Alyssa Selman, Winnipeg jockey paralyzed in June, adjusts to life at home

In a home that was built to meet her needs, Alyssa Selman sits in a wheelchair, grieving.

Her children and community help her with difficult and painful moments that she says come with each day

"I don't need physiotherapy," Alyssa Selman says, smiling, while describing the work she puts into learning to complete tasks at home. (CBC)

In a home that was built to meet her needs, Alyssa Selman sits in a wheelchair, grieving. 

"It's hard to not be able to do a lot of … things," she said, trying to hold back tears.

In June 2015, Selman, a jockey, was paralyzed from the chest down when she was thrown from a horse during a race at Winnipeg's Assiniboia Downs.

Her two children, husband, mom and sister were in the stands when she was thrown to the ground with enough force to fracture her vertebrae and badly damage her spinal cord.

Six months later, she says she does not know what to think about it.

"It is a loss," she said.

"Like, you lose somebody, you grieve. I grieve the same way over my legs."

Selman starts to cry while talking about what she misses about her life before the fall, and how close the accident brought her family to losing her. (CBC)

She was released from hospital on Sept. 18 and on Nov. 1, — one day before Selman's birthday — she and her husband, Remi, got possession of a new home near Carman, Man., where they and their children now live.

A long ramp leads to the door. Inside, the island in the kitchen stands at a height that makes it possible for Selman to use and on the ground, beside a reclining chair, there is a sliding board that helps Selman move herself out of her wheelchair.

"To get out of bed; I have to grab my legs, lift them and put them over the side. Then, I put the sliding board underneath me and I slide off the bed and into my chair," she said.

The shower is designed to accommodate a wheelchair, too.

"It's really nice," Selman said. 

"It makes it possible for me to shower by myself."

Learning to live without the use of most of her body was scary at first, Selman said. At first, leaning forward made her feel as though she could fall from her wheelchair.

"So, I would hold myself in all the time but now I'm comfortable moving," she said. 

"[I can] grab things, even pick toys up off the floor or put on my shoes … That was really hard in the beginning."

Selman lists tasks she is learning to complete since becoming paralyzed but when asked which of them she enjoys doing, she pauses before speaking.

"Oh, I don't know yet," she said.

"I don't think I've figured that out."

Hope for the future

Wearing a necklace with a tiny horseshoe charm linked to it, she describes her hopes for the future.

"I can't wait until summer so I can actually go outside, sit on the deck," she said.

"Maybe try riding. Get [my daughter] on her pony and teach her to ride. That I would like to do."

Selman grew up around horses and was a jockey for years before she fell in June. Around 10 years ago, she met her husband, who is also a jockey, at Assiniboia Downs and in 2011, they married.

"She loves horses, she loves animals," Remi Selman said of his wife following the accident.

"She's the most kind-hearted person I've ever met in my life. When it comes to dealing with any being, she's the nicest person."

Alyssa Selman was a jockey for years before the accident in June 2015. (CBC)

On Saturday, Selman said continuing support has helped her get through the difficult and painful moments she said come with each day. That, and her children.

"Just having to get up for the kids and watching them and being here, for them because I almost wasn't here for them," she said.

She describes the adjustment being far less challenging for them than it was for her.

"They were there at the races when I had the accident and they thought I was dead. So, anything more than that is pretty good."


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