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:: THE SPOKE SPOTLIGHT ::
Best Moments in Life
Christopher Di Virgilio

One Wyoming women captures the spirit of living life with a disability and lands this year's Get Out, Enjoy Life top spot


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An Outdoor Journey

Reprinted from SNS November 2017

The rugged beauty of Wyoming helps set the scene for how an active lifestyle changed the outlook of this year's Get Out, Enjoy Life winner

The best moments in life often happen outside of our comfort zone, according to this year’s SPORTS ’N SPOKES (S’NS) Get Out, Enjoy Life (GOEL): Summer Tour photo contest winner, Ashlee Lundvall. 

For Lundvall, leading an active lifestyle is just a normal part of her everyday life in Cody, Wyo. The 34-year-old self-proclaimed “outdoor girl” says the state’s wide-open plains and sweeping mountain ranges beg you to get out and enjoy life, and despite living with a T12 spinal-cord injury (SCI), that’s just what she does.

Lundvall fell off of a hay rack in 1999 and landed on the wooden handle of a pitchfork she had been using to feed steers. The impact caused a blowout fracture at T12 and a permanent SCI. For the first time in her young life, she was forced to recognize her limitations. 

“I suddenly couldn’t do something, and there wasn’t anything I could do to change that fact,” says Lundvall. “It took a long time, but once I admitted that loss, I was able to move forward and focus on what I could do. I realized that my disability didn’t make me weaker; it made me exponentially stronger because it forced me to work harder to achieve my goal.”


The defining moment for Lundvall came several months after her injury while still in rehabilitation. She struggled with anger and depression but was oblivious to how her attitude was affecting those around her. 

“I finally noticed how hard the situation was on my parents, and I understood that this loss was not mine alone,” says Lundvall. “I made the decision there to want to and try to change my outlook, for my sake and for the sake of those who loved me.”

Staying Active

Changing her outlook involved becoming more active, but rather than spend time working out indoors at a gym, Lundvall wanted to be outside. Following her accident, Lundvall assumed that her disability meant she would be forced to remain indoors. Discovering she could still go outdoors and live an active lifestyle saved her life.

“Instead of spending hours at the gym, I find that I do better by maintaining an active lifestyle and being as independent as I can possibly be,” says Lundvall. “I find that if I sit around doing nothing, my mind wanders and I struggle with depression and other negative emotions. I don’t have time to be stagnant and feel sorry for myself. There are too many goals and activities that I still have to complete.”

Lundvall feels most at peace in the outdoors, and her best memories and incredible moments of healing have happened there. The groundwork for her winning photo that graces this month’s S’NS cover started when Lundvall and her husband, Russ, and daughter, Addison, wanted to get in one more day of fishing before homeschooling and hunting season took over their busy schedules. So, they headed to Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River in Clark, Wyo., outside of Yellowstone National Park.

“It was a beautiful, sunny day, and we enjoyed a wonderful morning of fishing before a storm blew through the canyon and up the river and sent us scurrying back to the truck,” Lundvall recalls.

Lundvall reached the river’s edge with the help of her Action Trackchair, which happens to be her favorite piece of adaptive equipment. While she admits that it’s definitely an investment, she’s absolutely convinced how it has changed how she accesses the outdoors. 

“On this fishing trip, we searched a few different spots before finding an area where I could get my chair down close to the river’s edge,” says Lundvall. “The path was steep and rocky, but I was able to maneuver independently for most of the way. In my manual chair, it would have been impossible to reach the same spot without serious damage to myself or my manual chair.”

Besides having her photo featured on this month’s cover for winning this year’s GOEL contest, Lundvall also received a custom-built Razorback wheelchair from Colours Wheelchair.

To learn more about Lundvall, visit her website at ashleelundvall.com

 

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An Outdoor Journey

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