Schuh shares path to hope and a brighter future
One fateful step changed Tasha Schuh’s life forever. It was her last step, but she doesn’t let that get her down. Schuh shared her inspirational story with Cadott students, Nov. 22.
“Some people have actually told me they feel sorry for me,” said Schuh, “but please, don’t.”
She went on to say she loves her life and even her wheelchair, words she never thought she’d say.
“It hasn’t always been this way,” said Schuh.
Schuh says, growing up, she was a typical teenager who led an active life and had a nearly pitch-perfect singing voice.
Schuh was practicing for her high school’s production of The Wizard of Oz during her junior year, when someone, unbeknownst to her, removed a cover for a trap door behind her during a scene change.
“I took one step backward and I instantly began falling,” said Schuh.
Confusion filled Schuh as she landed headfirst in the basement, 16 feet below, and remembers hearing the snapping of vertebrae. She broke her neck and severely crushed her spinal cord.
“But today, ironically, I’ve actually accomplished more sitting in this wheelchair than I ever thought I would do walking,” said Schuh.
Schuh says pictures from before her fall made it look like she had everything on the outside, but she was struggling on the inside. She says she hated what she saw when she looked in the mirror and had made poor choices.
Sitting in a wheelchair forced her to examine her life.
“Today, I’m a very different person than that girl in those pictures,” said Schuh. “And that’s why I speak, because I want people to learn what I have learned.”
Schuh compared life to a NASCAR or Formula One race, and only in part because she has her own “souped-up ride.”
She says she is frequently asked how she can be so happy. After a closer look, Schuh realized the four things that allow her to be happy are purpose, attitude, team and hope, spelling PATH.
“We are all on a path in our race and I believe if you embrace these four things, that they will put you on the right path to be successful,” said Schuh.
Schuh says her journey of learning these things began right after her accident. Upon arrival at the hospital by helicopter, doctors began examining Schuh to see what she could move and began using phrases like “you will never walk again.” She says she wanted to die.
“Three days later, I almost received that death wish,” said Schuh.
After a 16-hour neck surgery, her body nearly shut down and doctors gave Schuh a 0 percent chance of survival. It took eight days for her to regain consciousness.
“When I woke up and I found out what a miracle it was that I was alive, I knew deep down that I must be here for a purpose,” said Schuh.
After almost dying, Schuh says she changed her mind about wanting to die.
Schuh says she questioned almost every day prior to her accident why she was here and constantly felt purposeless.
“It negatively effected every area of my life,” said Schuh. Schuh told those in attendance, purpose is being the best version of themselves. It doesn’t matter where their family lives or how much money they have, or what cultural background they come from. Instead, it is each person’s choices that matter.
“You get to determine what path you take,” said Schuh.
She says each person is unique and encouraged the youth to love themselves for who they are. Schuh also said words and actions can either hurt, or help others.
“For a short season, when I was in middle school, I was a bully,” said Schuh. “And today, it is the biggest regret of my life.”
Schuh began to see how much her actions hurt when she was bullied a few years later. From there, she says she made an effort to be kind and it made a world of difference.
Schuh says she fell into depression as she started five months of rehab. Her boyfriend had broken up with her and her parents had to sell the house she grew up in for a wheelchair accessible option.
“In our race of life, it’s easy to get bogged down with the negative,” said Schuh.
Schuh showed how a tenodesis splint allowed her to write, feed herself, brush her own hair and do her own make-up, including eyeliner. Initially, she says she didn’t think she would wear the splint, because it was ugly. After seeing how much the splint could do for her, she says she quit caring what other people would think.
Schuh says the power of attitude boils down to being thankful for what you do have and can do. She still has daily struggles, but says she is the happiest she has ever been. Schuh says, even if things have to be done differently, they can still be done and encouraged students to make a gratitude list of things they are grateful for.
“I’m living proof that depression can be overcome,” said Schuh. “Depression does not have to last forever.”
Schuh says, while learning about what she can do, she also learned about the importance of a team.
“When I had my accident, I felt all alone,” said Schuh. “I felt like nobody could understand what I was going through.”
Looking back, Schuh says of the almost 160 days she was in the hospital, there were only two evenings she didn’t have company. Oftentimes, the room was full of people there to show they cared.
“We need a team,” said Schuh, adding she wouldn’t be where she is now without her family and friends.
Schuh noted that people often do not want to ask for help, but it is not realistic to never need help. She says we need each other. Like NASCAR or Formula One drivers, we need a pit crew to support us.
“So, today, if you are struggling, please know that your teachers and your counselors, they care about you and they want you to ask for help,” said Schuh. “If you know someone who is struggling, please tell someone.”
She told the story of her best friend, who lost her son to suicide at the age of 14, because he didn’t know he had a team supporting him.
“Suicide is never the answer,” said Schuh.
She says life is hard and there will be times you fall down, but everyone has to know it is worth it to keep going and get back up again. Schuh reiterated it is OK to ask for help and Tasha Schuh told Cadott students about her journey to happiness, Nov. 22, after an accident during practice for a high school production of The Wizard of Oz left her a quadriplegic. Schuh says purpose, attitude, team and hope are the keys to happiness. She ended her presentation singing Somewhere Over The Rainbow, something doctors said she would never be able to do again, since those muscles are paralyzed.
said someone will come along to help you when you need it.
The final element Schuh spoke about was hope. She says she thought the wheelchair would hold her back from accomplishing her dreams. It took a trip to wheelchair camp during her senior year, seeing many people happy and living a life she wanted to live, to spark hope for a better future.
“We have to determine, that no matter what happens, we are never going to give up,” said Schuh.
Schuh told attendees many things can, and will, go wrong, but it will get better. She earned two bachelor’s degrees as a quadriplegic and learned how to drive. Since then, she has also moved into her own house, written a book and was crowned Ms. Wheelchair USA.
“I have to pinch myself on all that I’ve overcome and all the finish lines that I’ve been able to cross,” said Schuh.