A lesson in lifeTasha Schuh knows what it's like to be counted out.
By: Jen Cullen, The Republican Eagle
Tasha Schuh knows what it's like to be counted out.
Nobody - including Schuh herself - imagined the Ellsworth native would be where she is today after an accident 12 years ago at the Sheldon Theatre left her a quadriplegic.
Then 16, the high school junior thought her life was over, that she would never realize her goals and dreams confined to a wheelchair.
"So many people wrote me off and said I wasn't going to amount to much," Schuh said. "But I decided not to be the victim and instead be the survivor. Don't become what they believe."
The Ellsworth woman shared her story Thursday with residents at Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing as part of Restorative Justice Week.
MCF-Red Wing Supt. Otis Zanders said Schuh's inspirational story of redemption and recovery helped residents focus on giving back to the community, the power of a positive attitude and the importance of taking responsibility for their own lives and happiness.
"Her story is so motivating to help people remove the glass ceiling they put on their own potential," Zanders said.
Twelve years ago last week Schuh fell through a trap door on stage at the Sheldon Theatre during a scene change at a rehearsal for Ellsworth High School's production of "The Wizard of Oz."
Schuh tumbled 16 feet to the concrete floor below, landing on her neck and crushing her spinal cord.
Schuh - who had dreamt of a theater career - would never walk again.
"To me that was a death sentence," she told MCF-Red Wing residents, most of whom are in their mid-teens. "I didn't think I was strong enough or that I would be able to accomplish these things I had planned."
Following a 16-hour surgery at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, Schuh developed double pneumonia and lay comatose for eight days with a 108-degree temperature.
Doctors told Schuh's parents she would not live.
But Schuh survived and found the determination and motivation to move on with her life.
The road to forgiveness and Schuh's positive attitude was not easy. Schuh constantly asked why. Why was the wooden platform beneath the trap door removed five minutes before she fell through? Why did this happen to her?
Schuh told MCF-Red Wing residents she was mad, bitter, depressed and wanted to quit for a long time.
"I thought of a few girls who deserved this just a little more than I did," Schuh said.
Schuh eventually realized her negative attitude was only hindering her recovery. From that point forward, she decided to prove her critics wrong by pushing forward and achieving the goals she set out for herself.
Schuh was no longer a victim. She decided to become a survivor.
"Me taking that one step backwards was the best thing I could have done," Schuh said. "Before my accident I was on a path leading to nowhere. I was on a path filled with bad choices."
Schuh graduated from Ellsworth High School on time and went to college - twice. She has two bachelor's degrees.
The full-time inspirational speaker lives alone at a home in Ellsworth and has three part-time jobs that also keep her busy. Schuh has learned to drive over the past few years using a specially equipped minivan.
"You can do anything you put your mind to - you just have to put your mind to it and your nose to the ground," Schuh said. ""Today I have to pinch myself because that is how great my life is."
Zanders said residents were touched by Schuh's speech.
He said correctional facility staff will use the speech as a segue to firm up the message of Restorative Justice Week.
"She has a good attitude about dealing with adversity," Zanders said. "That's a powerful lesson because she has not only moved on but has a tremendous attitude and she parlayed that experience into a positive thing for the community."