Gena Buza, 16, takes a moment to collect herself after nurses struggle to find a vein for her IV before she is taken into surgery. Gena has undergone three surgeries since the car accident ten years ago that left her paralyzed from the chest down.
The following photos were taken between 2012 and 2014.Gena Buza, 16, takes a moment to collect herself after nurses struggle to find a vein for her IV before she is taken into surgery. Gena has undergone three surgeries since the car accident ten years ago that left her paralyzed from the chest down.Taylor Baucom
Gena Buza, 16, takes a moment to collect herself after nurses struggle to find a vein for her IV before she is taken into surgery. Gena has undergone three surgeries since the car accident ten years ago that left her paralyzed from the chest down.
Gena's parents, Rich and Sue, comfort her before she is wheeled out for surgery.
Family and friends gather around and join hands to pray for Gena before she is taken into surgery.
Gena waits to go into surgery. Gena says, "the hardest part about surgery isn’t the surgery itself, it's the raw fact that I have to start over ... that’s like a punch in the gut because you've built up all your strength, you’re happy and healthy and then you just know deep down that you’re going to have to start all over again and start from scratch again and build up your strength again and not feel good, that’s the hardest part.”
Gena hands out candy to trick-or-treaters on a rainy Halloween night while her siblings collect candy around the neighborhood.
Sue treats Gena's incision every night before Gena goes to bed. After Gena's surgery, an infection developed in the hollow bone where the old screws once were. Sue will clean the wound every night until it closes for good.
baucom-taylor-Gena Buza
As a vibrant six-year-old, Gena used to draw often. After the accident, she had to improvise and teach herself a new way of holding the pencil.
Gena and Sophie, her sister, laugh while their dad hides the evidence of BBQ they secretly ordered while Sue was at a Christmas party.
Gena takes a selfie with her dad on Thanksgiving.
Gena and Sophie,12, have their night time rituals of checking Instagram and reading before bed.
Gena fixes her hair.
Sue carries Gena back to her chair after having her picture taken in a patch of springtime flowers. "She's just so strong, physically and mentally, says Gena. "Numerous years of lifting me and carrying me and pushing a wheelchair through the snow, she’s just amazing. I don't think many people could do what she does”
Gena greets friends as they show up for her sixteenth birthday party.
Gena on her street. "Right now in my life I have a family that help me. It’s scary to think of the reality of someday when I will be by myself," Gena says. "Every day is probably going to be a struggle because it will just be me. It’s just a harsh reality, but I have high standards for myself. I want to do everything and I want to see everything, sky is the limit and I am going for it.”
Gena's tracheotomy scar is a reminder of the accident.
Gena and her classmates decorate for Junior Prom.
On the way to get her nails done for Junior Prom, Gena leans in to talk with Sophie about the school day.
Gena sees her finished dress for the first time. When it came to picking a dress, Gena had to be cautious that the dress wouldn't get caught in her wheelchair and that the fabric wouldn't dig into her skin while sitting on it throughout the night. Hannah Ballinger, a fashion student at Syracuse University, designed a dress for Gena that would fall within these guidelines.
Gena sits in her tights as Sophie stands next to her to help put on her dress for Junior Prom.
Sue admires the detailing of Gena's dress for Junior Prom.
Brooke, Gena's youngest sister, sits close to her big sister as they wait for Gena's friend. Brooke wore her "Belle" dress to match Gena's dress.
Sue does Gena's makeup for Junior Prom.
Sue cleans the mud off of Gena's wheels with a toothbrush to make sure it doesn't get on Gena's dress during pictures.
Gena and her friend, Mary, 16, look over the balcony after dinner at the Skaneateles Country Club in Skaneateles, NY.
Gena and Mary pose with Mr. Blake (left) and Mr. McGrath, Camillus High School assistant principals, in the photo booth at Junior Prom.
Gena looks on as classmates dance at Junior Prom.
Gena works on a school assignment about telling her own story. After Gena's accident, doctors said she was lucky to be alive.
The following photos were taken between 2012 and 2014.Gena Buza, 16, takes a moment to collect herself after nurses stru
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Taylor Baucom
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'Raising My Head High': A 16-Year-Old With Quadriplegia Goes to Her Prom

Jun 17, 2014

In October 2003, six-year-old Gena Buza and her younger sister, Sophie, were riding in a car, their grandmother at the wheel, when the grandmother lost control of the vehicle and it smashed into a tree. Gena was thrown from her seat and suffered a bruised spinal cord that left her paralyzed from the chest down. She is considered quadriplegic.

One might expect that this is the beginning of a tale that ends in broken dreams and heartache. But the heartache wore off, the dreams have evolved and Gena is today a remarkable 16-year-old with a story to tell. I have been photographing "Gena, In Constant Motion" since 2012. Below, Gena shares a poem recounting a day that changed everything and about how she has rebuilt her life. -- Taylor Baucom

I Remember. . .

The grass, a field of delicate green prickles
Between my toes
Cold but freeing
Simple
Yet memorable

I remember. . .

Dancing on Sundays
Ballet steps and pastel dresses
Twirling till I fall
Just to see it flow

I remember. . .

Our driveway
Hot sun beating down
Blacktop imprints on my soles
Curiosity left behind

I remember. . .

Jumping and leaping
On the trampoline with my father
In the late afternoon
Under the shadows of the sunset

I remember. . .

Climbing
Taking the adventure
Up and up the steep craggy hill
Just a rock

I remember. . .

The backseat of my grandmother’s car
The taste of peanut butter lingers
A carefree afternoon
Shattered within moments

I remember. . . ?

Black
Choking
Breathless
Black
Then red
Blood
My grandmother
Distant sounds
Helicopter blades
Then putrid smells
Of oxygen and hospital
Blackness
Sounds everywhere but no vision
Distant beeping
Paced but constant

I remember. . .

Laying there
Lifeless
Strength I remember having
Gone now

I remember. . .

Wanting to get up
But my body isn’t listening
Like the signals have been cut
Never to be used again

Eating
But can’t hold a fork
Having to be fed
Like a baby

Sitting up
No muscle strength to balance
Now a struggle
And a fear

I was six
I remember

School
For the first time in months
Now watching friends
Play our old games
Feeling left out

Saturday nights spent
Staring at Sundays dresses
Crying out at nothing
Just to be able to spin one last time

Yeah, I remember. . .

Dancing on weekday nights
In the living room for my parents
Trying to pretend
Trying to forget

I remember. . .

My purpose
Why I am here

I remember. . .
Finally seeing it for what its worth
Raising my head high
Rather than bowing in hopelessness
I will not accept defeat

I am. . .

A different person. . .

A better person. . .

I am

Me.

Taylor Baucom is a visual journalist based in New York City

Baucom's work was brought to LightBox's attention by Katie Hogin

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