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Dominicana Jillian Mercado Had To Watch As Airport Staff Broke Her Wheelchair And She’s Not The Only One Who Has Experienced This

For model and disability activist, Jillian Mercado, travel is a regular part of her schedule. About every three weeks, Mercado flies as part of her job and she has used almost every single airline through the course of her travels. No matter what airline she chooses, the result is always the same. Without fail, there is always a problem with airline workers properly checking and stowing her electric wheelchair. Mercado has spastic muscular dystrophy that tightens her tendons and muscles. As such, walking for any substantial amount of time quickly becomes very exhausting for the disabled activist. In order to aid her mobility, Mercado regularly uses a wheelchair.

“It gives me the freedom to move around and be extremely independent,” Mercado recently shared with FIERCE by mitú. “Without it, my life is pretty much put on pause.”

The model’s most recent interaction with an airline resulted in her chair being manipulated to the point of breaking.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

While traveling out of JFK Airport, Mercado encountered an unfortunately common situation. As per usual, the model filled out the “Claim At Gate” voucher for her assistive device — her 300-pound electric wheelchair. The claim allows her to write down all instructions for her wheelchair so airport workers are able to move and stow the device without problems. Mercado also always verbally explains the important details of her chair’s care to (hopefully) prevent any damage from being done.

There’s also a box to mark if one’s wheelchair can fold down or not. Mercado’s specific chair does not fold down and she was sure to note this both on the form and verbally. Still, it didn’t do anything to stop what happened once her chair was checked.

“There is too many times where — even though you go by the book and add your extra steps — everything is looked past and done by their own accord,” Mercado explained. “In this incident that’s exactly what happened.”

The flight would be delayed by three hours because the airline had difficulties forwarding the model’s chair.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

The disabled activist was told about the difficulty surrounding her chair while she was seated on the full plane. Mercado told FIERCE that she felt embarrassed knowing that the plane full of people knew that her wheelchair was the reason for the delay. Six hours later, she was at her destination but still had to wait an additional hour to get her wheelchair.

Once she saw it being wheeled towards her, Mercado knew there was something majorly wrong with the situation. Realizing what the issue was, she went live on Instagram to document the damage.

“I realized that my chair was not the way that I left it,” the model explained. “They completely snapped the backside where I rest my upper body forward. Like I mentioned before, my chair does not fold and here I saw it completely folded. Soon after, I realized that some cables were also pulled apart.  I couldn’t believe that this was happening to me once again.”

Mercado had no recourse besides reporting the damage at baggage claim.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

It’s important to note that wheelchairs and other assistance devices are not baggage. They’re essential to the mobility and freedom of their users. Often, without access to their devices, disabled people are left to seek aid from friends, family or the kindness of strangers. It’s a completely dehumanizing experience. There is no piece of luggage that can compare to the importance of these devices.

Mercado had to be pushed in a manual wheelchair by an airport worker to report her damaged chair. She was then stuck at the airport without a chair she could leave in and without the ability to get anywhere on her own. Luckily, the model had some friends in the area who were able to help her but she easily could have been stranded without access to the device that affords her freedom.

Mercado has yet to receive a suitable response from JFK about the damage to her chair.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

The only answer Mercado received was an unspecific tweet from JFK Airport. The tweet reads:

“Jillian, we are so sorry that you had to be put through this at our airport. We hope that your chair was functional when you arrived at your next destination. You should reach out to the airline directly if you need to make a claim for any damage to the wheelchair. Good luck.”

Mercado pointed out that the clear lack of a personalized and caring response goes to prove that the airport lacks any disabled representation in leadership.

“This definitely would have not happened if somebody internally knew how important our devices are. I always say: you can’t speak about us without us in the conversation.”

To encourage other disabled Twitter users to share their travel horror stories, Mercado has encouraged the use of the hashtag #DisabledAirlineHorror.

Twitter / @jilly_peppa

Traveling while disabled is oftentimes difficult and uncomfortable but it is something that disabled people can do on their own as long as they are given access to the tools needed. Most importantly, Mercado wants the abled people who read her story to understand that disabled people have the right to live — and access to everything that comes with life.

“It’s already enough that society already has us in this stereotype were we don’t go out, aren’t fashionable or date but to experience life is to live it as you please,” Mercado insisted. “We are human beings just like everyone else. If you are going to provide a service, provide it to everyone with respect. This is how we literally move forward in life. That should be respected.”

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A Woman On TikTok Gave Her Followers Insight Into What It Feels Like To Be Paralyzed

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A Woman On TikTok Gave Her Followers Insight Into What It Feels Like To Be Paralyzed

Atsushi Tomura/Getty

In 2009, the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health reported that almost 5.4 million people in the United States live with paralysis. Still, despite how common this is, few people understand the condition of paralysis and how it affects a person’s daily life. Twenty-two-year-old Jessica Tawil, of New Jersey, recently set out to explain the experience on TikTok last year.

Since her first post in November, the TikToker has garnered over 1 million followers with content that focuses on her experience of being paralyzed from the waist down.

In a post shared on her TikTok page, Tawil explained an exercise that might give people a chance to understand the sensation of being paraplegic.

@jesstawil

#foryoupage #fyp #foryou #whatilearned #stemlife #needtoknow #weekendvibes #bekind #spinalcordinjury #productivity #disability #medical #paralyzed

♬ Epic Emotional – AShamaluevMusic

In a post shared on her TikTok page, Tawil shared an exercise with her followers that demonstrates how it feels to not be able to move a ligament. In this case, it’s your finger. According to Buzzfeed, Tawil came across the exercise after looking through posts related to disabilities. “I remember feeling so blown away because my legs felt the exact same way as my finger did,” she said.

“Not many people know too much about paraplegics and their capabilities, so I wanted to be that light to inform, educate, and even entertain people,” Tawil explained to BuzzFeed. “I want people to know what it’s like to be paralyzed … so that they can be a little bit more appreciative of what they have and remain humble.”

Tawil’s video demonstration currently has over 12 million views.

Tawil explained that a kidnapping and car accident led to her paralysis when she was in her teens.

Tawil explained that the accident took place on Nov. 15, 2014, when she went to a friend’s house in high school. When she arrived, Tawil discovered that men were present and instantly felt uncomfortable when she further learned that they had brought drugs and alcohol.

“When I eventually asked them to take me home, they took me to an abandoned road instead. When we got to this road, the driver stopped the car and put his foot on the gas and brake at the same time, doing a burnout with his wheels. He lost control of the car and crashed into a tree,” Tawil explained. “It was at this moment that I got whiplash, split my head open to the point where my skull was exposed, and sustained a spinal cord injury — leaving me paralyzed the moment we crashed,” she said. “Paramedics said that I lost the equivalence of a ‘Coca-Cola bottle of blood’ out of my head, and didn’t think I’d make it if they drove me to the hospital. So they drove me to a nearby soccer field where a helicopter airlifted me to the ICU. From there on, I went through seven months of rehab and remained permanently paralyzed and wheelchair-bound.”

Speaking about her injury, Tawil says she was “robbed of my ability to use the bathroom normally (I depend on catheters and enemas).”

Sadly Tawil says her experience led to her reclusiveness and weariness to trust others. Still, she finds that her disability comes with positives. “On the positive side, I have become a lot more spiritual and grateful to have been given another chance at life,” she told BuzzFeed. “My accident has emphasized the fact that we are not promised tomorrow, and that we should always be grateful for the simplest things in life… I also want to show people how I live my life in the present day — what is life like as a wheelchair user? — and devote my channel to being a blog where people can get to know me on a lot more of a personal level.”

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Colombia’s Beauty Queen Winner Shared Her Brave Decision To Have Her Leg Amputated

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Colombia’s Beauty Queen Winner Shared Her Brave Decision To Have Her Leg Amputated

danielaalvareztv / Instagram

Miss Colombia of 2011 has long been a light and a role model to little Latinas around the world. At the time of her win in 2011, little girls across Colombia and the world watched as she earned the highest score of 9.6 in the evening gown competition and was crowned while representing the Caribbean coastal department of Atlantico.

The model and former pageant winner who represented Colombia at Miss Universe 2012 is inspiring girls once again.

Earlier this week the model revealed that she had her knee amputated below the knee.

Earlier this month, Alvarez shared with fans that a mass had been discovered in her abdomen and she’d undergone surgery to have it removed. Unfortunately, soon after her operation, she had experienced ischemia in her left leg, meaning the blood supply to the area was cut off. After several operations and complications, Alvarez decided that she would have her leg amputated.

Sharing news of her progress, Alvarez revieled that she loved her body just as much as she did before the amputation.

“I want to share with you my new version, I love my body as before, I am happy to be here in this world to overcome all the challenges that come in my new life. I know that by the hand of God I will achieve EVERYTHING. ‘Feet, why do I want them if I have wings to fly” let’s go forward !!,'” Alvarez wrote in a post shared with fans to her Instagram page. In the image, Alvarez can be seen smiling while surrounded by her family soon after the operation.

In a separate post, Alvarez shared that she had no regrets about the amputation and had not cried about the surgery.

“With my two favorite men in the world who help me recover day by day with his love and company @rickialvarezv @alvarezcamera !!! My @ Lenard.vanderaa was missing ❤️❤️❤️ Here I go, my beautiful people, my third day of recovery, I have not cried for a second (I think only once and it was because of the pain after the surgery).”

So far, Alvarez has received an outpouring of support from her fans. Her posts have received millions of likes and it looks like her recovery is on the up and up.

Here’s to Alvarez and her Latina strength!

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