When TaLisha Grzyb was born, doctors said she wouldn't live more than three days. Now, TaLisha is a 29-year-old influencer, wife, and mother. From a worrisome prognosis to YouTube stardom, here's her incredible story.
A Baby Girl
TaLisha Grzyb was born in August 1991 to a loving and excited family. But the birth wasn't without worry, as doctors had a devastating prognosis for the newborn baby - they said she wouldn't live more than three days.
"At first, I was not expected to live past the age of three days old," an older TaLisha explained. But as the infant continued to grow and breathe, medical professionals changed their prognosis and said she would live for three months. Ultimately, Grzyb was born with a condition that gave doctors the impression she couldn't survive.
She Was Born With CMD
TaLisha was born with congenital muscular dystrophy (CMD), a subgroup of the condition that becomes apparent at or near birth. In general, muscular dystrophies are inherited through a recessive gene. The condition mostly affects the body's voluntary muscles.
"That pretty much means my muscles are weak, and so I'm not able to walk at all. I have a low muscle tone," Grzyb shared. "So it's caused me to be wheelchair-bound basically since birth." Taisha wasn't expected to live a long life, but fortunately, the doctors' predictions were proved wrong.
Grzyb used a wheelchair from the day she can remember. Even as a child, TaLisha's parents helped her to be as independent as possible. "Since I was born, my mother has always encouraged me and supported me to follow my dreams and anything I can do," Grzyb said.
Her dad was not much different. "He's always been such a big supporter of me," TaLisha shared about her father. "He's always pushed me even further than I thought he ever could. And I really owe him a big thanks for that." Surrounded by love and support, Grzyb saw the glass half full.
With her family's encouragement, TaLisha lived a fulfilling life as independently as she could. "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."
By the time she was 15, TaLisha had her first job interview. The employer told the teen to come back a year later, and that's exactly what Grzyb did on her 16th birthday. "My first job ever was at 16-years-old as a telemarketer on behalf of Bank of America," she said.
Off To College
TaLisha was a loyal employee at the bank for two years. "I left because I was leaving to go away to college," she explained. The 18-year-old young woman left home to attend Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. There, Grzyb studied psychology and criminal justice.
In many ways, TaLisha had a fulfilling college experience. She lived in the dorms and pushed the university to become more accessible, paving the way for future students with disabilities. The dedicated student also had a great social life and met some of her best friends on campus. As well as a very special someone.
During her junior year of college, TaLisha met the love of her life, Quentin. "He used to be my tutor in college," she said of how the two met. "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 was persistent and asked TaLisha out two more times until she ultimately said yes. "I'm glad I decided to give him a chance, and we've been inseparable ever since," Grzyb shared. But being in an "interabled" relationship, where one person is able-bodied and one has a disability, wasn't always easy.
They Faced Prejudice
Quentin knew TaLisha was someone special right away and fell deeply in love with her. "The reason that I was attracted to her was due to her positive energy, spirit, and her courage," Quentin said of his incredible and loving girlfriend. But others saw things differently.
TaLisha and Quentin were soon head-over-heels for each other and moved in together. But while the lovebirds knew they were soulmates, some people judged them. "We have experienced prejudice about our relationship," Grzyb said. "Mainly because I am not able to walk, and he can."
"Wedding of My Dreams"
But the lovebirds didn't let the haters stop them. After college, the two graduates got engaged and made their love official in a California ceremony. TaLisha's three best friends from her hometown and college were her bridesmaids, and she said it was the "Wedding of my dreams."
"When I first saw my husband down the aisle, I was so excited," Grzyb shared. "He was all I could see coming down the aisle." The lovestruck husband said he had "tunnel vision" as she came towards him. "In my eyes, you will always be perfect," Quentin expressed in his beautiful vows.
A Spontaneous Honeymoon
The newlyweds got married in California because the state is home to Quentin's family. Fortunately, TaLisha's friends and family were able to make the trip. But the couple was so busy planning their wedding that they didn't have time to arrange the honeymoon.
"Our honeymoon was actually planned during the flight back home from our destination wedding in California," TaLisha happily shared. "Talk about spontaneous. That's definitely us." The lovebugs took a relaxing eight-day cruise around the Caribbean Islands.
Plenty of Adventures
But while it might've been Quentin and TaLisha's first time cruising the waters together, it was certainly not their first adventure as a couple. The partners kept their life exciting long before marriage, doing venturous things like indoor skydiving.
They also traveled together long before the Caribbean cruise. TaLisha and Quentin road-tripped through California, one of TaLisha's favorite places, one she called her "second home." Grzyb also swam with dolphins in the Bahamas and saw an imitation of the Eiffel Tower in Las Vegas.
A Medical Scare
But while the couple traveled plenty, when they got back from their Caribbean honeymoon, TaLisha got a mysterious post-travel sickness. "I wasn't feeling so well for about two weeks after we came home," she said. "I was just not feeling myself at all."
Grzyb ended up spending five days in the hospital because she had a high fever that wasn't going down. "When I came home from the hospital, my fever eventually went away," she shared. "But my other... sickness symptoms never did." TaLisha also suffered from nausea.
"I Was Just Shocked."
For weeks, Grzyb woke up nauseous every morning. After a while, she figured out what it might be. "I sort of put two and two together, and the reality hit me that it could be a possibility that I could be pregnant," TaLisha said. The newly-wed Grzyb told Quentin the unexpected news almost immediately.
"I was just shocked," she recalled. "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 remembered "procrastinating" taking the tests, as she was scared of the results.
Telling Her Family
TaLisha ended up taking seven pregnancy tests to make sure the results were accurate. Finally, Quentin told her this was "ridiculous" and that they had to accept the reality. "You're pregnant. We're having a baby," he told his wife. The couple came to terms with the pregnancy and soon told their families.
The expecting parents' relatives were supportive, 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," Grzyb explained. "She never questioned my capability to be able to have a healthy and thriving pregnancy."
Another Surprise: There's 2 on the Way!
TaLisha and Quentin were in for a big surprise when they went to the expecting mom's first prenatal appointment about 10 or 11 weeks into the pregnancy. "Did you guys know you were having twins?" the sonographer asked. "No, you're joking," Grzyb answered.
The couple found out they were pregnant with not one but two identical twin boys. "I was just super shocked," TaLisha recalled. "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."
An Early Birth
TaLisha said doctors were concerned for her health during the pregnancy, not only because of her muscular dystrophy. Grzyb's pregnancy was considered high-risk due to the genetic condition and because she was expecting twins, a risky pregnancy in general.
At 28-years-old and five months along, TaLisha was in the hospital because one of the babies was having trouble breathing. Doctors put her under general anesthesia and delivered the twins. "Michael was born first at two pounds, seven ounces," Grzyb shared. "Mason was born right after... at two pounds, nine ounces."
Three Kids Under 3
TaLisha went home from the hospital after five days, and the twins came home just over eight weeks later. Not long after the exciting birth, the new mom was pregnant again. Happy with their life as parents, the expecting mom and dad looked forward to welcoming another child.
The Grzyb family grew by one when their third son, Tyson, was born. TaLisha had a healthy delivery once again. Although life with "three kids under 3" could be hectic, the happy mom wouldn't have it any other way. But while she and Quentin felt confident in their parenting abilities, some people thought differently.
"Us Disabled People Deserve the Right To Procreate"
"The topic of pregnancy and disability is very uncomfortable for some people, and I'm not too sure why," TaLisha said. "I mean, the reality is, us disabled people deserve the right to procreate, as well." Grzyb knows others may be concerned that her children could've inherited her condition.
"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?" Grzyb added that people with disabilities "should be able to have as many kids as we want because all that matters is that... love."
She's the "Cool Parent"
Quentin and TaLisha both embraced and loved parenthood very quickly. The mom and dad both had amazing bonds with their three kids, but TaLisha said she had an extra something that made her the "cool parent." And it had a lot to do with Grzyb's wheelchair.
"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." So how was Grzyb's daily life as a new mom with a wheelchair?
Their Daily Life
TaLisha's condition and mode of transportation don't really affect her day-to-day life. "My disability doesn't at all impact my quality of life," she explained. "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," Grzyb continued. "However, with the help of my amazing support system, I'm able to complete all my tasks throughout the day." TaLisha said that "teamwork" makes things like cooking and going for coffee fun and doable.
Becoming a Disability Influencer
Early on in life, TaLisha viewed her disability as a positive quality. "I realized that having a disability was not something to mourn, but rather a gift from God that needed to be appreciated," she said. This perspective motivated Grzyb to do something meaningful with her experiences.
"I knew that I had Muscular Dystrophy because I had something to learn and something to teach," the mother-of-three explained. "From that point forth, I made it my purpose in life to inspire others." TaLisha attended disability conferences and began paving her way as an advocate.
Rolling Through Life With TaLisha
Grzyb also started her own YouTube channel, titled Rolling Through Life With TaLisha. The aspiring influencer talked about college, getting married, and starting a family in her detailed videos. TaLisha wanted to not only talk about but show others that people with disabilities can have fulfilling lives.
"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."
Meeting Other Interabled Couples
TaLisha wasn't the only YouTuber out there raising awareness on living with muscular dystrophy, and she also wasn't the only person with a disability who had a non-disabled partner. Grzyb met other disability influencers, including Shane Burcaw and Hannah Aylward, a popular interabled YouTube couple.
"They are so down to earth, and he actually asked me, you know, how my YouTube channel is going," Talisha 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." TaLisha's career soon reached new levels.
She Wrote a Book
After her YouTube channel took off, TaLisha published her first children's book: Rolling Through Life With Mommy, a story about a mother who uses a wheelchair told from her children's perspective. "What inspired me to write a book about being a disabled parent is simply my children," Grzyb 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 continued. "I've always enjoyed writing, so I thought, what better way to explain it than in a book." The story takes readers on an adventure of a day in the life of a mom with a disability.
TaLisha received incredible support for the book from her biggest fans: her family. "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.'" In general, Rolling Through Life With Mommy received countless positive reviews.
Friends, family, and fans came out to a book signing at Barnes & Noble, and the product got plenty 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!" wrote one reader.
Following the success of her first book, the new author felt motivated to keep on writing. TaLisha had a lot of inspiration from her own life experiences and wanted to continue using them to teach and influence others. Grzyb wrote three more children's books.
TaLisha published a series of spinoff books to Rolling Through Life With Mommy. She wrote the Christmas Holiday and The Beauty Pageant editions, a book for kids about Black Lives Matter, and a fifth one on the COVID-19 virus. Grzyb's activism was soon recognized in an extraordinary way.
Ms. Wheelchair Delaware
TaLisha Grzyb was becoming well-known in her hometown for her social media activism and children's books. In February 2020, she was recognized for her work and crowned Ms. Wheelchair Delaware. It was the first time since 1975 that the state chose an official delegate to the national competition.
"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 Ms. Wheelchair Amererica pageant is a competition based on the "advocacy, achievement, communication, and presentation" of wheelchair users and advocates.
Her Other Jobs
Being an advocate and a mom to three kids is time-consuming, but TaLisha still managed to work another job. Grzyb got a Master's Degree in Information Technology from Wilmington University after graduating college. Since then, she's put together quite an impressive resume!
TaLisha has worked as a Management Analyst at Delaware's Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families, as a credentialed background investigator for government agencies, and as an intelligence analyst at General Dynamics Information Technology. So what's it been like as a "woman on wheels" in the workplace?
Working With a Disability
For TaLisha, living with a condition has had little effect on her experiences as a young professional. The advocate said that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has helped her feel included and confident in the workplace since her first job at age 16.
"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 "Wake-Up Call"
As TaLisha's YouTube channel grew, she suddenly went off the grid for a couple of weeks. Some of her videos had gotten tens of thousands of views by then, and some followers were confused by her disappearance. Grzyb eventually came back and explained that she'd been in the hospital for pneumonia and the flu.
"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 said 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."
She Wouldn't Change a Thing
While living with muscular dystrophy and putting her life for the Internet to see isn't always easy, TaLisha wouldn't change a thing about the life she's built with her beautiful family. The published author is fulfilled by her children, supportive husband, and the work she does.
"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," Grzyb 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."