It began with a
numbness. Three days later, 20-year-old Susan Craig, a
single mother of a 2-year-old boy, was
paralyzed. Initially diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, it wasn't until 1995 - 10 years later - that Craig learned she actually has acute transverse myelitis, a syndrome with acute inflammation of the spinal cord that can cause paraplegia.
In 1997, during her second year at Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College in Andalusia, Craig contacted Kathy Wyatt, a rehabilitation counselor in the local Vocational Rehabilitation Service office, for assistance. Craig was already familiar with Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services; she had received medical supplies and personal care services through the Homebound program in the 1980s. But her needs this time were different. She longed for more independence. VRS provided vocational assessment, counseling, job readiness training, and job retention services. In addition, the program assisted Craig with vehicle modifications so that she could drive again.
Suddenly, Craig was independent once more. Part of that rediscovered independence included involvement with Wheeling Sportsmen, a sporting group for people with disabilities. The Andalusia woman and her son, now grown, often go hunting and fishing at the organization's camp in Union Springs. "I was free to go where I wanted," she said. "You can't replace independence." When Craig graduated in 1999, VRS again assisted, helping her find employment as switchboard operator at Mizell Memorial Hospital and providing a job coach to assist her in mastering her new job.
Since joining the Mizell staff in September 2000, she's been promoted to patient financial representative and couldn't be happier. "I'm right where I want to be," she said. And she credits VRS and Kathy Wyatt with making her success possible. "They look after people; they care. I don't know where I'd be without them," Craig said. "They gave me my independence."