Ali Ingersoll is one determined woman. Recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina 2022, she is on a mission to advocate, not only for herself, but for anyone with a disability who is trying to secure the equipment or support they need to lead a full and healthy life. Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina is not a beauty contest, but a recognition of women with disabilities, who are honored for their advocacy of an issue. In Ali’s case, her platform is healthcare advocacy – teaching people how to advocate for themselves.
Injured in 2010 in a shallow water diving accident that left her a C6 quadriplegic, she lives by Winston Churchill’s definition of success: “Success is moving from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.” Prior to her injury, Ali lived throughout Europe, Asia, the United States, and the Bahamas. When she graduated from high school, she traveled to China where she learned to speak Chinese, and eventually returned for spinal surgery (2013) after her accident.
Having spent several years in China, she moved on to Australia where she became very involved in wilderness survival adventures in the back country. This experience helped her learn about endurance, centering, and balance – all extremely useful after 2010.
Attending college, maintaining a high GPA, but also enjoying herself, Ali majored in entrepreneurship, and thought that life would keep moving in this trajectory. She started working in a political nonprofit, became very jaded by the system, and decided to become a day trader. Moving back to the Bahamas, her home base, she put herself through a 12,000-page technical trading program, completing her studies in 2010. She was 27 years old and life was just starting.
And then the accident: A shallow water dive. Thanks to her wilderness medic training, she immediately knew what had happened. She became part of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis with Dr. Barth Green, a neurosurgeon specializing in spinal cord injury, as her doctor. During this challenging time, she dealt with bowel and bladder issues, cervical cancer, pulmonary embolisms, and pressure sores. It was easy to get discouraged. But her dad said “Look kid, you broke your body – not your brain.”
Her father continued to look for opportunities to address her various health issues, eventually traveling to China. Finding a doctor who was working on spinal cysts, Ali moved to China with incredible support from her family. Ali explains the procedures in chinaquaddiaries.org describes the spinal cord surgery, rehab, and the ‘walking program’ that she experienced. Unfortunately, Ali had osteoporosis and in trying the walking program, she cracked her femur. This led to months in bed, giving Ali time to contemplate and determine her next steps.
Eventually moving to North Carolina in 2015, where her sister lives, she spent a few years dealing with more health issues. But then, Ali decided to get on with life and began online dating to re-explore intimacy and sexuality, and through this experience Ali met her husband.
A classic VitaGlide user, Ali wanted to purchase the newly designed VitaGlide®. That’s when she realized she had to fight with insurance for devices and equipment that would help her lead a healthier, more productive life. With this, she realized she was not the only one who has these challenges.
Today she has been actively engaged with the insurance company in her state helping to educate them about the real needs of people like her and is working closely with her legislative representatives who are introducing legislation on this topic.
Currently Board Chair of the Alliance of Disability Advocates, she has been appointed by the Governor to the NC Statewide Independent Living Council, whose mission is to develop and support a statewide plan and network, creating opportunities for all individuals to live an independent life.
Two philosophies inform Ali’s focus every day: Pay it forward and human kindness. We all know that quote about lemons and making lemonade. After talking with Ali, this comes to mind:” When life offers you lemons, create orange juice and leave them wondering how you did it.” All of us at VitaGlide® are amazed at what she has been able to accomplish under circumstances that would crush many of us. Ali has taken a challenging situation and is turning it into a passionate platform that gives her meaning and purpose. After all, isn’t that what all of us want?