her father Marco had a concussion.
Aiello’s aunt Angie Atkins expressed concern at the time, after the second crash. ‘I’m worried about her,’ she told the Daily Bulletin.
‘I think physically, she’s doing OK. Psychologically … her beautiful smile is diminishing.’
The 26-year-old described her anguish in one of her videos
I remember sitting there thinking, “This just can’t be real,”‘ she said. ‘Like, “Why am I here?”‘
‘Sitting there in the car and your dad’s not speaking to you because he’s been knocked out and your mom’s not breathing in the back seat – you’re just thinking, “Why? Why does this have to happen?” You sit there and think you’ve been through enough.’
Aiello went to the hospital after the second car crash, then back to rehab, where she tried to adjust to life as a quadriplegic. She remained depressed for about a year – until make-up started playing a part in her life again.
‘My occupational therapist knew that I was struggling mentally and she came in one day and said, “We’re doing this. We’re going to figure this out,” ‘ Aiello said.
The two sat during the therapy session with her make-up and brushes, trying to figure out how she could continue to handle products with limited movements in her hands and fingers.
Aiello learned how to open containers using her mouth as well as her hands, and to flick brushes across her face while holding them between both of her palms. The benefits were both mental and physical.
‘I feel like emotionally, it made me revisit the person I was before my accident, with a passion of trying to beautify things,’ she said
‘It was therapeutic for me because I didn’t have much wrist function and finger function, so I had to use the muscles that I did have after my injuries. I had to compensate.
As the sessions progressed, she said her mental state started improving as she reclaimed part of her personality prior to the car crashes.
‘I think it also mentally helped me because it was a challenge for me and I became stronger from it,’ she said. ‘I became who I was again.’
A typical makeup routine for Aiello involves holding brushes between both of her hands to apply powder, and placing smaller brushes horizontally between three of her fingers to do her eyes.
Her technique is so precise she can even complete a flawless winged eye-liner in just a few strokes, as shown in one of her tutorials – something she knows takes a lot of patience, ‘even as an able-bodied person.
She also uses her mouth to remove a lipstick cap, and her mouth to twist out the baton.
After Aiello got out of the hospital, her aunt, who is also an occupational therapist, helped her get brush holders that wrap around her fingers, which enables her to do other people’s make-up.
Her lifelong ambition to become a cosmetologist is materializing, as she is now a licensed make-up artist. She wants to explore special effects makeup in the future, while continuing to share snapshots of her life as a quadriplegic online.
Her makeup videos have been viewed about 9,000 times each, and Aiello has also posted vlogs in which she answers questions about her life as a quadriplegic. She hopes sharing insight about her lifestyle on social media can empower others.
‘I do it because I didn’t have anyone to do it for me,’ she said. ‘That was one of the biggest struggles – I didn’t have anyone to motivate me and make me think I could actually live my life how I wanted. After I figured things out on my own, I thought, “I don’t want anyone else to go through it alone.” So I decided to put myself out there and make myself vulnerable for other people.’
Six years after she became a quadriplegic, Aiello, who has now joined a wheelchair dance team, said she has learned how to strengthen her own confidence.
I have learned that you have to fake it to make it, that it’s so important to fake your confidence until you feel comfortable enough to say, “I do love who I am,” ‘ she said.
That was my biggest struggle – I didn’t have any confidence. But when I got confidence I thought, “OK, I can do this.” Just because you see yourself one way in the mirror doesn’t mean others see you the same way.’
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