Article written about Ms. Wheelchair MD 2015.

Gaithersburg woman crowned Ms. Wheelchair Maryland by Kate S. Alexander Staff writer.

The accident that paralyzed Kimberly Jordan-Gaskins of Gaithersburg happened quickly.

One moment, she was a woman who had just turned 20 years old, riding with friends home from Norfolk, Va. The next, she was paralyzed from the waist down.

“In as fast as a blink of an eye, my life changed from what seemed to be freedom to what felt like bondage,” she said.

Jordan-Gaskins — now 41 and recently crowned Ms. Wheelchair Maryland 2015 — recalls vividly the car accident more than 20 years ago that took her ability to walk.

“I can’t even describe the pain,” she said. “It was probably the worst pain I had ever felt in my entire life.”

The vehicle she was in that day flipped five times, throwing everyone but her from it, she said.

When she came to, Jordan-Gaskins said, she was no longer in the back seat. Her head was hanging out the driver’s side door, one leg was going out the front window, the other out the back.

“When I looked at myself, I knew possibly my legs were broken,” she said. “Never thought I was paralyzed.”

Life for Jordan-Gaskins was just beginning. Yet she has refused to let her injury keep her from living.

Today, Jordan-Gaskins drives a car with hand controls, works full-time for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and is a busy mother of three. A mezzo soprano who was studying music when the accident happened, she still sings in the community.

Jordan-Gaskins said she can do everything — except walking — her doctors told her she’d never do again.

Now, she works to help others with disabilities find their inner strength and talents.

“When I first became paralyzed, I remembered asking, ‘Why? Why do I have to do this?’” she said. “My body began to change and look different. My legs looked different and my ankles were bending and I didn’t like that at all.

“But I remember, when I was laying in the hospital bed, I said I have to make a decision on whether or not I’m going to live or die,” she continued. “I wasn’t on my death bed. It was an emotional thing. Am I going to let this thing take over me or am I going to take charge of it? After some time, I stopped asking why and I just kind of owned it.”

In November, Jordan-Gaskins was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Maryland 2015, an honor given each year to a Maryland woman who uses a wheelchair full-time to get around and is an advocate for those with disabilities.

In July, she will compete for Ms. Wheelchair America in Iowa.

Jordan-Gaskins is a strong advocate for people with disabilities, and, as she says, is “rolling in her purpose.” Her platform and passion is reaching their emotional and personal needs.

“I think that if we don’t focus so much on the physical and we focus more on what’s going on on the inside, then it all flourishes and the physical becomes minute,” she said.

With two friends, Jordan-Gaskins co-founded Women on Wheels, or WOW, an organization to empower people with disabilities by providing personal support.

It’s not as easy to talk about the inner struggles that come with a disability as it is to talk about accessible buildings and public accommodations, she said.

By sharing stories of struggle with tasks such as using a restroom or taking a shower, and even with depression and self-worth, WOW women provide one another friendship and support.

Jordan-Gaskins said family and friends helped her overcome the personal struggles she faced following her accident.

Seeing her father, Zachary Jordan, cry after the crash helped her find inner strength.

“To see that, for me, that was my, ‘OK. I’ve got to be strong’ moment,” she said. “I don’t care if I have to be in this wheelchair. As far as my daddy is going to know, I’m going to be OK.”

Jordan-Gaskins has moments when she wishes she could do everyday tasks more easily. “But I just then shake that off and thank God I have life,” she said.

She credits her grandmother, Marguerite Jordan — who sold her home and moved to help take care of Jordan-Gaskins after the accident — as her inspiration.

“She’ll laugh and say, ‘My goodness, baby. You go more now that you in that wheelchair than when you did when you was walking. You don’t let no grass grow under those wheels, do you,’” Jordan-Gaskins said.

Finding the Ms. Wheelchair Maryland organization opened doors for Jordan-Gaskins.

“It was like heaven to me,” she said. One of her goals for the coming year is to bring others into the organization.

In her family, her neighborhood, her office and her circle of friends, Jordan-Gaskins said, she was the only one with a disability.

“I really felt alone and by myself,” she said. “Once I met these young ladies [with Ms. Wheelchair Maryland], it was just like: OK, this is it. I fit in.”