At the age of 24, Takita Hightie, mother of two, became a wheelchair user as the result of a spinal injury that left her paralyzed from the waist down.
Here is a photo of Takita with her son Keontay
Takita entered her first nursing home shortly after her injury while
also recovering from a serious flare-up of lupus. She recalls the first few days of living in a nursing home as disorienting.
“I was the youngest one there, and people were in worse situations than me. I remember thinking, where am I? Why am I here?”
It did not take long for her to realize that although she wasn’t physically strong enough to leave, she did not like being there. Being there was depressing; residents did not have any say in deciding when to wake up, when to eat and when to go to sleep. Most importantly, there was only one Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) for every 15 residents, making it difficult for Takita to receive the attentive care she needed.
Among the other challenges she faced, Takita endured a challenge that all mothers dread having to experience: being away from their children. Having recently given birth prior to becoming paralyzed, Takita’s admission into a nursing home separated her from her newborn and six year old. She recalls her biggest fear being that her children would not know her.
“He would ask can he stay with me and I had to tell him no. He didn’t understand the situation; he just knew I was away from him.”
In an environment where most would have difficulty being optimistic, Takita drew upon her inner strength.
“Sometimes you have to accept the situation, either you are going to deal with it or you aren’t. I just didn’t have any pity parties. I told myself nothing is forever.”
Takita’s children were not allowed to stay overnight, instead visiting every other week. (use this as a photo caption)
After spending nearly three years in the nursing home, Takita felt ready to live on her own. However, bureaucracy makes moving out difficult for residents. Takita learned of Access Living’s Deinstitutionalization Program and reached out for help.
Now 29, Takita has her own apartment and lives independently with her sons Keontay, 11 and Kaleb, 4.
When asked how it feels to be reunited with her family, she responds, “It’s wonderful. I have two boys and they have a lot of energy. It’s also relaxing because I can be present with them.”
Now employed part-time at Access Living Takita gains real word experience by overseeing a new grassroots organizing group at Access Living called Independent Voices. The group is to advance social justice for people with disabilities transitioning out of nursing homes and those who have reintegrated back into the community.
Since she began using a wheelchair, Takita frequently encounters people who believe disabled parents are incapable of caring for their children. Takita firmly believes that this opinion is simply due to a lack of knowledge. “You can still do what you’re supposed to do as a disabled parent. As with any parent, if you allow children to get away with things, they’ll do it.”
This year, Takita will spend Mother’s Day with her family. She says it is a beautiful thing to be able to show her children she is there for them and become reengaged in activities that most people take for granted.
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