I met my friend, Lori Sneed, the way so many of her friends have made her acquaintance — by almost getting run over by her and her motorized wheelchair.
She was a flash and a force zooming down the hallways of CNN, where she answered phones for Public Information.
She talked to the wound-up viewers who call to complain about coverage or to say they don’t like what news anchors like me were wearing on the air that day.
That was Lori’s job when I met her. One of the toughest jobs in the building and one that Lori did with a smile.
From the moment you meet Lori, you know you’ve met someone special. It’s just that your mind doesn’t know where to go first.
There’s her striking beauty — jet black hair, porcelain skin and beautiful green eyes that sparkle with hints of mischief.
There are the clothes, as she’s always the best-dressed woman in the room.
And of course, there’s The Chair.
Lori is a quadriplegic.
Her life changed in a flash one night during her freshman year at college.
She and some friends were driving back from a concert when the driver fell asleep at the wheel.
Lori was thrown from the car and nearly died at the scene.
Doctors revived her, but her life now is one that most of us can never imagine.
Not too long after we became friends, I found myself with a dilemma.
“Lori,” I told her, “I’m having a holiday party at my house. I’d love to invite you, but my house sits atop 20 stone steps. It couldn’t be less wheelchair accessible.”
“No problem,” she said. I thought she was just graciously thanking me for thinking of her. I was wrong.
“Just save me a parking space out front,” she instructed.
“I’ll call you when I get to your house so you can send five of the cutest guys at the party out to carry me up those stairs. Remember, it’s really important that they’re cute!”
That was the day I realized what I love about my friend. No matter what life throws at her, she’s determined to come to the party.
I’ve learned from watching her that quadriplegics face so many more physical challenges than not being able to walk.
We almost lost her a few years ago when her intestines burst leaving her in a coma and causing a stroke.
She’s bounced back from that as well, though it cost her her peripheral vision and the ability to drive.
“I’m still in denial about that one,” she shared with me the other day.
So, it’s not that she doesn’t have her sad and bad days. She does.
“Sometimes I get down because of all the stuff I have to deal with,” she said.
“But then the other half of my brain reminds me of all the things I don’t have to deal with.”
It’s now 20 years since the car accident that changed Lori’s life forever.
A life she never planned.
“No one really has the life they planned,” she pointed out to me the other day.
“I don’t really see myself as an inspiration, but if I do inspire anyone, I hope I show them, no matter what, you can still go to the party.
“That’s the choice. It’s just about figuring out another way to get there.”
It never fails.
Lori Sneed knocks me over every time.
Daryn Kagan is the creator of DarynKagan.com. She is the author of “What’s Possible! 50 True Stories of People Who Dared to Dream They Could Make a Difference.”
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