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Michaela

iBOT Personal Mobility Device

Michaela's story, in her words:

I’m Michaela Rososky, I grew up in and reside in Massachusetts with my parents and older sister, Rachael. Looking back at my life it’s difficult to understand how all the signs of big medical issues went undetected. As a child I was delayed with walking milestones and walked on my toes, which happens to be the biggest symptom of a tethered spinal cord in adolescents, a diagnosis that I didn’t receive and get help for in a timely manner. My parents enrolled Rachael and I in a variety of sports, my favorite being a learn to figure skate program, which became my primary hobby growing up. I had frequent orthopedic injuries throughout my skating career, including joint dislocations, that eventually led me to having to hang up my skates in 2014. I had my first knee stabilization surgery in December 2015, and another only a few months later. In January 2016, I was diagnosed with a genetic connective tissue disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome hypermobility type. This diagnosis explained so many aspects about my body that I thought were “normal,” and the unprovoked joint dislocations that put me out of skating. In the fall of 2017, I started my senior year of high school and began experiencing severe swelling in my knee; I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which was damaging my already fragile knee. The previous knee surgeries were unsuccessful in stopping my dislocations, and I also needed the arthritis damage to be addressed. I had my 3rd knee surgery in the fall of 2017, which my body did not take easily and I needed a lot of physical therapy. I had missed out on several weeks of school and feared that I wouldn’t graduate on time with my class. My hard work and supportive family helped me to complete my academic requirements and I proudly was able to walk unassisted and graduate with my class of 2018.

 

I began attending college at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences as a pre-med major in the fall of 2018, and worked very hard despite my physical disabilities worsening. The rheumatoid arthritis had now caused damage to cartilage and ligaments and I learned that I needed another knee surgery. I was weak and losing muscle in my legs and was toe walking just like I had as a child, but I didn’t know why. I went in for my fourth knee surgery on 11/16/18 and received a spinal block as part of the anesthesia plan. The block provoked my tethered spinal cord and spinal strokes causing a more aggressive presentation of symptoms, something that wasn’t known at the time. When I woke up from surgery my legs were not the same, I had tons of nerve pain, severe muscle spasms, muscle atrophy, and drop foot, all of which are symptoms of spinal cord injury.

 

My story from here is a complex one that isn’t easily described or shared. I ended up with a lot of decline physically and could no longer stand or walk, and experienced worsening of other medical conditions related to my hEDS. Multiple doctors were missing the why and failing to dig deeper. In November of 2019, I saw a world-renowned neurosurgeon whose expertise is in patients with connective tissue disorders. The doctor immediately knew what was wrong, I had a tethered spinal cord. This congenital defect was causing silent strokes to my spinal cord, creating the spinal cord injury that was slowly occurring. This doctor also recognized the cervical spinal instability I have that was causing neck pain and other neurological symptoms. This tethered cord diagnosis was terrifying but also welcomed, as it gave an answer and reassurance that I was finally in the right hands. I had my surgery to release my

tethered cord in February 2020. I slowly began to see some improvements, which were not expected. I found joy in the little things in life that we often overlook until life gives us no other choice. After the surgery I remember thinking “so now what? There’s more things that I can’t do than I can do, I want to be able to gain independence and feel safe on my own one day,” and my family agreed that a service dog would be an important part in that.

 

In April 2022, I brought home Tucker, a black standard poodle puppy who I began the adventure of training as my service dog. Getting Tucker gave me a huge purpose, he has brought so much joy to my family, and it was apparent early on that he was the right dog for the job. In 2022, I also took interest in firearms as I wanted the means to protect myself as a disabled young woman. I first shot a gun in October 2022. What I thought would solely be a personal protection skill evolved into a fun Dad and daughter hobby, and a passionate sport for me. My Dad and I enrolled in multiple classes, private lessons, and went as often as we could to practice together at the range. I was an athlete with my figure skating, and my competitive nature hasn’t diminished. I learned of the Adaptive Defensive Shooting Summit (ADSS), which was my first competition that I attended in September 2023. I was able to test out the IBOT at the summit and watch other competitors use theirs, and I realized how much of a difference it would make in my life. I plan to continue my journey with firearms training, and I’m always striving to improve.

 

An IBOT will open up opportunities for me to train and compete at outdoor ranges. Tucker is doing a great job with his service work and enjoys the Fast CAT sport, which involves my caregivers dragging me down a hill and through rocks so that I can participate (it’s a lot of work). I’d love to get more into dog sports with Tucker. These dog sport dreams of mine would be made possible with IBOT technology, as the handler often needs to be moving fast and venues are rarely accessible. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Tucker have fun, he is my best friend and hero and I want to do as many fulfilling activities as possible with him. My home and property are also not fully accessible. With an IBOT I can go across the lawn and down the hill to our patio for family bonfires, and go on the conservation trails again near our house. With an IBOT I can also walk Tucker independently, and reach things in my home. The past two years of exploring with Tucker and also taking up my firearms hobby has made me feel like I’m living my best life despite my disabilities, and I can’t wait for where life takes me next. What’s next isn’t exactly known, but I do know that I want to gain independence to get back on track with many of the goals I had to set aside when my life changed. I will never stop trying to live my life to the fullest and hope to show other disabled individuals that when there’s resilience, a support system, and modern technology, you can achieve things that you never knew you could. When your disabilities take away your ability to do some things, you will find passion and joy in new opportunities.

A note from American Mobility Project: 

We are so excited for Michaela to receive an equipment grant from AMP for an iBOT Personal Mobility Device. We know the iBOT will. be a great fit for Michaela to gain more independence in her everyday life, from taking Tucker on walks to perfecting her shot at the gun range. 

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