Virginia Ventura, 25, woke up one morning when she was 6, and found she was unable to move her legs. There had been no warning signs that she remembered, but overnight, everything changed. She didn’t know it yet, but Ventura had transverse myelitis.
Transverse myelitis (TM) is a rare autoimmune disease, in which the spinal cord become inflamed. The material insulating nerves suffers damage, and can’t pass on messages to the rest of the body. This leads to weakness, altered sensations, pain, paralysis, and trouble regulating automatic functions. It’s not hereditary or contagious, and no cure currently exists. To learn more about this rare condition, click here.
Ventura has been paraplegic ever since that day. At first, she didn’t truly understand how deeply this would impact her life. She remembers how upset her parents were, but at age six, she didn’t see the significance. When she started to approach her teenage year, it hit her, hard. She became depressed, and continued to battle with this mental illness for ten years. She feels that it took a lot of her childhood away from her.
Her depression hit low points, but between music and religious faith, Ventura has begun working her way out. Before, she had played viola and piano. It had always felt natural and right. When she hit her deepest lows, music was something she turned to again. She had never truly forgotten about the pride and happiness it brought her.
Ventura searched the internet, looking for a space that could help her develop as a musician. When she found Passion Academy, a music studio in Henrico, Virginia, she emailed the staff about scholarship opportunities. She wasn’t truly expecting an answer.
To her surprise, the founder, Derek Smith, replied just days later. He had selected Ventura to receive the first scholarship that Passion Academy had ever offered. The nonprofit has been around for about half a year, and strives to give out ten scholarships yearly. They also donate their proceeds from private lessons to fund benefit concerts.
Ventura received a violin, as well as lessons. She comes down to Richmond, Virginia, a 90 minute drive from her home for lessons once a week. She started with violin and piano, but she’ll learn drums, electric guitar, and music production as well.
This isn’t the only step Ventura has taken to take charge of her life. She has other plans in the works as well. Next year, she wants to compete in the Ms. Wheelchair Virginia pageant. She also wants to fundraise through GoFundMe for a car that’s accessible for her. This may help her break out of one of the factors that causes her depression: because her wheelchair makes it difficult to drive, she often has to live around other schedules, or stay home entirely. Eventually, you might see her competing as a paralympic athlete.
She hopes her journey will remind other with depression that, although they face challenges, their dreams are still within reach. She wants to remind people that in a busy world, it’s important to remember what makes them happy.
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