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The ghost behind the wheelchair

Lila Ridings Darnell

"Sudden paralysis is a circumstance no one wishes to get intimately familiar with, but such tragedies do unfortunately occur. In my own experience, I've learned that a mother will search desperately for the tools of education whenever they're required, but when my son was involved in a life-changing accident, I could find no shared experiences written of by another parent.

After living through the experience of the accident's aftermath and the many months of rehabilitation, I was eventually able to sit down and put words onto paper in the hope that another mother or father would one day find my experience helpful during their own times of learning and searching."

Author: Lila Ridings Darnell

A mother's story - Written to be shared with others

The ghost behind the wheelchair is Lila's personal story about her son Scott's accident. It is written six years afterwards and reflects back on Scott's recovery following a spinal cord injury: the fears, frustrations and achievements, during that first year, and the things she learnt along the way.

Through her biography, Lila openly and passionately discusses her experiences coming to terms with the event that changed all their lives, which she calls "Hell Week".

Hell Week began shortly after midnight on 30 June 1991, with a call to say Scott had dived into shallow water and the injury was serious - he was being flown by helicopter to Intensive Care in St Louis. The terror arrived and grew, as the family made their way to the hospital, not knowing whether Scott would live.

Throughout this ordeal, Lila was there by her son's side, learning what she could to make things easier. Her book is an honest account of the ups and downs of coming to terms with the changes and implications of quadriplegia. The "ghost" of her athletic son, that was just as real in those early days as the new person then in her life, but less so today.

In an instant Scott's life had changed. In the book Lila talks about the difficult times and how they all managed, as well as the achievements and celebrations along the way, and Scott's new found independence. She explains how she coped, her search for information, the stress, and the time needed to adjust to new circumstances ... as well as her words of encouragement to Scott, and other's words of encouragement to her.

In the early days Lila read anything she could get her hands on, but nowhere did they prepare her for transfers - she was therefore devastated when the realities of Scott's future movements were presented to her. Neither was there anything written by another parent, someone she could identify with.

Daunted but not defeated, Lila learnt to transfer Scott, along with other new skills, and has written this book to provide support and optimism to parents faced with a similar situation " … which despite its obvious challenges, still offers much joy, encouragement and hope - believe it! - for everyone".

Book cover


The Ghost Behind the Wheelchair can be purchased online from 1st Books and Amazon.com. It is easy to read and its message positive and empowering. Roger Darnell, Lila's son and Scott's brother wrote:

"You and your family can get through this, and our family is very proud to think my mother's efforts and insights may help you. Here's hoping they do, and that somehow, someday, every spinal injured person regains full use of their completely mended bodies once again."

More information about the author, including extracts from the book are available at:

February 2003

Additional reading

You may also be interested in these other books on living with a spinal cord injury

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