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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Young African-American woman sets record as the first wheelchair-using registered nurse in New York, achieves dream

A young African-American woman named Andrea Dalzell fulfilled her lifelong dream of finally becoming a nurse. She made history as the first-ever registered nurse using a wheelchair in New York, United States.

Andrea, from Brooklyn, New York was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, an inflammation of the spinal cord that causes pain, muscle weakness and paralysis at the age of 5 according to her website.

Because of the critical situation of her health, she started using wheelchair at age 12. However, Andrea did not allow her diagnosis to define her life path. She obtained a degree from the City University of New York, College of Staten Island, United States.

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She passed her nursing tests and other criteria with flying colors and became a nurse in 2018. “New York State’s nursing board told me I was the first wheelchair user in the state to graduate with a credential,” she said.

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Andrea said life after graduation has been challenging because she encountered barriers trying to convince hospital staff that she could handle the duties of being a nurse in a wheelchair.

“Nurse managers sometimes thought it was more of a hindrance to have someone in a wheelchair on the floor. I had to tell them, it’s not just bedside care, it’s teamwork. Don’t judge me before you know what I can do,” she said.

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Despite the challenges, she persisted, taking on various roles like health director, case manager, and in-school nurse to make ends meet. However, she continued to interview in pursuit of her goal of becoming a Registered Nurse



After 76 interviews, Andrea’s determination paid off, and she was finally hired as a registered nurse. She was hired as the first registered nurse in a wheelchair in New York state.

I eventually want the bedside-type nursing position because I feel like I understand that disability can come off as a death sentence. If you can be that one person that comes into a room and can change someone’s mindset about that, you give them a whole new will to live,” she said.

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Aside from being a nurse, Andrea is a vocal advocate for disability rights. She was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New York and utilized her title and platform: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Access, to promote her message and belief that people with disabilities can live a fulfilling life.

She has been honored and recognized for her advocacy efforts, including being named New Mobility’s Person of the Year in 2021 and receiving the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize. Andrea has also featured in national TV commercials for big brands in the United States.

One of the brands is Apple, a renowned technology company. Andrea said Apple reached out to her after she had been featured in a social media campaign for body image, as well as a New York-based fashion show.

“They asked me to participate in a commercial for the Apple Watch to demonstrate how the fitness feature supported my boxing and physical training,” she said. The commercial has been viewed more than 2 million times on TV and online.

Advising others who are in the same situation as she is especially those in pursuit of their dream or professional career, Andrea said they should make good use of social media and start somewhere.

”You can take baby steps, and with the Internet, we can reach out to communities for support. You can find anyone on social media that could help or that has been in your situation. Find a message board or group, post a question. Start somewhere,” she said.

“If anyone else feels like they want to reach something that they don’t know if they can reach, like I once felt, just try. And never listen if someone tells you no, just look for another way,” she added.

Andrea attributes her success to the values she learned through a humble beginning in a loving, supportive family who taught her the value of hard work and not allowing a physical challenge to discourage her dreams.



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