Family Collage

Family Collage
Lots of Love in this Bunch!
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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Unforgettable Birthday: Meeting Ms. Anonymous

Thirty-Five! Yes today is my special day and I am super excited to be alive and well and smiling through the highs and lows that each day brings!

My birthday has been fun and special in many ways ~ from morning coffee with a dear friend, to tossing around ideas for a ribbon-cutting ceremony, and ending with a delicious strawberry cake made by my sweet children.

These are the precious moments that I cherish and hope to remember for many years to come.

I also had the privilege of meeting an amazing woman today who is known as "Ms. Anonymous" here at Head in the Clouds.

On August 15th, "Ms. Anonymous" left a heartfelt comment on my blogpost "We're Moving!" 

She wrote: "I am so glad that one of my Facebook friends sent me the information about your blog!!! Birmingham, will be happy to have you, and I, would love love love, to meet you. I am a 46 year old, wife and mother. I am also a paraplegic of 29 years, due to an automobile accident in 1983!! Please, if you can fit me in to your schedule, I would love to meet you and chat. I can be reached at xxx-xxxx. I live in Warrior, which is about 15 miles north of Birmingham. Good luck with this new adventure!"

Since receiving her comment in August, I dialed her phone number at least a dozen times but was unsuccessful each time. But on Tuesday, I tried again, and was thrilled to hear a voice on the other end! 

So without further adieu, please let me introduce you to the incredible Melissa Bayles~Fendley, also known as "Ms. Anonymous!"
Melissa is no stranger to UAB or to the Spain Rehabilitation Center. From 1994 - 1998, she served as the spokesperson for the "Think First" Program at UAB and even represented our great state as Ms. Wheelchair Alabama.  To learn more about Melissa please click here. 

For nearly two hours we discussed our hopes, dreams, and visions for what the TJ Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Research Program can do to help our friends and loved ones living with SCI / Paralysis in Alabama and across the country. "Researchers have made incredible strides since my accident 29-years-ago," Melissa said. "I am excited to see what will come from Dr. Floyd and her research lab at the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation!"

As I blow out my bazillion candles tonight ('-'), my wish is that of paralysis cure for TJ, Roman, Bonnie, Katy, Katie, Melissa and for the millions of others who make this same wish each and every day!  

Goodnight, everyone! I hope you all have a great rest of the week, and thanks again Melissa for making this birthday truly unforgettable!  Much love, Tory

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Ceremonial Bill Signing for the TJ Atchison SCI Research Program

From left: Senator Keahey, TJ, and Governor Bentley
Yesterday Governor Bentley officially signed TJ's bill which approved funding for the TJ Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Research Program. Sponsored by Senator Marc Keahey (D-Grove Hill), this initiative was passed by the Alabama State Legislature on May 16th which allocated $400,000 in research funding to the University of Alabama Birmingham School of Medicine.

Details of the bill and the work that we did to accomplish this goal are available here.

A recap of the ceremony

Representative Elaine Beech from Washington County, friends, family, supporters of TJ, along with Dr. Candace Floyd and other UAB staff  had the opportunity to meet with Governor Bentley and the legislative bill author, Senator Marc Keahey, for a ceremonial bill signing at the Capitol. Those of us who were lucky enough to attend the ceremony were pleased to share this special day with TJ and his family.

Governor Bentley having a private chat with TJ 
We knew that Governor Bentley was extremely busy and had many things on his agenda (such as visiting families of south Alabama who were impacted by storm, Isaac, earlier in the week), and so we expected that the ceremony would be quick. However, when the Governor came to meet us in the beautiful Old Office Chamber Room of the Capitol, he took the time to speak with TJ about his goals for being a patient advocate, then asked if we had any questions for him.

My daughter Catie, Governor Bentley, and TJ's sister Alyssa
Governor Bentley was such a gracious host. He held the hands of our little ones and encouraged them to be great students, friends, and to work hard in their schools and communities.

From left: Senator Keahey, Tucker McDonald, Anita & Carey McDonald, Governor Bentley, Representative Elaine Beech; Bottom: Alyssa and TJ
When there were no more picture requests or questions left to ask, the Governor seated himself at a desk in the center of the room and we gathered around him for the bill signing ceremony. After we had our group photo taken, the Governor handed out pens with his name on them to TJ and the children gathered around his chair.

In all, Governor Bentley spent about 25 minutes with our group. It was obvious that he enjoyed chatting with us and with TJ, as his staff finally had to inform him that it was time for the visit to end. Indeed, we were honored by the whole experience!

After tons of persistence and determination, TJ and I were thrilled to say, "WE DID IT!" 
Celebratory luncheon
Program Administrator for the TJ Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Research Program,
Dr. Candace Floyd (standing), welcomed our group to the special luncheon held at
Central Restaurant in Montgomery.
Of course our hearts were filled with such joy and happiness for what had been triumphantly accomplished, but our group sorely missed the company of our dear friend and ally Roman Reed .

November 11, 2011, the beginning of "TJ's Law"
 From left: Me, Bonnie Blackwell, Roman Reed, and TJ
Because of Roman's commitment to pass AB 1657 ( This bill will raise funds to sustain the Roman Reed SCI Research Fund at UC Irvine’s Reeve-Irvine Center) in his home state of California, Roman was unable to make the trip to Bama for Governor Bentley's bill signing.

TJ's program at UAB would never have been possible had it not been for Roman's instrumental roll in the formation and passing of Senator Keahey's legislation. So on behalf of our TEAM, I would like to say thank you to Roman for everything he has done to encourage and help TJ in his mission for paralysis cure.

"From Alabama to California, TJ and I fight together so that one day soon, all who suffer from a spinal cord injury / paralysis can stand with you!" ~ Roman Reed

Please stay tuned to Head in the Clouds as more pictures from this special day will be posted soon. Take care and have a wonderful Labor Day weekend!

Much love, Tory