The Doctors Didn't Believe She Would Survive: Today Talisha Grzyb Is a Mother and an Influencer
| LAST UPDATE 06/30/2021
TaLisha Grzyb was born into a hard life, and doctors said she wouldn’t live for more than 3 days. But today, TaLisha is a wife, mother, and social media influencer! Keep reading for her story.
Welcome To the World
Born in August 1991, TaLisha Gryzb was welcomed into the world by a loving family. But her parents received devastating news - she had been diagnosed with a severe medical condition that meant she was unlikely to live longer than three days.
"At first, I was not expected to live past the age of three days old," TaLisha explained as an adult. But she proved doctors wrong, and they soon realized they had to change her prognosis. They said she would live for at least three months, but they still did not believe she could survive long-term.
A Congenital Diagnosis
TaLisha had been diagnosed with CMD, or Congenital Muscular Dystrophy, a condition that is typically not discovered until birth. It affects the body’s voluntary muscles and is generally inherited through recessive genes present in one of the parents.
"That pretty much means my muscles are weak, and so I'm not able to walk at all. I have a low muscle tone," TaLisha explained. "So it's caused me to be wheelchair-bound basically since birth." Despite surviving the first two dire prognoses, doctors still predicted that she would live a short life. But she proved them wrong.
For as long as she can remember, TaLisha has always been wheelchair-bound. Despite this, her parents went out of their way to teach her independence. "Since I was born, my mother has always encouraged me and supported me to follow my dreams and anything I can do," she said.
Her father was the same. "He's always been such a big supporter of me," TaLisha said. "He's always pushed me even further than I thought he ever could. And I really owe him a big thanks for that." With loving parents behind her, TaLisha learned to be more optimistic about the future.
Considering all of the support that surrounded her, it’s no surprise that TaLisha went on to live life as independently as possible. "My strong spirit has made up for my weak muscles," she once said. "I wasn't even allowed to say I can't do something. The only thing I cannot do is walk."
When she was just 15-years-old, she scored a job interview but was told to come back when she turned 16. So a year later, TaLisha returned eagerly, and she was given the position. "My first job ever was at 16-years-old as a telemarketer on behalf of Bank of America," she said.
She worked at Bank of America for just two years. "I left because I was leaving to go away to college," she explained. She wanted to attend college and had been accepted to Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was here that TaLisha studied criminal justice and psychology.
Of course, TaLisha took her strong will and independent spirit to college with her. After living in the dorms she began campaigning to make buildings on the college campus accessible for students with disabilities. Her personality attracted a lot of people, and she made many friends. But she also met someone else.
A Romance Blossoms
During her junior year at Widener, TaLisha met Quentin, and that's where their love story started. "He used to be my tutor in college," she explained. "And then he had asked me out, and I told him no. For various reasons, I just was not wanting to date at that time."
But Quentin remained steadfast and continued to pursue her. He asked her out two more times before she finally considered it. "I'm glad I decided to give him a chance, and we've been inseparable ever since," TaLisha shared. But as it turned out, their “interabled” relationship wasn’t as easy as expected.
Obstacles To Overcome
From the moment he met her, Quentin knew that TaLisha was different, and he fell for her immediately. "The reason that I was attracted to her was due to her positive energy, spirit, and her courage," he said of his partner. But sadly, others did not see their relationship the same way.
The young couple was head-over-heels, and so in love that they moved in together early on. They were perfectly confident in their relationship but still received a lot of judgment from others. "We have experienced prejudice about our relationship," TaLisha said. "Mainly because I am not able to walk, and he can."
I Now Pronounce You...
Quentin and TaLisha ignored the hate they received from others, and by the time they graduated from college, the two lovebirds were engaged. They held their ceremony in California, and TaLisha’s three best friends stood by her side as bridesmaids. "It was the wedding of my dreams," she said.
"When I first saw my husband down the aisle, I was so excited," TaLisha shared. "He was all I could see coming down the aisle." Quentin was mesmerized by the image of his soon-to-be wife. He had “tunnel vision,” and capped his vows with the line, “In my eyes, you will always be perfect.”
The couple had their wedding in California, where Quentin’s family lived. But arranging everything between Pennsylvania and California, and making sure all of their friends and family could attend had been time-consuming. The couple didn’t even have time to plan their honeymoon!
"Our honeymoon was actually planned during the flight back home from our destination wedding in California," TaLisha admitted. "Talk about spontaneous.” But they didn’t let that bother them. They quickly booked an eight-day cruise around the Caribbean Islands.
An Adventurous Life
It was the first cruise Quentin and TaLisha had ever taken together, but it wasn’t the first time they had traveled as a couple. The two were equally adventurous and had long learned that a healthy dose of excitement and adrenaline was key to a strong relationship.
Well before visiting the Caribbean on their honeymoon, TaLisha and Quentin had hit the road together. They’d taken a road trip around California, the state TaLisha now considered her “second home.” She even swam with dolphins in the Bahamas and visited the imitation Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas.
A Hitch in Their Plans
When the happy husband and wife finally returned from their relaxing Caribbean honeymoon, something unexpected happened. TaLisha fell mysteriously sick. "I wasn't feeling so well for about two weeks after we came home," she said. "I was just not feeling myself at all."
Sadly, she ended up hospitalized as a result. She spent five days inside with a fever that refused to drop. "When I came home from the hospital, my fever eventually went away," she shared. "But my other... sickness symptoms never did." This included ongoing nausea.
Every morning TaLisha would wake up feeling nauseous, and this went on for weeks. Suddenly the cause occurred to her. "I sort of put two and two together, and the reality hit me that it could be a possibility that I could be pregnant," she said. She knew she had to tell her husband.
"I was just shocked," she said. "I reluctantly told my new husband to get me two pregnancy tests... When he came back home with the test, that's when reality really hit me." TaLisha was terrified to face what was coming, to the point she even “procrastinated” taking the test.
Breaking the News
After taking a whopping seven pregnancy tests for reassurance, TaLisha finally had to come to terms with her new reality. Her husband had told her she was being ”ridiculous” by refusing to face the facts. "You're pregnant. We're having a baby," he told her. It was time to share the news with their families.
As it turned out, both sets of parents took the news well, especially TaLisha’s mother. "What I really love about my mom is that not once has she ever questioned how it would work in terms of my disability," she said. "She never questioned my capability to be able to have a healthy and thriving pregnancy."
Two Babies on the Way
But the pregnancy wasn’t the only surprise that the newlyweds were in for. Both TaLisha and Quentin attended her prenatal appointment around three months into her pregnancy. "Did you guys know you were having twins?" the sonographer asked them. "No, you're joking," the shocked mother proclaimed.
That’s right - the shell-shocked parents-to-be were having two children, a set of identical boys. "I was just super shocked," TaLisha said. "I must say that my care was not really that different than that of a pregnant able-bodied woman. I mean, the obvious elephant in the room was that I can't walk, and I have a muscle disease."
A Premature Birth
Overall, TaLisha’s pregnancy was somewhat concerning to doctors. This was because of her muscular dystrophy but also because of the twins she was expecting. Twins are generally more challenging to deliver, so these two things meant that TaLisha could be in for a high-risk pregnancy.
And sure enough, TaLisha found herself in the hospital earlier than expected. One of the babies had trouble breathing, and she had to be put under anesthesia in order to prepare for early delivery. "Michael was born first at two pounds, seven ounces," TaLisha shared. "Mason was born right after... at two pounds, nine ounces."
A Growing Family
After five days in the hospital, TaLisha was finally allowed to return home. The twins followed her just eight weeks later, and not long after this they had more news - another baby was on the way! Quentin and his wife were loving their new family life, and happy to have a new addition to it.
And soon, their third son, Tyson, was born. This birth was also a safe and healthy one, despite previous fears. It seemed TaLisha was set on subverting expectations. And though she admitted that taking care of “three kids under 3” could be difficult, she couldn’t be happier. But not everyone shared this sentiment.
The Right To Procreate
"The topic of pregnancy and disability is very uncomfortable for some people, and I'm not too sure why," TaLisha admitted. "I mean, the reality is, us disabled people deserve the right to procreate, as well." She acknowledged her fear that her children might develop the same condition as her.
"Would it really make that much more of a difference if they had?" she asked. "I think not... Who would have been a better role model for them had they had muscular dystrophy other than yours truly?" She made it clear that people with disabilities "should be able to have as many kids as we want because all that matters is that... love."
Being the “Cool Parent”
Quentin and TaLisha fell into the role of parents with surprising ease. They developed incredible bonds with their sons, but they could both admit that TaLisha got a little more credit as the “cool parent.” Why was this you ask? Well, because of her wheelchair, of course!
"I'm the cool parent to our toddlers because they love to sit on my lap and ride around," TaLisha explained. "That's the preferred method of getting around… So that is definitely a benefit because you are, by default, the coolest person in the family." But how was she adjusting to mom-life daily?
TaLisha’s muscular dystrophy and her wheelchair didn’t affect her life as much as one might expect. "My disability doesn't at all impact my quality of life," she said. "The obvious impact that my disability has on my overall daily life is that I'm unable to walk."
"I have weaker muscles, so things such as lifting my children and dressing myself I have difficulty with," TaLisha continued. "However, with the help of my amazing support system, I'm able to complete all my tasks throughout the day." This meant that doing things like cooking and going out for the day was more accessible and fun!
Welcome To the Influencer Life
From as early as she can remember, TaLisha has viewed her muscular dystrophy in a positive light. "I realized that having a disability was not something to mourn, but rather a gift from God that needed to be appreciated," she said. And this belief moved her to be proactive with her experience.
"I knew that I had Muscular Dystrophy because I had something to learn and something to teach," TaLisha explained. "From that point forth, I made it my purpose in life to inspire others." Soon she began attending conferences on disability and decided to head down the path of disability advocacy.
Rolling Through Life With TaLisha
One of her first steps was starting her YouTube channel, called Rolling Through Life With TaLisha. She talked about her experiences in college, in married life, and as a mom. These detailed videos allowed her to show people how a person with disabilities can lead a “normal” and active life.
"The reason I decided to start my YouTube channel is to sort of highlight the abilities that people with disabilities have. Even though we are disabled, we live normal lives," she explained. "I wanted to inspire others by giving them hope while watching my videos."
New Social Circles
Luckily for TaLisha there was a whole network of YouTubers sharing their experiences with muscular dystrophy, and many of them had non-disabled partners. Some of the influencers she became acquainted with included Shane Burcaw and Hannah Aylward, a popular interabled couple.
"They are so down to earth, and he actually asked me, you know, how my YouTube channel is going," she shared. "And I was happy to tell him that, you know, it's going great, but it is a lot of work. And he told me he really liked my videos." But TaLisha’s hard work was about to pay off.
Publishing Her First Book
With her YouTube channel's growing success, TaLisha decided to take the plunge into children's literature. Her book, Rolling Through Life With Mommy, shares the perspectives of children with a mother who uses a wheelchair. "What inspired me to write a book about being a disabled parent is simply my children," she said.
"One day, they are going to ask me, 'Mommy, why are you in a wheelchair?' That is an inevitable question that's going to be asked," TaLisha said. "I've always enjoyed writing, so I thought, what better way to explain it than in a book." Her story shows what the life of a mother in a wheelchair is really like.
Feedback From the Public
The public reception to her book was positive, but it was her family who supported her most. "She always proves others wrong when they doubt her," Quentin said. "So when people realize that, 'Wow, she's amazing,' I'll say, 'Yeah, she is amazing.'" Even outside of her family the book received a lot of encouraging feedback.
She held a crowded book signing at Barnes & Noble and received multitudes of five-star ratings on Amazon. "This amazing young woman graduated high school, went on to college, met her Prince Charming, and started a family. I am so proud of her!" one reader even shared.
The Books Kept Coming
With the success of Rolling Through Life With Mommy, TaLisha was compelled to continue her writing career. There was plenty of inspiration to be used from her everyday life, and she wanted to use writing as a means of teaching others about her condition.
She published a series of books after Rolling Through Life, including Christmas Holiday and The Beauty Pageant. She also wrote a book to teach kids about the Black Lives Matter movement and another about COVID-19. She quickly started to gain substantial mainstream recognition.
TaLisha Grzyb was quickly becoming a notable name in her hometown, both for her social media presence and her writing. And in February of 2020, she was officially given the title Ms. Wheelchair Delaware. The state had not chosen a representative for this national competition since 1975 until meeting TaLisha.
"I feel as though it was a great opportunity to showcase what it means to be a 'woman on wheels,' as I like to say, but still powerful and elegant," TaLisha said. The pageant is similar to Miss USA, but with a focus on the "advocacy, achievement, communication, and presentation" of wheelchair users and disability advocates.
With a life as busy as hers, you might think that TaLisha wouldn’t have time for anything else. But you’d be entirely wrong! After college, she also earned an MA in Information Technology from Wilmington University. And she’s got the resume to back it up!
She has also worked as a Management Analyst at Delaware's Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families, as an intelligence analyst, and as a credentialed background investigator for the government. And how does TaLisha find working in a "traditional" workplace?
Confident in the Workplace
But TaLisha says that living with muscular dystrophy has had very little effect on her professional life. Because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), she has always felt included, empowered, and confident in every job she’s had, starting with Bank of America as a teenager.
"When barriers do arise, the disabled person just has to ask for accommodations which would make it easier to complete their job duties," TaLisha explained. "This could be anything from requesting a modified work schedule, extended break times, or voice recognition software to help with typing duties."
A Health Scare
TaLisha’s YouTube channel was growing rapidly, with tens of thousands of views on some videos. But suddenly, she disappeared from her channel for weeks on end, and many of her followers were confused and concerned. They were eventually told that the influencer had been hospitalized with pneumonia.
"I was hospitalized for about five days, and, you know, it was kind of scary because I had never gotten a flu before, so I was pretty much fighting two things at once," TaLisha told her followers in a video. "It just was sort of like a wake-up call for me to take even more of an initiative to take care of my health."
“Everything Is Possible”
Despite some of the difficulties that have come with her condition, TaLisha couldn’t be happier and more fulfilled in life. She finds more than enough satisfaction in her family of five, her loving marriage, and all of the important work she is doing as a disability advocate.
"I feel like my purpose is to help and teach others that no matter if you are disabled or not, you can live life and achieve whatever it is you want to achieve, "TaLisha said. "I would like to inspire others just by me living my life. Everything is possible. There's nothing impossible, even though it might be done differently."