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Former Shriners Children’s Spokane Patient Inspires Future Wheelchair Athletes

Susannah is a Three-time Paralympic Athlete

Shriners Children’s Spokane is celebrating the success of former patient and Paralympian Susannah. Coming off a fresh gold medal win at the 2020 Paralympics, she now wants to encourage young patients to get involved in adaptive sports.

Susannah is a three-time Paralympic athlete in wheelchair racing. She also holds the course record for female wheelchair racers for Spokane’s popular Bloomsday race.

During the 2020 Paralympic games, Susannah took home a gold medal in the 5,000-meter race with a time of 10:52.57, a new Paralympic record. It was her first gold medal.

Susannah was paralyzed when she was 5, following a car accident. Throughout her childhood and junior high school years, she spent a significant amount of time at Shriners Children’s Spokane as she underwent surgeries for her injuries.

“Looking back, my memories [of the hospital] are playing and I think that’s really cool,” said Susannah.

She recalls creating finger paint art and playing with hospital-provided dolls that had the same bandages she had.

Shriners Children's Spokane specialists introduced Susannah to adaptive sports as a child through its No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic.

I truly owe it to Shriners Children's because we wouldn’t have known about sports teams if it hadn’t been for them doing their sports clinic.
Susannah, wheelchair athlete and Paralympian

“[Shriners Children's] made me aware of opportunism as a disabled person," said Susannah.

The Spokane sports clinic was a day planned, organized and facilitated by the recreational therapy department staff, and was designed to motivate patients with mobility challenges to participate in adaptive sports. The program was in place through 2007.

She recalled being nervous to attend her first sports practice, even begging her mother to not go. But today, she encourages all children who are living with disabilities to push through their fear and give sports a try.

“When I got to practice and was surrounded by kids in wheelchairs, it was life-changing,” added Susannah. “It was so much fun.”

Susannah is now urging all wheelchair patients to explore sports, saying that she understands the challenges and hesitancy of participating in something new.

“Trust yourself and have confidence in your body,” she said. “I want patients to know that taking that step out of what’s comfortable will be one of the best decisions they will ever make. With adaptive sports, you are not going to know everyone, but making that effort is so worth it.”

She reminds young athletes to be themselves. “Go after the goals and the dreams that you innately want to do,” she said. “Anybody can do anything. You have the ability to achieve what you want to achieve.”

Former Shriners Children’s Spokane Patient Shines With Wheelchair Racing

Shriners Children’s Spokane is celebrating the success of a former patient and Paralympian. Coming off a fresh gold medal win at the 2020 Paralympics, Susannah now wants to encourage young patients to get involved in adaptive sports.

Susannah crossing finish line holding the American flag

Susannah celebrates crossing the finish line.

Susannah in Tokyo during Paralympic Games

Susannah at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

Susannah competing in wheelchair race at Paralympics

Susannah competes in wheelchair racing for Team USA.

Susannah holding gold medal at Paralympic Games

Susannah wins a gold medal at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games.

young Susannah receiving a medal at adaptive sports clinic

A young Susannah is awarded a medal at the Shriners Children's Spokane No Limits Adaptive Sports Clinic.

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