Killing Yourself Over a Disability

Until this morning, I had never heard Christina Shymanski's name.  Her smiling picture popped up on a news source.  Her story... broke my heart.  Christina made the decision last fall to starve herself to death.  It took two months before she drew her final breath.

Her reason for leaving this earth began with an accident six years prior, when she dove head first into a pool and ended up paralyzed. She spent a year in a nursing home.  "Living with paralysis (at my level-C4/C5 complete) means I have very few options," Christina wrote in her blog.  "In order to stay alive, I HAVE to take medications, accept help from others (for EVERYTHING), and tolerate unbearable (to me) treatments, like having an indwelling catheter, and bowel program. I HAVE to do all of those things, just to survive. That doesn't include coping with the loss of freedom, lack of privacy, loss of sensation, loss of dreams, aspirations and having to deal with constant compromise. It also doesn't account for the physical pain, discomfort, and sickness, that comes along with living with paralysis, and ultimately autonomic dysreflexia."

I didn't know Christina. I can't begin to understand what her life was like or what she faced each day.  But I am really sad that the world lost a person who obviously had an incredible talent for writing, for expressing her thoughts, for sharing her passion for art.  Christina decided that her quality of life was not worth living because of her disability, so she chose to end her life.

I can't help but wonder the "what ifs."  What if she met someone down the road who changed her life?  What if that someone inspired her to live her life in a different way?  What if she woke up one morning and experienced a paradigm shift about her life?  What if a book that she wrote became a best seller?  What if  her art inspired a young artist in an amazing direction?

What if?

My thoughts turn to Chad Hymas.  Chad was 27 years old when a bale of hay toppled over on him and paralyzed him.  Like Christina, he had to go through a period of rehabilitation after the accident to learn a whole new way of daily living.  He had his dark moments.  He had his challenges.

Chad is an amazing man, a husband, a father of children.  He's a guy who has conquered the  500+ miles from Utah to Las Vegas in a wheelchair-- a story that inspires others to push beyond their limits.  Ten years after the accident that changed the course of  his life, Chad became the youngest speaker to achieve the CPAE award and inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame.

On his blog, Chad shares a profound story about the Brooklyn Bridge.  If you've gone over that bridge, you probably never gave a second thought as to how the bridge was built.  A few months into the project, the father/son team who dreamed of the bridge was injured on the site.  The father died, the son could not walk or talk. He could only move one finger.  For thirteen years,  he tapped out messages on his wife's arm and continued to lead the crew that built the bridge.

chad hymas and karen putz

Which leads me to wonder... what if.  What if Chad had decided his own life wasn't worth living?  I would have missed out on the opportunity to cross paths with him.  I'm inspired daily by Chad, from his wisdom, his outlook on life, the kindness that he shares with the world.  Which leads me to a quote that I think of often:  "To the world, you may just be one person, but to one person, you may be the world."

Christina mattered. I only wish she lived to see just how much.






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  • Karen, thanks for this!

  • In reply to Julie:

    Thanks for reading, Julie! A real heartbreaking story to write.

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    I came across this piece through a Google alert that I have set for paralysis. My husband has been a quadriplegic for almost six years and returned to teaching high school history a year after his injury. It is impossible to imagine the agony that Christina was enduring. I noted one comment in the Huffington Post article indicating that her boyfriend, also a quadriplegic, was recently killed in a tragic accident. Still, as selfish as it may be, I am incredibly thankful each day that I have with my husband despite challenges and the complexity and I know he feels the same way . . . . most days.

  • In reply to Tracie Morris:

    Tracie, thanks for sharing. Wishing you both the blessing of many days ahead!

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