For Ronald Witherspoon, 2016 was a mixed bag of joy and sadness.
Just a few months before becoming a father for the first time, the Mobile man was critically injured in a robbery attempt in a public park.
“It was about 9, 10 o’clock, and I was standing outside on my phone,” said Ronald. “I was shot twice in my thigh. I was shot in my stomach. I was also shot in my arm. And I was shot in the center of my spine, in my back. And the one in the back caused me to be paralyzed.”
Ronald spent more than a month in the hospital recovering from his injuries. When he was finally released from the hospital, he found his life at a crossroads.
“I was frustrated and angry,” he said. “Something that I used every day was taken from me. It was taken away from me for the rest of my life. Here I am, worried for the future, and I meet Polly Jones. And she changes everything for the better.”
Polly, an independent living specialist with SAIL, arranged for a ramp to be built at Ronald’s home. More importantly perhaps, she worked tirelessly to eliminate his frustration and restore his self-confidence.
And with the arrival of his newborn son, Ronald Jr., his newfound determination couldn’t have come at a better time.
Ronald said his relationship with the ADRS was life-changing for him. Where he was once solely absorbed by his inability to walk, rehab opened his eyes to the endless list of things he could still do – from fishing at his favorite spot to pursuing a career to provide for his growing family.
VR helped Ronald land a job working from home as a customer support representative. With continued VR support, he now has aspirations of returning to school to study network engineering.
To give him greater independence, ADRS-Lakeshore Certified Driving Instructor Craig Rogers worked with Ronald to assist him in re-obtaining his driver license to operate a car with hand controls.
Ronald receives personal care through SAIL’s Personal Choice program, which gives him more flexibility in managing his care. He chooses how much to pay his attendants and is able to roll the savings into an account for necessary expenditures when the need arises.
“That’s a real game-changer,” Ronald said. “Personal Choice is a great option for people with disabilities.”
SAIL Waiver Case Manager Sherrita Williams said she admires Ronald’s response to difficult circumstances.
“He lost his mobility. He had a baby. He moved out of his mother’s house. He was unemployed,” she said. “With what happened, he could have responded so differently. I’m so proud of him because of what he has accomplished and what he’s overcome.”
Ronald, in the meantime, has nothing put praise for ADRS.
“ADRS is my family. They are my go-to people. I can call anybody in that office and tell them my problem and what’s going on. They’re going to make sure that it’s taken care of.”
And he said he couldn’t imagine life without his new “extended family.”
“Where do I see myself without the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services? I honestly don’t know. I’d probably be somewhere balled up in a corner or something, still mad at the world.”
This story is part of an occasional series – entitled Success17 – highlighting the accomplishments of ADRS consumers. It and subsequent stories in the series will appear in the 2017 ADRS Annual Report.