Former Patient Creates Website to Share Advice on How to be "Happy on Wheels"
Sheri Denkensohn, 47, of Arlington, Va., was 16 years old when her injuries in a diving accident resulted in quadriplegia.
Nothing, however, stopped Sheri from moving to the nation’s capital, earning a law degree and becoming an attorney for the federal government. She’s spent the past 17 years working in the Inspector General’s office with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and is currently a senior advisor for public health oversight.
In 2009, Sheri sought out Shepherd Center for surgeries on two pressure-sore wounds. Post-operative complications kept her at the hospital for six months, much of it spent in Shepherd Center’s Intensive Care Unit. “I was intubated and on a ventilator most of my time there and never thought I’d be able to go back to work. But I did! I’m thankful everyone at Shepherd knows how to be both tough and supportive.”
Sheri also appreciated that Shepherd Center provided an on-campus apartment for her husband, Tony, who has Friedreich’s ataxia, a progressive, neurological disorder that affects his balance and muscle coordination. The apartment allowed him to more easily support his wife while she was an inpatient.
Tony and Sheri met through their mutual work with the ENDependence Center of Northern Virginia, where Tony served as a peer mentor and Sheri served on the board. When Tony asked her out on a first date, Sheri knew she had a potential keeper: The invite was to a Georgetown Hoyas basketball game.
“I was an athlete growing up and I loved the Hoyas,” Sheri says. “It’s also where I went to law school, so yes, that was a good call on a first date.” The two have been together – and Georgetown season-ticket holders – for more than a decade.
Sheri and Tony have joined forces to create "Happy on Wheels", an entrepreneurial business initiative focused on helping wheelchair users, and all individuals, to live happier lives. Sheri is the writer and speaker, while Tony serves as editor, web designer and social media guru.
“We love spending time together,” Sheri says, “so this is a really fun chance to bring our strengths together for a shared purpose.”
Written by Phillip Jordan
Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neuromuscular conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.