Born with Spina Bifida, the doctors weren’t sure Jenna would even be able to sit up on her own.
Fortunately, no one told her that. So she did sit up. Then she stood up, attached to a metal “stander”, with which she could swivel around. Then she began to walk with a walker, followed by braces and canes.
Ultimately, guess what. No, she didn’t run out of her braces across a field like Forrest Gump. Living in the real world, she in fact decided to sit back down again in a wheelchair, finding that the extra energy and independence it gave her trampled the lure of “convention” and walking. She had to learn at an early age, however, how to stand up for herself – in this case, by resolutely sitting down.
That matter settled, Jenna’s physical achievements actually took off. Having started karate when she was five, with both fists now free to shatter boards, she discovered the true range of her strength – to the shock of many, including herself. In the last year of training for her black belt, she worked through months of pain from her shunt tube needing to be fixed, landing herself in the emergency department twice to seek relief, and finally talked her way into the operating room in the middle of the SARS outbreak for brain surgery. One month later, she tested for and earned her black belt at the age of 13. Her second-degree black belt followed three years later, fortunately without quite as much drama.
Jenna’s journey through those milestones and up to now, has spanned 24 years, seven neurosurgeries, two leg surgeries, several bowel and bladder surgeries and countless other invasive tests and interventions. (On the positive side, she rarely has a cold!)
All of which is simply to say that when it comes to dealing with teams of doctors, hospitals, medical procedures, pain and the psychological impacts of it all, Jenna has been around the block. That experience, combined with her Bachelor of Social Work degree from the University of Victoria and a passionate desire to help others through their medical challenges, drove Jenna to create Phoenix Attitude Inc. Her fundamental goal is to take the perspective and lessons she’s accumulated and wring them out to others’ benefit.
In her “spare time,” Jenna sits on the Board of Directors of the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of BC, volunteers extensively with children with medical needs (and their families) and is a fervent advocate of patient empowerment. She also dabbles in wheelchair tennis and loves a good hike. Or at least complaining on a good hike.
Jenna sums up her key learnings thus: there is no substitute for the support and encouragement of those around you; deviation from the norm might uncover a better outcome; comparison is indeed the thief of joy; and YOU are the expert on your own life.