written by Mackenzie Wilson
People often tell Yvonne Michaud she’s an inspiration. Well-meaning strangers stop the 26-year-old in the grocery store to congratulate her on shopping for eggs or whatever else happens to be in her cart. She knows they have the best intentions, but the Independence resident doesn’t need or want praise for living an independent life.
In 2013, while Michaud was living in Texas, she was mountain biking on a familiar trail when an expert-level section proved to be too much. She hit a bump that flipped her back tire over the front, tossing her to the ground. “Immediately, I just felt loud static and tingling from my waist down,” Michaud said. Alone in the woods, she was able to pull her cell phone out of her Camelbak and call 911. When firefighters arrived, Michaud told them it felt like she was laying on a rock, but after they moved her to the ambulance, she realized there was no rock. Her adrenaline quickly wore off, and pain set in. Doctors told her she had broken her T11 vertebrae, paralyzing her from the waist down.
At the hospital, Michaud was led through a variety of therapy, including recreational therapy. Staff suggested she try hand cycling since she was an avid mountain biker. It didn’t go great. “I was like, this is bullshit, not for me,” Michaud remembered. She was fully committed to healing, not adapting, and the handcycle wasn’t the same as getting back on her mountain bike. “At first, I thought my willpower could heal me. I thought, ‘If I work hard enough I can get there.’ But now I’ve realized I can pour all the work in and I should not expect that to heal me,’ she said. Michaud now puts her energy into living an active life, kayaking with her fiancé, practicing Pilates and going on bike rides with her dog. Last summer, she invested in a prototype Straddleboard—an inflatable standup paddleboard with a padded hump that runs down the center. Michaud can comfortably kneel on theboard and challenge her balance. She said at first it felt like she was riding a mechanical bull. “I think part of the reason I enjoy it is because I didn’t paddleboard before my injury,” she said, “so I don’t have anything to compare it to.”
Michaud is an avid supporter of medical research for spinal cord injuries, and as far as she’s concerned, those are the people who should be applauded as inspirational.“I’m forever grateful to those who donate time, money and energy to adaptive sports programs, medical research, and my own recovery efforts,” Michaud said. “Because of their investments I can always find inclusion in a world where I don’t easily fit in, and I have hope for a cure for spinal cord injuries.”
Born: Denton, Texas
Career: A focus in natural resources—currently at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife as a grants assistant.
“Cycling, kayaking, Straddleboarding and Pilates are all things I love to do. My goal is to have too much fun to realize it’s exercise.”
“Since my injury, I’ve learned my body much prefers warm, cooked food. With that in mind, I try to buy ingredients
I can easily cook into meals during the week, and that make enough food to take leftovers for lunches. I meal-prep breakfast becauseI love sleep way toomuch to wake up early. My go-tos are breakfast burritos and cranberry oatmeal muffins.”
“I am forever grateful to those who donate time, money and energy to adaptive sports programs, medical research and my own recovery efforts. Because of their investments, I can always find inclusion in a world where I don’t easily fit in, and I have hope for a cure for spinal cord injuries.”