In 2004, Meg Johnson, a young dancer, fell 40 feet from a cliff in St. George, Utah, when she jumped to what she thought was a boulder right in front of her. In the accident she broke both femurs and arms, as well as her collarbone and neck. Johnson was left as a C-7 quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down and without the use of her hands.
It was then that she found her passion for motivational speaking. She has since influenced the lives of many with her motto: “When life gets too hard to stand, just keep on rollin’.” Johnson said this is applicable to everyone. She had always wanted to be a motivational speaker and took some classes in college, but she felt she didn’t have anything she felt passionate enough to speak about. It wasn’t until after her accident that she received her degree from Weber State University in communication with a minor in English.
After trying a few different things, including playing rugby with the Utah Scorpions, Johnson became the first Ms. Wheelchair Utah and competed in Ms. Wheelchair America in New York just 16 months after breaking her neck. She won the Spirit Award upon returning home. Johnson founded the Ms. Wheelchair Utah pageant, which has become one of the largest pageants in the nation.
It is her determination that has made Johnson an influential and admired woman throughout the community, claims her friend Jennifer Mead.
“Meg, to me, is Superwoman. I want to see comic books being made about her. She is so kind and loving and absolutely joyful and so willing to help others. She’s exactly the kind of role model people need to be looking up to.”
Johnson gave birth on Oct. 24 to 6-pound, 12-ounce Zula Mae. The birth is remarkable among the medical community due to its unique set of challenges.
WSU math professor Corinne Hunt, who knows Johnson personally, said she knows she will be a great mother.
“Her baby is truly blessed. Meg impresses me with all her accomplishments; this too will be one of her greatest accomplishments.”
The biggest risk associated with a pregnancy and delivery with quadriplegics stems from the fact that they do not feel pain. When the body is experiencing pain, it sends messages to the brain about the stimulus, but the messages cannot pass a break in the neck. The stress causes high blood pressure and may ultimately lead to a stroke.
“I didn’t face many obstacles being pregnant except that I got rounder and rounder and it made transfers hard (getting into the car or on the bed), but that was only difficult for the last couple weeks,” Johnson said. “It was a very uneventful pregnancy.”
The only symptom Johnson experienced during labor was a headache. Although giving birth was risky for Johnson, she said it was worth it.
“Being a mom has been fantastic. Things have come much easier than I anticipated. Before I delivered, I practiced with a doll and rehearsed changing diapers and dressing, etc., but a real baby is so much different and it is more challenging, but easier in a way. I just feel comfortable doing what I need to do to take care of her. I love it.”