Sunday, May 7, 2023

Seven years after sustaining a spinal cord injury, Gabrielle Baldwin Vanderkuyl graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing

                                                                                Gabrielle Vanderkuyl, BSN

"In 2016, four months before Gabrielle Vanderkuyl was supposed to get her Bachelor of Science in nursing, she ended up paralyzed from the chest down. It’s a moment in her life she doesn’t want to talk about or focus on. Instead, she talked about her hard work and perseverance, which made her graduation dreams come true."

“It’s just moving forward and just knowing that you’re capable of whatever dream that you have and don’t give up,” she said. “Put everything you can do in a bag. Put it on your back. And go forward.”

"Baldwin returned to the School of Nursing in August 2021, seven years after she started the BSN program, ready to wrap up her degree. She needed to audit several courses she had previously taken, finish some classes that had been added since 2016, and complete the last of her clinical rotations."

"She’s come a long way. Now, she has to study for the test to get her nursing license."

Learn more about her journey at:

Gabrielle Baldwin's amazing journey | UNCG Magazine



Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Living with epilepsy and studying nursing: Go out there and be your amazing self!

 David Coates, wrote an article for "Epilepsy Scotland" about Felicity, a nursing student with epilepsy.

How have you managed your epilepsy whilst studying to become a nurse?

"Rest, medication, and hydration!

Remembering to take my medication regularly has been crucial. Also, sometimes I do have to give into side effects such as fatigue.

It’s important to rest when your body tells you to. Staying hydrated also reduces the risk of my medication giving me kidney stones.

It has been important to have a good structure for the working day since Covid has put all of our modules online.

I find that I work best in the mornings, so I do any new material then followed by a decent break and then some revision or light reading in the afternoon.

While on placement in a healthcare setting, I make sure that the nursing staff is aware that I have epilepsy.

This helps us mold my practice learning environment so that I minimise my exposure to triggers but still maximise my learning experience.

I have taken part in GP rehabilitation wards, end of life care, cardiology, and health visiting as well as spending the day with physiotherapists and speech and language therapy.

Nothing has been off-limits so far. It’s just about working together and planning ahead."

What kind of support have you received from your university?

The university has been so supportive. It took a while before I could be persuaded to speak to Disability Services within the university but they have given me so much support and encouragement.

I receive a little extra time to complete any written exams and I am able to sit in a smaller room to minimise the stress of the situation.

This also means that if I feel a seizure coming on, I can make a quick exit to a place of safety.

I have an individual risk assessment for when I am on practice placement which details things such as I shouldn’t be behind a locked door and I may need a water break during my shift.

My first placement was meant to be 12.5 hours shifts which are pretty standard in a hospital environment.

My Advisor of Studies sat down with me and the charge nurse and we agreed that I could work shorter shifts and gradually build-up to the full length so that I could adjust to the levels of work.

The University also applied to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for a Disabled Students Award.

This Grant gives me access to things such as taxis to placements that are far away or printer ink so that I can print out my lecture notes and not have too much screen time.

I have to also mention my fabulous friends who keep an extra eye on me during long, warm lectures.

We make sure that I sit near the end of an aisle and one of them will come and check on me if I take a long time going to the toilet etc.

I was even a recipient of the Bruce Johnstone Scholarship during my first year. This is an award given to students who have had to overcome adversity to gain a place at university.

Do you feel your epilepsy has stopped you doing what you want to do?

Epilepsy hasn’t stopped me. I won’t allow it to! Sometimes it’s about finding an alternative route to your goal. Yes, there have been times when it has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works.

I missed some time on placement after a particularly nasty seizure, but I worked with the university to find a way for me to stay on course. Having an open and honest dialogue is so important.

I have always wanted to help people. I did put off applying to university because I had the misconception that my epilepsy diagnosis would stop me from working. It turns out that all I needed was a few minor adjustments.

Living with a chronic condition myself has helped me empathise with some of the patients that I have met during my training.

A diagnosis can really knock your confidence at first. It’s good to be able to listen to their worries with a little understanding of what they are feeling.

What would you say to someone who has epilepsy and is worried about going to university?

Get in contact with disability services as soon as possible. They will be able to advise you on every aspect of your student life from how to stay safe on campus, to any special requirements for both learning environments and halls of residence.

Get registered with a local GP, they come to freshers week here. I would advise arranging an appointment to go over how your epilepsy affects you and your individual care plan.

I would also recommend wearing a medical ID of some sort and having your emergency contact stored in your phone under “ICE”.

That way if you do happen to have a seizure on campus people will know that you have epilepsy and who to contact.

Be open and honest with your faculty staff. They cannot help you if you do not tell them that you are struggling whether that is due to your epilepsy or other factors.

Make sure that you pace your studying so that you get plenty of rest and recreation too! Set an alarm for your medication too. It’s so easy to forget when you have such a hectic study/social life.

Most importantly get stuck in and enjoy yourself! Sign up to a society to help you make friends, you are a student for such a short time. Don’t let your condition define you! Go out there and be your amazing self!

Read more about Felicity at:



Friday, March 17, 2023

Mrs. Kayoko Kanou, Japanese nurse, professor and YouTuber, shared "I am a nurse: Color me Exceptional" on her YouTube channel


For many years, I have been working with a Japanese nurse, Nozomi Kawabata (pen name) who has a disability. He has been working tirelessly to share my work with other Japanese nurses with disabilities. This is one example of his efforts.

Many thanks to my dear Japanese friend and to Mrs. Kayoko Kanou for sharing my coloring book on her YouTube channel.

(At 14min 21sec)



Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Nurses with disabilities mourn the passing of Judy Heumann, "a rebel girl on wheels"

                                                                                          Judith Heumann

      Alex Traub from The New York Times wrote an obituary about the life of Judith Ellen Heumann. It is summarized below.

 Judith Heumann was born in Philadelphia on Dec. 18, 1947. She grew up in Brooklyn. Her parents, Werner and Ilse Heumann, were both sent away from Nazi Germany as Jewish children, and neither of them saw their parents again. Werner ran a butcher shop, and Ilse volunteered for local civic groups.

During the 1949 polio epidemic, when Judy was 18 months old, she was diagnosed with the disease. She spent three months in an iron lung.

When her mother tried enrolling her in kindergarten, the principal said she could not attend, calling her a “fire hazard.” She was not able to properly enroll in school until she was 9 years old, and even then she took her classes with other disabled students in the basement. She was able to mix with the rest of the student body only once a week during assemblies.

She attended a special high school, graduated from Long Island University with a bachelor’s degree in speech and theater in 1969, and earned a master’s in public health from the University of California at Berkeley in 1975.

She first came to prominence as an advocate for the disabled in 1970, when she tried to become a New York City teacher. She passed every requirement except a physical and was denied a position, with the cited cause being “paralysis of both lower extremities.” Regulations stipulated that teachers must not have physical issues that prevented them from moving on stairs quickly or from escorting students out of school in case of an emergency.

Ms. Heumann sued the city and went public, telling The Times that if a school lacked a ramp or elevator, she could teach on the ground floor, and adding that she moved faster with her electric wheelchair than normal pedestrians did walking.

Within a few months, Ms. Heumann won her license — becoming New York City’s first teacher in a wheelchair.

A pivotal moment came in San Francisco in 1977. It had been four years since President Richard Nixon had signed the Rehabilitation Act, one section of which, 504, was supposed to outlaw discrimination against disabled people by any institution receiving federal money.

Yet officials repeatedly delayed implementing the measure, and Joseph A. Califano Jr., the secretary of health, education and welfare under President Jimmy Carter, said he had wanted to overhaul the regulations before authorizing them.

Activists responded that there would be national protests if Mr. Califano did not sign off on the original form of the law by April 4.

April 5 arrived. Protesters in cities throughout the nation occupied federal offices. Ms. Heumann, then 29, organized the San Francisco contingent. She appeared with more than 100 other people of varying disabilities to demand action from Joseph Maldonado, the regional director who reported to Mr. Califano from San Francisco.

…. the San Francisco sit-in continued for almost a month. It has often been described as the longest nonviolent occupation of a federal building in American history.

 On April 28, Mr. Califano signed Section 504. The measure’s provisions for federal institutions and activities prepared the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which broadened those protections to include the private sector and many other areas of public life.

Judy Heumann..... went on to become an official in the Clinton administration, a special adviser in the Obama State Department and a fellow or board member at some of the nation’s leading nonprofits. She was also featured in the Oscar-nominated 2020 documentary “Crip Camp.”

Rest in peace Judy Heumann. 

Your memory is and will continue to be a blessing to so many.

Donna Maheady

Read more about her work:

Judy Heumann, Who Led the Fight for Disability Rights, Dies at 75 - The New York Times (

Judith Heumann, ‘Mother of the Disability Rights Movement,’ Has Died | HuffPost Latest News

Judy Heumann | Disability Rights Advocate | Judithheumann

Judy Heumann, trailblazing disability rights activist, dies at 75 (

Judith Heumann: Our fight for disability rights -- and why we're not done yet | TED Talk Rolling Warrior: The Incredible, Sometimes Awkward, True Story of a Rebel Girl on Wheels Who Helped Spark a Revolution: 9780807003596: Heumann, Judith, Joiner, Kristen: Books

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Nurses with disabilities: Want to learn Sign Language?

The Oklahoma School for the Deaf offers free Sign Language l and Sign Language ll classes online. 

These are classes taught by OSD’s ASL Specialist. These are non credit level courses and do not count towards professional development hours or continuing education units. They are simply basic courses in conversational American Sign Language.

For more information, please visit:

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Justina Miles, Super Bowl performer, is deaf and a pre-nursing student


Justina Miles, a Bowie State University pre-nursing major, is the first woman who is black and deaf to sign during the Super Bowl halftime show.

According to an interview on "CBS Mornings" with Gayle King, Miles has some hearing. She is able to hear music but considered deaf based on audiologist measurements. 

Miles is training to be a nurse so she can advocate for deaf patients and lead the way for nurses who are deaf..... 

To learn more visit:

Justina Miles, deaf performer who went viral at Rihanna's Super Bowl halftime show, opens up in first interview since the game - CBS News

Justina Miles' Performance at the Super Bowl Goes Viral | Bowie State



Sunday, February 5, 2023

"Gloves for Life" may help some nurses who use wheelchairs


Michael Franz from New Mobility posted a review of gloves made for wheelchair users by "Gloves for Life". The review included these comments:

"Debbie Riggsby, a C6-7 quad, and her husband, Zane, bought Gloves for Life from the original owner in 2013. They have dedicated the last decade to developing gloves that help quadriplegics and others with limited dexterity push better."

"I use power assist wheels and usually don’t wear gloves. Once I put the gloves on and started pushing, the difference was very noticeable. Pushing required much less effort, and even when I didn’t make good contact with the handrim, the wheel still propelled forward. Another benefit I noticed from wearing the gloves is that they helped when I had nerve pain in my hands. On bad pain days, I have more difficulty pushing, but the gloves seem to dampen the impact on my hands — and the pain." 

"On top of the pushing benefits, the gloves can be used as an adaptive cuff to hold items. For example, I put a fork through the thumb hole, similar to how one would use a universal cuff. It is not something I would do regularly, but if I forgot to bring my adaptive utensils with me, this would work in a pinch. I used the gloves to hold a pen, and while they won’t replace my adaptive writing splint, I can see the option coming in handy. The gloves also made it much easier to hold on to items like cups and to slide items across my desk. "

For more information, read the full article by Michael Franz and visit the Gloves for Life website.