° empty

Help us reach 15,000 for Matthew

So often in our society we hear about those who are content to let others do for them what they could be doing for themselves. We get angry or feel a sense of injustice when we think someone is taking advantage of someone or some program when they appear quite capable of working and contributing their own way in the world.

Even if just for a little while, I hope Matthew’s story will find a place in your heart and restore your faith in mankind. Matthew’s story is truly one of hope and inspiration and shows us that hard work, determination, faith, a good attitude and a bond between a patient and his occupational therapist — plus a little help from Stevan Ridley — can accomplish miracles.

In 2009, Matthew’s senior year at Trinity Episcopal School, he was coming off a great football season as a defensive lineman and the recipient of a college football scholarship. On New Year’s Day, 2010, a car wreck left him on a ventilator with an incomplete spinal cord injury and clinging to life. Matthew slowly and painfully recovered some function, and nearly a year later began seeing Nayzda Muhammad, Occupational Therapist at Natchez Regional Medical Center. According to Nayzda, Matthew has the heart of a warrior. Through multiple bouts of pneumonia, chronic infections and most recently a broken leg, Matthew’s determination to become as independent as possible has not waivered. He has come to therapy sessions half sick, because he truly believes his only chance at independence is hard work. According to Nayzda, “Matthew does this without complaining and with quiet strength and an humble spirit.”

When Nayzda described Matthew’s will and determination, his quiet strength and his humble spirit, I have to admit the shame that grew inside of me. Ashamed of the many times I have complained of aching bones, or having to walk too far after parking my car, or having to climb steps. I take my mobility for granted, and I am in awe of this young man who made up his mind that he was going to be, in his words, “self-sufficient and independent like everyone else.” He was determined he was going to propel himself in a manual wheelchair, transfer himself independently from his chair to the car and also dress himself. Nayzda knew from the beginning Matthew was special, and although his goals were almost unheard of with his type of injury, she wasn’t about to discourage him.

Today, Matthew has accomplished these goals and many more. He doesn’t believe in looking back at what he has lost, but instead he believes in looking ahead to achieving his goals. Currently he is a full-time college student and has therapy four days a week. His immediate goals are to attend the University of Southern Mississippi, live on campus and find a job.

In late March, Nayzda attended a continuing education course in Brandon and during a break, explored some of the vendor booths that were on display. She began a conversation with a representative with United Access, a company that is a provider of wheelchair-accessible vehicles, driving systems, mobility seats, handicap lifts and other vehicle modifications. They happen to also be a proud sponsor of The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA), a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding mobility options for people with disabilities. NMEDA and its sponsors are giving away a 2013 Custom WheelchairAccessible Vehicle to the individual who receives the most votes through an online voting procedure.

Nayzda was totally unaware of this contest, and I have no doubt God led her to this booth. As the gentleman explained what his company provided and asked her if any of her patients could benefit from a wheelchair-accessible van, Nayzda began to tell him about her patient and his awesome spirit and attitude. He was moved by her story and told her how to access the online information on entering Matthew’s name in the contest.

This is where Stevan Ridley, another very special young man from our community, comes into the picture. Stevan and his wonderful mother, Carolyn, heard of Nayzda’s quest to win Matthew a van, and they became involved. The first day Matthew’s story was posted online, he received over 1,000 votes, and this was due to Stevan posting the information on his facebook and helping spread the word. Stevan, when talking about Matthew to a Natchez Democrat reporter stated, “He still needs to be able to live life and do things, and if that wheelchair-accessible van is what he needs to bring his life that much more joy, we need to do everything in our power as a community to get behind him and make sure he wins that award.”

To me, Stevan’s quote says it all. We as a community have an opportunity to change Matthew’s life, and it only takes less than a minute a day until May 10 to vote online. As of this writing, Matthew has gained 7,484 votes. Voting is easy. Go to www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com. Click on Enter or Vote Now. In the box that says, Find a Local Hero, type in Matthew Rymer, Natchez, Mississippi and hit search. You can vote once a day, from as many separate computers and phones as you may have access, until May 10. Help us reach a goal of at least 15,000 votes between now and May 10 by sharing this website and information with our out-of-town and state relatives and friends, using social media and any national connections you may have.

Matthew’s strength and determination are a great lesson to all of us. A lesson in the power of the spirit over the body, a lesson in grace, a lesson in humility and a lesson in hope. I know I am blessed and fortunate to know Matthew and his therapist, Nayza. Together, they are a great team.


Kay Ketchings is PR and Marketing Director for Natchez Regional Medical Center.