The life of Emmy Saenz: Part II
Victoria woman beating the odds as quadriplegic
VICTORIA, Texas- On a cool and crisp winter morning, while Emmy Saenz was still fast asleep, her mother, Rosemary Bazan, invited me into their home to be a fly on the wall for a day.
A few months after a horrible car accident took Emmy’s mobility from the chest down, Saenz ’s life has changed in countless ways.
In the final part of this series, I want to find out what it’s like to live a day in Emmy’s new life. What are the challenges? How will she and her family overcome them? And What does her future look like?
But first, it’s time to wake up….
Getting ready for the day
Her morning starts with a cocktail of medications that her mom prepares first thing. “Yes, in the mornings, she takes a total of ten medications. She does have a couple of medications that are as needed,” Bazan said. Saenz downs all ten pills in one go.
Next, it’s time to get dressed. Bazan brings a handful of tops and bottoms from Emmy’s closet for her to choose from. She casts her vote with a simple head nod….and eventually, she shakes her head ‘yes.’
After getting her dressed, it’s time to transfer Emmy from her bed to her wheelchair. Using a motorized device called a Hoyer, Emmy’s mom securely buckles Emmy in for the ride. In total it takes about ten minutes to complete the operation.
Eventually, when she’s ready to leave the house Bazan will fold the Hoyer and pack it into the trunk of her car to get her in and out of the car during outings.
Now Emmy’s morning routine can begin. It’s a team effort with her mom to get ready for the day. What used to take her 30 mins to get ready now can take upwards of three hours.
Saenz says the most challenging part of her morning routine is putting on her makeup.“I learned different techniques on how to do different movements. When I was at TIRR, they’re teaching me like how to hold pins and brushes and small things like this. So I guess like kind of learned how to hold things differently. Without, like using your fingers I had to learn a new way to do things,” said Saenz.
Bazan chimed in explaining, “She doesn’t have a grip, but she learns how to keep a balance in order to do that. It’s very impressive.”
“I think at first I would get really frustrated cause I couldn’t do it the same way I used to be able to, but I guess just with practice I’m just learning how to do things,” Saenz said.
Bazan stands at Emmy’s side throughout her whole morning routine, ready to help her grab things and to do some of the more challenging tasks like doing her hair. When asked if the time they spend together in the mornings has helped them to bond more, Bazan revealed it’s not always peachy mommy/daughter time.
“It’s, it’s definitely been a bonding experience. There are some times I questioned whether my abilities are sufficient for her, but when she says things like, ‘nobody can do it like you mom,’ it really makes me feel good. But even though we might have our moments with each other, she might get frustrated and take it out on me or vice versa, we have to remember that this is new for both of us. I can’t read her mind nor can she read mine. Communication has really been something that we’ve had to build on.”
In addition to retraining her hands and arms to perform once simple tasks, Saenz is also doing physical therapy daily to keep some movement in all of her dormant muscles.
Unfortunately, Saenz’s insurance only covered a fixed amount of physical therapy sessions. “She only got the 12 combined physical therapy and occupational therapy visits,” Bazan explains. “I was hoping to get her into more therapy. So for 2020, that’s our goal is to really hit hard on therapy where we can.” Bazan invested in equipment they can use to continue Saenz’s physical therapy at home, including resistance bands, yoga balls, and a motorized cycle machine to keep movement in her legs.
When Sanez came home from the hospital one month after her accident, her parents immediately realized their home is not wheelchair friendly. Two of the biggest concerns were the flooring and the bathroom. The padded carpet in the home made it hard for Emmy to glide her 400-pound wheelchair across the floor. And the bathroom was too small for her wheelchair to fit inside.
Bazan uses a special chair designed for paralyzed individuals to sit in the shower, however, it’s not ideal for the standard bathroom. “I basically have to climb around her stand the toilet and try to squeeze back here, hence the bruises on my legs.
And I try to get in front of her just to give her a bath. So our bath takes, from start to finish, almost two hours.”
With help from money donated by family, friends, and members of the community Rosemary and her husband, Michael Bazan, were able to get started on making modifications to their home to make it more accessible. Home Depot donated the flooring for the living room, and Almighty Plumbing out of Edna and Ganado provided the labor and materials for the bathroom remodel. The carpet was ripped up to make way for hardwood, and the jack and jill bathroom was gutted to make one big bathroom that can fit Emmy’s wheelchair.
These changes to their home go beyond practicality, it’s a crucial step towards Emmy’s recovery and sense of independence.
Throughout this journey, a new friend has come along to help Emmy. One with four legs and a tail.
Saenz was gifted Willow, an eight-week-old Husky after getting out of the hospital. “I got her kind of just to have a friend around
someone just to hang around with all day since I no longer have my other Husky that passed away.” Willow gives Emmy a new sense of purpose and responsibility as they both grow in this next chapter.
Willow is getting used to Saenz’s wheelchair and Emmy hopes to be able to train to be a service dog that she can take with her wherever she goes. But for now, Willow is a stubborn, fiesty puppy chewing anything that she can get her jaws on.
In the face of innumerable challenges, Saenz responds with optimism and an understanding that living a full life is still possible with a few modifications.
“At the beginning of this injury, I had more unrealistic goals. As in ‘Oh yeah, let me walk again.’ And now I don’t know if I’ll be able to do that, but maybe I could, you know, be more independent in different ways and maybe drive again and do other things by myself instead of always having someone there to help me. But I think now with the year, those are my newer goals.”
Saenz’s mom knows that the road ahead will be tough circumstances, but she knows she has an even tougher daughter.
“She’s a strong young lady, really is. Before her accident, when you would tell her, “No she couldn’t,” she would because you told her she couldn’t,” Bazan smiles.
“My dreams for Emmy are that she will be able to maintain an independent adult life with modifications of course, but that she’ll be able to be at a point in her life where she can be an overcomer when it comes to challenges, when it comes to situations where she feels like I’m at a dead end because of my limitations, my dream is that she learns how to deal with those and conquer them.”
Read Part I of The Life of Emmy Saenz where Emmy shares what happened on the day of the accident and how she began her journey to recovery.
Saenz and her family are still in need of funds for a new manual wheelchair that has a smart drive motor which costs approximately $10,000. Insurance won’t cover the cost of her wheelchair. The family also needs to repair their driveway because it has many cracks that makes it unsafe when trying to get Emmy in and out of the car using the Hoyer as it gets stuck in the cracks. To donate visit or call Prosperity Bank and make a deposit into the ‘Emmy Saenz Benefit’ account. Anything you can contribute will help Emmy and her family tremendously.
Prosperity Bank is located at 101 S. Main Street, and you can call them at 361-573-6321.
Click here for more coverage of Emmy Saenz.
Special thanks to Emmy Saenz and her family for the contributed photos and footage in the video above and for inviting us into their home for an in-depth conversation about her story.