My name is Shanon Nelson. I am an American Refugee. This is my story.

I had to leave the United States to save my life. No hyperbole. I had to leave the only home I knew in order to save my life.

I decided that I couldn’t allow a cruel system now in the hands of a ruthlessly misogynistic, racist, ego and greed driven sociopath kill me. The callous policies and budget cuts enacted by previous GOP administrations (since the Reagan days) as well as the Trump administration have directly and negatively affected the disabled community of which I am part. I was at a point where I was facing homelessness and having to contemplate suicide as a way out. I actually researched it and found out that even that wasn’t an option because I’m supposed to be suffering from a terminal condition in order to qualify for assisted suicide in California. I guess quadriplegia doesn’t qualify as a ”terminal condition”.

Isn’t it disturbing that severely disabled Americans like myself can make peace with our disabilities but have to contemplate suicide as a way out of being unable to get the services needed to survive? We can’t afford to hire lobbyists, so I guess that makes us disposable. The greatness of a nation should be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens – not by how much it helps its wealthiest.

Am I saying that all of our country’s problems started with Trump? Of course not. It’s the system that we have in place that puts profits ahead of people. All Trump did was put it on steroids and brag about it as if it were normal.

Anyway, I said fuck suicide and applied for a passport (and then a visa) instead. I am one of the lucky ones, not everyone can do what I did. It makes my heart ache to think that I left behind fellow disabled friends in dire situations. I wish I could have brought them all with me!

When I, a disabled American citizen who always played by the rules and contributed to the system until the day she broke her neck and became paralyzed, has to make the radical decision to leave her country in order to SAVE HER LIFE, you need to pause and re-think that “greatest country in the world” myth. I have lost count of the number of people I’ve met who are in similar situations and whose plan B is suicide.

Before I continue, I’d like to point out that I have documented proof of everything I’m stating here.

My mother left me some money upon her passing a few years ago which allowed me to move twice within the country looking for a better life for myself. I ended up giving up that pointless search because I realized that I was wasting my time moving from state to state. It’s the system. While some states treat their disabled populations better than others (thank you, New York!) others treat them as a complete burden (I’m looking at you, Arizona). But across the board, we seem to be the easiest target for budget cuts.

The financial resources my mother left me which allowed me to travel and explore options for a more dignified life, have now dwindled to nothing because I’ve been paying for attendant care out of pocket as well as outrageously high rent while waiting to be approved for around-the-clock care and subsidized housing. After months of waiting, I was only approved for up to 68 hours of care a week. Highly inadequate for my needs considering the fact that I cannot do absolutely anything for myself and need assistance throughout the day and night. The wait lists for subsidized housing are SO long (years!), I became convinced that I was going to die while waiting.

I was facing either homelessness or a slow painful death in a nursing home. I spent time in three of those houses or horror. I nearly got killed in the first (in Maine), which is why I escaped; and only survived the other two (in New York) thanks to my amazing friend Rose Mary who made sure she showed up every single day to take care of me. The monstrous things we witnessed inside those places left us forever scarred. Nursing homes are neither equipped nor staffed to properly care for severely disabled individuals like myself. I happen to know this from personal experience.

My fellow quad friend Chip died in a nursing home due to a pressure sore (extreme neglect). He used to drink daily to numb his physical and emotional pain. He was only in his mid 40s when he passed. I am 47. Dying slowly and painfully from extreme neglect is NOT how I envision myself checking out after everything I’ve been through (abuse, surgeries, bone infections, etc). Yeah, fuck that.

Budget cuts that take away food and care for the poor, elderly and disabled; tax cuts for people with yachts; cages for immigrant children; the relentless and despicable demonization of immigrants (led by a descendant of immigrants himself!); the normalization of hate; putting profits ahead of the well-being of the only planet we have; the vicious attack on women’s rights, promoting sexual predators to positions of power and authority, Etc. Is this really who we are?

Not happy with screwing us over by slashing funds for programs that our most vulnerable citizens depend on for survival, the heartless sociopath in the white house and his minions went after the ADA! (Americans With Disabilities Act). I never thought I’d witness that degree of evil! I’ve been denied access to a bathroom by a Walgreens employee AS A PAYING CUSTOMER for the first time in the 23 years of being disabled after Trump’s minions eviscerated the ADA. Large businesses, run by obscenely wealthy executives who prey on their fellow citizens, now know that they can get away with it. The psycho is on their side. They even went after “Meals on Wheels”!! Is this really who we are becoming? Are we really going to normalize this? Please don’t! Please get involved and resist. Apathy will be our downfall.

Needless to say, I will continue to #RESIST from far away.

#AMileInMyWheels #AmericanRefugee #Resist #ThisIsNotWhoWeAre #NoOneIsIllegalOnStolenLand 

 A Mile In My Wheels

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