GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A three-month trip through Africa could be life-changing in any number of ways, but for Jocelyn Dettloff, it changed her whole trajectory. She had already traveled through Europe, Australia and New Zeeland when she saved up the money for her adventure in Africa.

It’s the starting point for her book, “It Rained in the Desert,” with a cover that features a picture of Dettloff looking off into the distance at the sunrise.

“I always liked that picture… I just feel like I’m just looking ahead to the future,” Dettloff said.

If she could go back in time to the young woman in that picture, Dettloff said “I would tell myself, that things are gonna be okay. Life will be good. It’ll be hard, but good.”

The hardest part was about to begin on the day that picture was taken. Dettloff and her traveling companions hiked up the popular Dune 45 in Namibia, Africa, carrying boards with them to sled down the dune.

It was an activity they had enjoyed at previous stops and were looking forward to trying again.

“I was having a great time until I realized, I’m going really fast, and I’m having a hard time slowing down,” Detloff explained.

She thought a mound of dirt at the bottom of the dune would help, and while it did stop her board, it did not stop her body. Detloff tumbled through the air and landed in such a way that damaged her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed from the chest down.

The journey from being a person who could walk, to a person who uses a chair, was a hard long road — one that Dettloff describes in her book, “It Rained in the Desert”.

It took her 10 years to write, taking long breaks in between moments of inspiration, and Dettloff had it published 10 years ago. More recently, she realized her book may not address one of the very things she advocates for on a daily basis now; accessibility.

“Not everybody can hold a book if you have an injury where your arms and hands are affected,” she explained.

That was one of several reasons she decided to record an audio version of her book, which debuted in late January.

“When you speak it out loud, in a way it has more power. Especially working with Stuart Poltrock at Sound Post Studios, having another person right there with you who’s hearing it, it’s very, kind of, freeing,” she said.

The book explains the many milestones Dettloff passed from the moment of her injury, including the trek home from Namibia to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she went through rehabilitation at Mary Free Bed Hospital, and the many ignorant comments she’s heard from people.

For example, while working at Schuler’s Book Stores in Grand Rapids, which was Dettloff’s first job following her accident, she writes one man asked her how long she’d been “crippled,” an insulting, derogatory term.

She also discusses finding able-bodied women in the wheelchair-accessible bathroom when many other stalls are open, and other behaviors from well-meaning people who simply don’t understand the implications of their behavior. Experiences like that are part of what inspired her to write the book.

“People have their stereotypes about people with disabilities, people who use chairs, people who might have spinal cord injuries. It’s kind of always been in me to break those stereotypes… some people ask me, ‘how should I treat somebody with a disability?’ and I’m like, however, you would treat anybody else. You know, it’s, we’re all just people,” she said.

Dettloff will mark a major milestone this year, the 26th anniversary of her accident. That’s significant because she was 26 years old at the time of the accident.

She said, “April 13th. At some point on that day I will have been paralyzed or a chair user for longer than being a walking person….. I forgot how hard it was in the beginning and that’s why I’m thankful I kept my journals because (writing the book) I was able to go back and be reminded of that.”

Her advice to anyone who experiences a life-changing event is to keep moving forward.

“I just share the things I’ve done, how I’ve learned to cope, to move on and keep living your life because I think that we’ve all learned life is short and we have to make the most of it,” she said.

Dettloff also speaks at different events to motivate others to overcome struggles in their own life. Information on how to request an appearance is available on her website.