How did the women on the Sundance Channel series Push Girls wind up in wheelchairs?
—Jillian Lewis, Charlotte, N.C.
The four women—Tiphany Adams, Mia Schaikewitz, Angela Rockwood Nguyen and Auti Angel—prefer to talk about their futures instead of their pasts, which is one reason they agreed to let the Sundance Channel follow their lives. But here are the answers in their own words.
Tiphany Adams: “I was 17½, in my senior year in high school. I was in a head-on vehicle collision caused by a drunk driver, hit at 130 miles per hour. And we were all pronounced dead on the scene, and I was in a coma for three weeks. When I woke up I was, like, ‘I’m going to get through this, and I’m going to live my life to the fullest.’”
Mia Schaikewitz: “I was paralyzed at the age of 15 from an AVM, it’s an arterial venous malformation. It’s similar to an aneurysm. And, basically, it was a blood vessel that ruptured in my spinal cord, completely, suddenly one day. But I do remember just finding out from the doctors that I would probably never walk again. And I asked them three questions. I said, ‘Could I still have kids?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Can I still be independent?’ And they said, ‘Yes.’ And I said, ‘Can I still do sports?’ And they, like, ‘More than you can think of.’ And I was, like, ‘We’re good.’ And so I took all that and then took my independence and moved out to L.A. I was originally from Atlanta.”
Auti Angel: “I was born in San Diego, raised in L.A. I had just finished dancing with LL Cool J at the Grammys in New York City. I came home, and one day on my way home on the 101 Freeway a car clipped the front end of my car, I lost control of my vehicle, slammed on my brakes, and I hit the center divider head-on. I snapped my back in half and severed my spinal cord and became paraplegic instantly, paralyzed from the waist down. But I had an amazing experience. I blacked out and I felt these strong hands grab me up from out of my body, you know, grab my shoulders, yank me up, as I was ascending I saw the traffic, and I saw my body laying there, and then I was, like, ‘Oh, my God, I didn’t get to say goodbye to anybody.’ And the next thing something said, ‘Hey, you’re good. You’re going to go touch my people. Go.’ And so I’m left here to touch all of you.”
Angela Rockwood Nguyen: “My father was in the military in the Air Force, so I traveled everywhere. And I was brought to Los Angeles to go back to my art, where I met my soulmate, Dustin Nguyen, and we were about to get married. We bought a beautiful house. I just signed with a modeling and acting agency. My whole life was practically perfect till one week before 9/11 I was involved in a horrific car accident. I was in the back seat, and my two bridesmaids were in the front seat. And in the accident I basically had put my head down to pray for my life, and in that accident the top of my head hit the back of the seat, which had compressed, and shattered completely my C4-C5 vertebrae and severed my cord. When the car flipped, I catapulted and flew like an angelic queen, out of the window, like, 25, 30 feet, landed on the left side of my head. I, too, saw the white light and thought, ‘Oh, my God, Dustin is going to be so mad at me. I got in a car accident. I got to go home.’ I came back. The doctors looked at me, told my husband and my father, ‘Just be happy that she’s alive, that she can breathe on her own. She has a 3 to 5 percent chance of feeling anything from the neck down. Of course, I didn’t believe it. I had a premonition at 17 that I was going to be in a horrific car accident. The fact that I was alive and breathing on my own was the biggest miracle of all. And I pushed forward, and I haven’t looked back.”