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Meet Malika

From the time you meet Malika, it is easy to tell she is caring person. She greets you with a big, warm smile that will make anyone feel welcome. When you enter her home that she shares with her three children, you will quickly learn that she loves animals. You cannot miss the two dogs—Princess for her vivacious bark and Zeus for his large, but gentle stature. In addition to the dogs, Malika and her family also have a guinea pig, a bearded dragon, a parakeet and two fish. Malika likes to refer to them as her “Animal Kingdom.”

Malika is happy she has the opportunity to have her Animal Kingdom and her own home. At one time, she was not sure it would be possible. At the age of 20, Malika sustained a gunshot wound that left her paralyzed from the chest down. She spent a month in the intensive care unit and another four months in a rehabilitation facility. Malika worked hard in the rehabilitation facility and knew what she needed to do so she could return home. “My two-year-old daughter spent out a lot of time at the facility, watching everything I did,” Malika said from her home in Montgomery County. “I knew I had to work hard and make her proud of me.”

While at the rehabilitation facility, Malika was asked to join a peer-mentoring program and help other patients with spinal cord injuries. “I didn’t have someone tell me what to do or how life was going to be different,” she said. “I now can help women understand what it is like to be a mother with a spinal cord injury.” Malika said that after her injury, she was living different lifestyle. “You can’t let a wheelchair take control of you.”

As part of the mentoring program, Malika spent time visiting with other patients who had spinal cord injuries at the facility. She would offer them advice or just listen to her peers with a deep understanding of what they were experiencing. Once Malika was out of the facility and living in her home, she continued to spend time with the individuals. The mentoring program has since lost funding, but that has not stopped Malika’s peers from calling her. Now, at the age of 37, Malika is starting her own blog, called “Sitting Pretty Girl” so others can continue to have a support system. “Just because the program doesn’t officially exist, I didn’t want them to lose their spirit,” she said.

While Malika has provided motivation and assistance to others, she says The Coordinating Center has done the same for her. Since her injury, Malika has been part of the Community and Home Options Waiver Program (formerly known as the Living at Home Waiver Program). Malika’s coordinator, Racine, helped her obtain necessary medical equipment, find an accessible place for her and her family to live and increase the amount of nursing hours she receives. “Racine has gone above and beyond her call of duty,” Malika said. “She is always there for me when I need her.”