Tuesday, September 8, 2015

In Honor of Christina Symanski

"Life Support", Christina Symanski, circa 2010

Her's a story that will make you stop thinking. To put one's self in the mind of Christina, and to make her final decision, is impossible.

Christina Symanski was a classmate. I was certainly inspired by her enthusiasm and dedication as a studying art teacher. Years later, when I discovered that she had become paralyzed, it hit me very hard. We had gone through the same program together, and had the same job. I don't know many other art teachers. Although the nature of any accident is that it can happen to anyone, something about it made me acutely aware that this could have been my story instead.

She continued to teach, paralyzed. Art. To be honest, I wasn't surprised at this. She was tenaciously dedicated to her work, and I always had this feeling that she was motivated by a force far beyond my ability to comprehend. Some people can stupefy you in that regard. Not to say that her valiancy wasn't any less potent, only that I had given up trying to understand such a person. What she did next was an act of the human spirit which no person can truly judge. I will not recount it in detail, only to say that she chose to end her life.

The legacy of Christina Symanski lives on in so many ways. But whenever I hear stories about robotic exoskeletons, I like to imagine that she is still with us, and that she is wearing one, and then what would she be doing with her life? It is from daydreams like this we draw our inspiration. And as such advancements build one upon another, and one hundred years from now when paralysis means something very different than it does today, then Christina's story will hold even more power. Forever an instructor, of art and life.  

First paralyzed human treated with stem cells has now regained his upper body movement
Jan 2017, The Hearty Soul

A 39-year-old man who had had been completely paralyzed for four years was able to voluntarily control his leg muscles and take thousands of steps in a "robotic exoskeleton" device
Sep 2015


Foot and Mouth Painting Artists have been helping paralyzed artists make a living for themselves for over fifty years. Their artwork is a truly astonishing feat of the indomitable human spirit.

The book about Christina's life:
Life, Paralyzed

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