Eyes Wide Open

A Perspective From Within

Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat?


Ross Marchetta and Mary Vaccaro

Ross and I on the red carpet

Lately I’m finding it a bit difficult to write about new things in my life when everything has been pretty much the same for a while now…terribly uneventful. Go to therapy, come home, repeat. I do however, want to talk about my first official outing in November where I actually had real clothes on that did not have an elastic waist or an Adidas logo. I also had my hair and makeup done by a professional. It was the first time in months that I felt semi-normal. The event was called “Destination Fashion”. It was an event for The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, which is the fundraising arm of The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. The Miami Project is the main reason why I am down here. Just to give you a little background, In 1985, Barth Green M.D. (my doctor) and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti helped found The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. Today, The Miami Project is the world’s most comprehensive spinal cord injury research center with 250 scientists, researchers and clinicians who take innovative approaches to the challenge of spinal cord injury. Because of their work and the dedication, in July of 2012, the FDA approved human clinical trials that involves the testing of Schwann cell transplants in humans with acute and chronic SCI. This is very exciting news. Hopefully I can be a part of this in the near future. I don’t want to bore you with details. You can learn more about it if you click on this link: http://www.themiamiproject.org/page.aspx?pid=339

Me after my makeover with Sydney

Me after my makeover with Sydney

Anyway, back to Destination Fashion. More than 2000 guests attended the event that was held at Miami’s Bal Harbour Shops. The night featured an exclusive presentation of Emilio Pucci’s Spring 2013 line designed by Peter Dundas. The collection came straight from Milan fashion week and had never touched American soil. Following the fashion show and sit-down dinner, there was an interactive destination party experience and private concert by Enrique Iglesias. The concert was amazing. Tom Brokaw hosted the evening, and was chaired by actor Tommy Lee Jones and the extremely hot international polo sensation and face of Ralph Lauren’s Black Label, Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras. There were a bunch of other celebs there to, but really, Nacho is all I cared about. Total eye candy. I have been to many charity events in my life, but nothing like this.The execution was flawless, the tablescapes were stunning and the food was really good. The filet that was served wasn’t the typical overcooked prison grade meat served at many of the events that I have attended in the past. There was also a beautiful antipasto which had the dual purpose of the first course and also as part of the centerpiece. The runway for the Pucci fashion show was set up like a maze all throughout the dining area. We were practically sitting on the runway and could almost touch the pale and anorexic models, that’s how close we were. Many of the stores in the Bal Harbour Shops generously donated luxury items for the silent auction. There were no Akron Aeros tickets or hot air balloon rides at this auction. Items like a Cartier watch, a one of a kind Fendi bag and a trip to Tuscany were up for auction to the highest bidder. The event raised a staggering $31 million for The Miami Project, partly as the result of an especially benevolent and kind donor who made a huge announcement that night. Christine E. Lynn announced a gift of $25 million that would go to build a state-of-the-art spinal cord injury surgical suites, surgical intensive care units and rehabilitation center. The announcement was truly a shock to the crowd. This same women donated $10 million to The Miami Project last year. My God, how much money does this women have? I googled her the next day and her name is prominently displayed on several buildings and wings. You have to have some major dough to have a building named after you. This women has it.

The shoes

The shoes

This event was really the first time that I had been outside the 1000 feet radius of the Continuum property since I got out of the hospital. I had finally taken myself out of the mental house arrest that I had created for myself and became part of the living…at least for one night. As soon as Ross told me about the event and that he wanted to support it, the pressure was on to find something to wear that would not make me look like a cow on wheels. I quickly discovered that clothes are not designed for the seated. I had a few things sent from home and after trying them on, found that they that looked absolutely hideous on me while seated in the chair. I had such a great wardrobe at home…kiss that goodbye. This was definitely going to be a challenge for me. After several trial and errors, I found the perfect dress. I had my killer YSL platforms sent from home to finish the outfit. I bought these shoes two months prior to the accident and only wore them once. I was always afraid of scuffing them or scratching the gold on the front of the shoe. I find it completely ironic that now I no longer have to worry about ruining a great pair of shoes because they will always stay looking brand new.

Peter and I | Us with Emilio Estefan | Me, Ross and Dr. Green

There was a tremendous amount of preplanning for me to do in order to execute a perfect look for the event. Being a quad in a chair poses many difficulties with fashion and many other things that I won’t go into right now. I had the whole cathe thing to deal with that night. Since I had to get cathed at 8 pm I had to take one of my caretakers with me. Most people slip off to the restroom, I had to roll off to the limo. I got a professional makeup artist that does runway, print and celebs. He also styles hair. I desperately needed someone to help me look good cuz I was a mess. The man for this big job was named Sidney Jamila…I call him simply, my savior. He is also absolutely adorable, so incredibly kind and extremely talented. During our pre-meeting to discuss the look that I was going for, I had to open up the conversation to exactly what celebrities he’s worked with. Inquiring minds wanted to know. When the name “Lenny Kravitz” came up, I froze. Could someone who has touched the face and hair of Lenny be touching mine? This really is six degrees of separation. My friend Lisa and I worshipped that man years ago. I still have a Lenny playlist on my iPod. I love his music. Back then, it was so upsetting when he started to date and then go on to marry Lisa Bonet. Bitch (just kidding). Of course I started gushing to Sydney about Lenny like some of my friends’ young children talk about Justin Bieber. Lenny was my Justin, just way cooler with a much better voice, more talented and who doesn’t wear meggings (male leggings). Justin Bieber always has those stupid “I Dream of Jeanie” pants on. It’s completely ridiculousness and they should be burned, every single pair of them because I’m quite certain he has multiple pairs. Selena Gomez should be embarrassed. Ok, I digress. I’m not 12. Back to this 44 year old’s story. Sydney arrived with an assistant on the day of the event and brought enough makeup for this beauty junkie to be high. We totally hit it off, talking about our favorite beauty brands, new makeup techniques, Sephora etc. He wanted to set up shop in the living room because of the lighting situation, so I didn’t have the luxury of having a full mirror in front of me to soak up the techniques of the master. It absolutely drove me crazy not to be able to see what he was doing. Then, somewhere between the primer and concealer, he told me that just the day before he styled Lenny for some sort of Oprah life course BS show…and that Sydney mentioned me to him. I almost fell out of my wheelchair. The name Mary Vaccaro graced the eardrums of Lenny Kravitz. OMG…

The evening was a blast. Lots of great memories. I had such a great time time with Ross and our friends that came to Miami just for this. It was, however, incredibly strange and uncomfortable to be in a massive crowd when you are the only person sitting down. Going through the crowds of people felt at first like salmon upstream, but quickly turned into Moses parting the Red Sea. People tend to go out of there way to make room for a person in a wheelchair. When they don’t realize that you are trying to get through and someone has to tap them on the shoulder to tell them to move they become so apologetic that it is borderline uncomfortable. That sort of situation reminded me of the hilarious episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm where Larry David starts dating woman in wheelchairs mostly out of guilt, but realizes he gets to take advantage of some of the perks (if that’s what you want to call them). It’s from Curb Your Enthusiasm: Season 7, Ep. 5 called “Denise Handicap”. I know most people would find this offensive. I thought it was completely hilarious. It’s worth a watch. Poking fun at this horrible situation that I’m in is one of the key coping mechanisms that I have. Isn’t laughter supposed to be the best medicine?

19 thoughts on “Does This Wheelchair Make Me Look Fat?

  1. dear Mary you are as beautiful as always. Now on to repair the mobility.l Love you, Judith

  2. I hope you are getting my comments

  3. You look beautiful and so does Ross…

  4. Mary I am happy that you are writing again.
    I enjoy your honesty so very much. Your two most recent posts are truly wonderful, because YOU shine through all the crap that you are experiencing.
    You looked so beautiful all made up for the benefit. I am happy that you “pushed” yourself to go out for an evening looking fabulous–love the shoes too!
    Keep on posting–your incredible spirit and sense of humor will help you stay strong and ready for medical breakthroughs for people like you with spinal cord injuries.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos.

    Love and strength to you.

    Mary Colarik

  5. Mary, you look absolutely stunning in the pictures of you & Ross attending the Miami Project Fundraiser!! You do magic with your storytelling…it was a delightful description of your first outing since your accident. The pictures were great…my favorite is of you and Ross on the red carpet….and your shoes are fabulous!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts so eloquently. I hope you have many more special evenings!

  6. You are simply gorgeous and Ross is an angel..you are an inspiration to all of us…

  7. Mary, Bob & I just read this together. You are an amazing writer and had us laughing out loud at your hilarious descriptions! You truly looked amazing that evening, and it was wonderful to see you and Russ enjoying a night on the town. Lenny is cute, but please tell me more about Enrique!!! We are coming down in a few weeks, and Bobby is hoping to take over your kitchen and put that Cookbook in your brain hard to work. p.s. NO, the wheelchair does not make you look fat! xo

  8. You look absolutely stunning dear friend!! Your hair and makeup are beautiful and so are you!! You are making so many new memories!! Love You!!

  9. “overcooked prison grade steaks” that is a classic, only my sister would think of that line!!

  10. You look amazingly beautiful. What a wonderful evening of fun and fashion. Hope there are more events like this for you to enjoy.
    Lisa Craine

  11. This was an amazing read!! You and Ross looked wonderful!!

  12. It sounds like such a fun event and I’m glad you’ve shared it here. It’s a cause that I will look for in the future. You look fabulous and the shoes .. oh don’t get me started about those .. gorgeous !!! You and Ross are such a cute couple …

  13. Looking good girl!!!!

  14. Just Let me know if you want me to “dirty” the soles of some of those fabulous shoes of yours! I will gladly oblige and you wont’ have to beg me either. :-). You looked gorgeous and you sure haven’t lost your sense of style. I’ll also use your makeup artist when your ready to share…. He’s cute,talented and his connections definitely impress me cause I Also love me some Lenny Kravitz! Looked like a wonderful event and maybe next year Fab and I will join you guys. Love a good party and so glad your having fun.

  15. Mary you look fabulous! I miss and love you

  16. Mary
    Thanks for sharing with us all about this wonderful event!! All I can say is WOW and you look gorgious!! Your hair looks amazing! What a great outfit!! What a fun time and good for you. Im glad you went all out. You deserve it, I miss you and the holidays were not the same.
    Love ya
    Your Biatch
    Kristine Basnett

  17. Beautiful post!! You and Ross are an amazing couple!!

  18. Greetings Mary,
    Laughter? It’s the air we breathe.
    Well done with the writing!

  19. My sister and husband attended that affair

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