Beating the odds: DHS senior excels despite disability

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 17, 2008

When Adrienne McNealey left school for the summer after her junior year, she was the average teenager. She loved to hang out with her friends, made excellent grades and was an avid fan of R&B star Usher.

Upon returning to school in the fall, she was still a stellar student, had a multitude of friends and of course, was still in love with Usher. But at least one thing was significantly different.

Always willing to do outdoor activities, Adrienne decided to go on a four-wheeling adventure with some friends and her cousin, Jerami Mays. The afternoon started out like any other afternoon, but by the end of day Adrienne was paralyzed from the waist down.

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After watching her cousin take a few spins on the ATV, Adrienne decided to try her hand at it too. While driving with a friend on board, the vehicle went around a curve at high speed, causing the two to be ejected.

Adrienne&8217;s mother, Dorothy, remembers the night well.

Adrienne was immediately taken to Bryan W. Whitfield Hospital, but later transferred to DCH Regional Medical Center in Tuscaloosa.

After a surgery to take some bone from her hip to repair her back and a series of metal rods were put in for support, Adrienne was in recovery for nearly a month. She was later taken to Shephard Center in Atlanta for extensive recovery and rehab.

Throughout the whole process, Dorothy said her daughter recovered well and without complaint.

When it was time to head back to school, Adrienne was ready to face her peers again. After waiting a month, she was back in the halls of Demopolis High School, only this time in a wheelchair.

She said at first, her friends had a lot of questions to ask. She graciously answered them, a task she still has to go through on a regular basis.

One thing she has taken from this whole process, she said, is that people shouldn&8217;t be afraid of people with disabilities. People also shouldn&8217;t discriminate.

DHS principal Dr. Isaac Espy has watched Adrienne in her journey through recovery.

In Espy&8217;s view, the most inspiring part about Adrienne&8217;s return to her regular life has been her attitude.

Another important person in Adrienne&8217;s recovery has been her longtime boyfriend, Adrian Crawford. Not only do they share the same name, but also they share a close relationship.

As for reliving her accident, Adrienne is not shy about each detail, the way she felt when she woke up, how her body had been literally wrapped around a tree. But she says she doesn&8217;t let the past get to her.

After graduation next week, Adrienne &8212; who is a straight A student &8212; said she hopes to pursue online classes at first. Then she plans to study to be a pharmaceutical technician or work in medical records.

In the meantime, she said she feels like she is just the same. She will always enjoy shopping for clothes and surfing the Internet.

Kelli Wright is the staff writer for The Demopolis Times. She can be reached at