“I’m just a Multi-faceted Hip Hop Diva in this Industry that We Call Entertainment.”

“I’m just a Multi-faceted Hip Hop Diva in this Industry that We Call Entertainment.”

Ever met an angel?  Not a wussy, namb-pamby angel in white robes and a smile, but the real thing: scary amounts of power crossed with furious energy surrounded by a deep abiding love.  That’s Auti Angel.

When you see early pictures of the able-bodied Auti, there is a cherubic sweetness to her face that is hidden now.  As she says, “It’s been a hell of a ride!”

  Even early on, as a principal dancer with such iconic performers as Eazy-E, N.W.A, Kid n’ Play, and LL CoolJ, you can see it – that Auti-tude.  The woman rivals Elvis for an iconic sneer.

But that’s on the outside.  You can learn about the inside easily enough. Auti speaks willingly about the road that got her here.  She grew up in Torrance, California, to very young parents – her father was 16 when she was born.  He worked in the entertainment business which led her to “The Industry”. 

She also grew up in a home colored by domestic violence, which was to be an ongoing challenge for her to face and overcome.  “It seems like I kept manifesting domestic violence until I learned how to heal it.” Auti explains.  “I grew up with it and didn’t even see it in my relationships until it was too late. 

I’m just grateful that eventually God showed me how I was drawing it to myself.”

Talking to Auti you hear a lot about God.  She has had a close relationship with God all her life, praying with Him moments before the car accident that permanently paralyzed her from the waist down.

“I said a prayer just before my car accident.  I had made a mistake, something I wished I could take back, and I prayed, ‘God please forgive me, all I want to do is be different and touch your people.’ I was driving, alone in the car, thank God, and then the crash came. I remember looking down from outside my body, seeing the traffic begin to clog up behind my crashed car on the 101 Hollywood Freeway.”

Auti’s voice is confident and clear – she has told this story many, many times. “I had blacked out when I felt these strong hands grab my shoulders and yank me up out of my body.  I cried out, ‘I didn’t get to say Goodbye!’  and the Voice said ‘Don’t worry my child I’m giving you what you asked for. You will go through many trials and tribulations, but you are becoming one of my chosen. Now go touch my people!”

She was only 22, but her close connection with God didn’t allow for any poor-me dilly dallying. 

“I was dancing as soon as I could get out of the hospital bed. The PTs were very informative back then and once they taught me how to pop a wheelie, I was off!  I’d sneak out of the hospital and go host my own music video show and when I was finished with the interviews… I would hear the dance floor calling me to…so off I went.”

Like a lot of new wheelchair users, Auti found the bowel and bladder issues the biggest obstacle to overcome.  But even that didn’t slow her down very much. “I knew that God had preserved me to serve.  And I knew I could serve this calling best through dance.  That’s what I know best how to do!  I do,” Auti admits ruefully, “yell at God now and then.  Like what happened with that agency.  Oh, this is a good story!”  I can hear Auti snuggle down to share another great anecdote of how she got here.

“Certainly, I’ve yelled at God!  I yelled ‘put me back in the game!’” 

“There was this agency, I auditioned for their dance dept. They watched me do my thing and then said, that was very cool but I don’t think we’ll ever have anything for you.  Afterwards I went home and  yelled at God to put me back in the game, 3 days later that same agency called me and said we’ve just had a choreographer call who needs a Latin Female in a wheelchair who can dance and do tricks.” As I marvel at the serendipity of the event, Auti continues, “You see I went to the audition and Hi-HAT (choreographer) turned and said I was looking for you, which I had never met her before- she was choreographing a music video for Ludacris.  The song was,” Auti laughs uproariously, “rather ironically called Stand Up.” 

With her flashing dark eyes, a mouth that can grin or sneer convincingly and her screaming pink-red hair, Auti isn’t likely to be overlooked.  She has been a ground-breaking force for people with disabilities long before it was acceptable or even heard of in the industry.

 It was no accident that a wheelchair developer named John Box hired her to be his spokesmodel for the fledgling Colours Wheelchair Company.

“John asked me to be spokesmodel, but I got bored just sitting around at trade shows.  I asked him, ‘Can I bring a mini boombox and dance?  Once he saw the crowd it pulled in, he was all for it! Everybody would come and it was a showstopper.” #Auti Angel #Push #Girl That was the birth of the famed Colours Girls – Auti with long dark hair and Briana Walker with long blonde hair. 

I ask Auti how the Colours Girls came to be.  “I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone this story before!” Auti laughs.  “It was at a trade Show.  I was in the Colours booth doing my thing and Briana came up and said  OMG, I used to be a dancer!’  I said, ‘What do you mean used to be?  Once a dancer always a dancer!’ and she asked if she could dance with me.  I said sure, so Brianna would come to my house, and we would dance.  We’d been rehearsing together for about 3 months, I guess, when HI-HAT asked me “want to do the vibe music awards?” “Of course and then I told her, ‘Hey, I’ve got this girlfriend I’m working with now, you want to see her?’ So, we danced!”

I asked how it went and Auti pauses, searching for the right words. “Briana is so, how do I put this in words?  She’s beautiful, and she’s your typical Orange County girl, so she would be smiling throughout.” Auti is laughing louder now. “With hip hop, you have to make all these faces – we don’t smile so much. So I went to Brianna and said ‘You’ve got to look tougher and not grin all the time!  She did it and we did the gig together.  It was awesome.”

This was all a lead-in to the groundbreaking Push Girls TV series, which ran for 2 years on the Sundance channel.  Knowing Auti has been asked plenty about the series, I just brush lightly on what the experience had meant to her.

“Really one, no two things.  Well, three actually – the most important one was Sisterhood.  We were all best friends prior to shooting. Season two tried to destroy that sisterhood.  The producers wanted conflict.  They planted seeds and because of some immaturity at the time we took the bait, however there was no way they could destroy what we had.”

“Number two was that we got to show the world how frickin’ amazing the disabled community is and number three is we got to show how the disabled community can do anything.  Yeah, they call us inspirational and all that, but these individuals were doing amazing things prior to the wheelchairs.”

Knowing that Auti has been through recent surgeries and health crises, I ask if her faith has been shaken on her journey.  Has she ever had doubts?

“Doubts?  For some crazy strange reason, I don’t.  Every single time God has pulled me through.  The gift of dance has saved my life over and over again.  Even though this last surgery that was so traumatic, you know deep down inside there is an inkling of that feeling that everything will turn out ok.

“Last surgery God said ‘Trust my Process’.  No matter what you believe in, trust God’s process.  Trust God’s process within yourself, with circumstances, with your loved ones.  Everyone has their own individual walk with God.  I don’t press my beliefs on anyone, however I will always share what worked for me. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, that’s what works for me.  How can you deny something that blesses you?  I couldn’t deny it if I tried.

“I wish I could describe that feeling I had when I died. There’s no physical feeling, there’s just peace and joy.   I wish the world wouldn’t judge religion! If people realized that we each have our own individual walk with God, then there would be peace.  Don’t judge it.”

Over the past few decades Auti has also given of her time and talent to teach dance moves to people in wheelchairs at various trade shows including the Abilities Expos.

As she shows the wheelchair community that they can dance in their chairs, the joy in unmistakable.

And now?  Having recovered from a difficult surgery that led to seizures and eventually a spinal fusion from T-8 all the way down to her tailbone, what is next for Auti Angel?

Auti casually replies, “I’m writing a book based on my life story and writing a screenplay, also based on my life story.  And I think it might be time for a converted minivan for this multi-faceted Hip Hop Diva in this industry that we call entertainment.”

She pauses, considering the images this conjures.

“Or maybe an SUV.  Not sure I’m ready for a minivan.”

You can follow Auti Angel under the handle @autiangel on all social media platforms.

Or you can contact her by visiting her website at AUTIANGEL.COM

Beginner Tips for Intermittent Catheters

If you are new to intermittent catheterization (commonly referred to as CIC- Clean Intermittent Catheterization) I have been there. I speak from experience (20+ years of personally using intermittent catheters). CIC can be overwhelming at first, but over time and with practice, it gets easier. It really does. 

In the beginning, give yourself grace – and patience. Things like hand dexterity, mobility, and anatomy are factors that make learning CIC unique to each individual.

Here are 6 tips that have worked for me:

  1. Knowledge is key.

Don’t be reluctant to ask questions. This is a learning process, and it is important to allow yourself space to ask questions.

  1. Try different intermittent products.

The overall convenience of the catheter will help make the process easier. There are many types of products to choose from. Ask your physician (and/or support team) which will work best for your individual situation. Here is a helpful checklist of starter questions to ask:

  • Should you use latex, rubber, silicone, or polyvinylchloride (PVC)? The material of the catheter influences the rigidity.
  • Non-hydrophilic catheters vs hydrophilic catheters? Uncoated/Non-coated catheters; some catheters are pre-lubricated or manufactured with a coating that improves catheter lubrication and eases insertion.
  • Should you use a “No-touch” or “Touchless” catheterization?
  1. Request free samples

(https://urostathealthcare.com/contact/ is a link that provides free samples)

  1. Find support

Support can be found in many ways. Ask other IC users. Talk openly with your urologist or primary care physician. Call your durable medical provider. Join online support groups that offer a place to ask questions.

  1. Get to know your body.

Learn your body and don’t be shy to discover it. Even after spinal cord injury, the body is amazing! Give yourself permission to explore and understand your body after injury. This will help you know when changes occur, like urinary tract infection or pressure sores. It is your body; take good care of it.  

  1. You’re NOT alone.

Incontinence is an ‘able-bodied issue as well. Urinary elimination can be compromised by illness, surgery, pregnancy, menopause, and other conditions.

Most people feel apprehensive about performing Intermittent Self Catheterization. It can be a bit awkward to start with but with practice, you will soon become confident, your local health care professional will offer you support until you feel able to manage alone.  Most people go on to say that they find it easy to self-catheterize after a time.

Helpful Definition of Terms:

Clean Intermittent Catheterization (CIC)
Refers to the act of draining urine by passing a catheter through the urethra, past the sphincter into the bladder. The catheter is removed after the urine has been drained. This process is performed using a clean technique. A new sterile catheter is used for each episode.

Clean Intermittent Self Catheterization (CISC)
Performing CIC for oneself.

Clean Technique
The process of performing a procedure under clean conditions in order to reduce the number of microorganisms. This includes handwashing, non-sterile gloves, a clean field, and clean or sterile equipment.

Hydrophilic Coated Urinary Catheters
Urinary catheters which are coated, and either activated with water or pre-packed with a sterile gel or fluid reservoir.

Mitrofanoff
A surgical procedure in which the appendix and bowel are used to create a connection between the bladder and the abdominal skin surface to allow for urinary catheterization through a stoma.

Neurogenic Bladder
A dysfunction of the bladder due to a neurological condition.

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
An infection of the kidney ureter, bladder, and/or urethra.

*Please be advised these are suggestions on how to use an intermittent self catheter. Consult your physician before use.

UroStat Founder Bert Burns on Living a Full Life After SCI

Bert Burns’ experience in the disability industry and dedication to the community goes back almost 40 years. In addition to his career in the medical supply business, Bert has always been passionate about wheelchair sports and helping others. In this blog, we share his story of how he created a full, happy life and family after spinal cord injury – and how he believes others can, too.

Bert Burns Faces SCI at 20

While attending University of Central Florida in the early 80’s, Bert Burns was your typical college student. He was a part of a fraternity and worked waiting tables at a local restaurant in his off time. However, no one can anticipate a life-changing event that’s waiting around the corner. One late night after his shift, Bert was on his was home and was hit by a drunk driver who had run a red light going over double the speed limit.

Both Bert and the individuals riding in the other vehicle were thrown from their cars. The first responder on scene came to assist Bert initially, but wasn’t able to find a pulse, so he moved on to the other three people. By some miracle, there were other paramedics in the area that heard the call and came to offer help. When they went to deal with what they thought was a dead body, they discovered that Bert was still alive and revived him. He had sustained a C-6/7 spinal cord injury.

During rehab in Florida, Bert says his recreational therapist made the most profound impact on him and his future. their influence would set him on a new path that would not only help him find strength and purpose, but allow him to pay that gift forward to others.

A Life-Long Athlete, Bert Rediscovers Sports in Rehab

While in rehab, Bert had the opportunity to meet wheelchair athletes that showed him what could be possible. He also had the chance to try out a racing wheelchair, but couldn’t quite imagine actually racing, since rolling down the hallway at a snail’s pace was enough of a challenge. On one outing, he was able to try out tennis, too.

“I couldn’t even hold the tennis racket,” Bert recalls. “So, they duct-taped the racket to my hand – and that worked. If they threw the ball within a couple feet of me, I was even able to hit it!”

After 4 months, Bert was discharged from rehab. At that point, he was far from independent, so he decided to move in with his parents. He remembers, “I began my process to start living independently. One evening, I decided to try and get some exercise and see how far I could roll. I tried to roll just a few houses down the block to the stop sign. I made it, but was exhausted and needed my brother to help push me back. The next night, I made it to the stop sign and half way back on my own. On the third night, I made it there and all the way back without help.”

Those three days changed Bert’s perspective on what he could be capable of, if he put the work in. He shares, “I realized that experience represented my ‘baby steps.’ That happened in June and right then, I made the decision to participate in a 5K in September. It wasn’t going to be easy, so I trained every single day with the help of my family.”

Bert’s Love for Wheelchair Racing is Born

Bert remembers his first race vividly. He says, “I arrived at the starting line in a huge, heavy E&J wheelchair. I watched as other athletes showed up in racing chairs, which were really new at the time, and I knew nothing about them. There were about 500 contestants and I proceeded to finish last. Very last… behind the kids and the grandmas. But, I had all the support and I didn’t give up.”

“My fraternity brothers walked with me the whole way and when I crossed the finish line,” Bert recalls, “My time was one hour and five minutes and I knew in that moment, that that would be my slowest time ever. I stuck with it and I finished – and I would only get better from there.”

With a friend’s help, Bert soon purchased a racing wheelchair and began practicing more. He couldn’t possibly know at that time, though, what an important part of his life the sport would be.

Paying it Forward

Bert was ready to return to school, but because of his experience at rehab, he decided to switch his focus from business to recreational therapy. He graduated in the fall of ’88 from the University of Florida and accepted his first job at Shepherd Center in Atlanta as a Sports and Fitness Specialist, which was something of a dream job.

Being surrounded by other wheelchair athletes at Shepherd really motivated Bert to get more serious about racing. Shepherd had a team, so he began training with other racers 5-6 nights per week. His first major race was in 1990 with an international team with which he was able to compete in the Netherlands for the World Championships. But his most cherished moment in racing came a couple years later.

In 1992, Bert achieved his goal of making the Paralympic Team and was invited to attend the games in Barcelona, Spain. He participated in three events – the 5K meter track, the marathon and the 4×400 relay. His team won the gold medal and set a world record.

“I remember being on the stand, them putting the medal around my neck, the American Flag flying with our anthem and the crowd cheering. I couldn’t believe it. It was only 10 years after my injury. All the memories flooded through my mind. I remembered trying to get to that stop sign. I remembered all the people that helped me get there. I will never forget how it felt.”

Bert Finds a New Way to Help People Who Roll

Eventually, Bert transitioned from RT to the medical supply business. After some experience in the industry, he started his own company, called UroMed. The company saw 18 successful years before Bert sold it and took some time off to be with his family. 

After a few years, Bert decided to get back into the medical supply business. He reflects, “I missed work and realized I could take all the knowledge I’d gained from my past experiences and create an even better company and keep helping people. So, I started UroStat Healthcare.”

“A lot of times, it’s hard for people to fight through their private insurance to get things paid for – and we can definitely do that for them. We’re here to help out folks that are in the same situation that I was in once upon a time.”

What Motivates Bert

Above all, Bert is a doting and dedicated husband and father. Bert met his wife, Joy, when she was working as a recreational therapist in a rehab center he came to call on. After a couple phone conversations, Bert remembers the moment when he first saw her in person, “I called her name, Joy, and she turned around with the biggest, most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. I thought to myself in that moment, ‘I’m going to marry this girl.’”

Just a few months later, Bert organized a fairy-tale proposal for Joy at Cinderella’s castle, where Cinderella herself participated in the presentation of the engagement ring. They were married the next year and welcomed their beautiful twins into the world a few years later. The twins are 18 today and headed to Auburn in the fall for college.

If Bert could give advice to those new to dealing with a spinal cord injury, it’s as simple as this – life goes on after your injury. He says, “Once it happens, it doesn’t mean life’s over – it’s just different. In truth, your life will be what you make of it. If you decide life sucks, it will. But, if you go home and say, ‘hey, these are the cards I was dealt’ and move forward, life will go on. I mean, obviously, I didn’t wake up one day and decide I wanted to be a quadriplegic. Would I like to walk? Sure. But, truth is, I can roll faster than most people walking.”

“Everyone has a wheelchair. Sometimes it’s an actual wheelchair. Sometimes it’s divorce, addiction or losing someone we love. Sometimes it’s anger or low self-esteem. But, every one of us has something to carry.”

To learn more about UroStat, visit our About Page!

    We provide FREE samples of urinary catheters.
    If you aren’t sure which product to go with, request
    free samples from us to help you along the way.