After the operation, Matzik was put on a ventilator and her endurance increased with significantly improved breathing. She knew she had many obstacles to overcome, but she managed to stay mobile by choosing to live her life in a recumbent position.
“When they did the spinal fusion, the curvature of my spine was so severe that they couldn’t fuse a vertebra, and I almost died during the procedure,” Matzik said. “I had the option of having an operation again or of adapting my life to a lying position.”
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Matzik decided not to undergo such a risky operation again. She adapted to her life in a deck chair and looked for colleges that met her needs.
“I really didn’t think about it much at the time because there wasn’t anyone in my family who had gone to college,” said Matzik. “When I was at duPont, I had a great teacher who convinced me I had the potential to go to college and helped me finish high school and take the college entrance exams.”
Maria Matzik von Fairborn has some form of muscular dystrophy and lives her life in a reclining wheelchair. She met her partner Alan Cochrun at work and they have been living together in Fairborn since 1996. CONTRIBUTION
Matzik wrote to 89 colleges and universities across the country, letting them all know that she had a 4.0 GPA in high school, but also detailed her disability and needs. Most replied that she was too obliged to live on campus.
“Wright State University was the only one that said it could meet my needs,” said Matzik. “They said if I could get to Ohio they would meet me.”
Matzik’s mother was surprised when her daughter told her about Ohio and was concerned that it was so far from home. In 1989, Matzik and her two full-time carers went to Dayton with her mother to meet with the director of disability services at Wright State.
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“Because of my ventilator and my trach, I am considered qualified nurse,” said Matzik. “I had some difficulty getting the state of Pennsylvania to fund my education because of the risk involved.”
In the end, Matzik was able to attend Wright State after a year late and began college in 1990. The battle for that funding was her first major advocacy campaign as she partnered with local politicians to support her cause. Although she stayed at Wright State for three years and had a GPA of 3.8, funding ceased on her senior year and she returned home to fight again so she could finish her degree.
“It took me five years to get my bachelor’s degree in rehabilitation counseling,” said Matzik.
Maria Matzik was in a wheelchair for most of her life. She has some form of muscular dystrophy and is now advocating for other disabled people. It will be shown at Christmas 2009 with her mother June Matzik and her partner Alan Cochrun. CONTRIBUTION
Matzik described her time at Wright State as “amazing”. The university was at that time and is still one of the nation’s leading universities for inclusivity and disability services. As a result, she was able to gain independence and decided to make the Dayton area her home. She and her partner Alan Cochrun have lived together in their house in Fairborn since 1996.
Because of her many struggles for this independence, Matzik met politicians and state officials and realized that their calling was to help other disabled people and to stand up for their rights. Today she works as a specialist in education and advocacy for the Access Center for Independent Living (ACIL). She is also a member of six state Medicaid committees.
“Accessibility isn’t really a right unless you know it’s your right,” Matzik said. “There are so many loopholes in the law and you need help to understand it. I think you have to believe that you can do something, but for me it is also about the people who came into my life and who helped me find the path I needed. It’s about believing in yourself and knowing how to unlock resources. “
Visit acils.com for more information
Contact this contributing author at [email protected].
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