Lisa Nussbaum and her high school sweetheart, Jason, picked up making pinecone art at just the right time as the craft has kept her busy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DALTON If you see Lisa Nussbaum at the store, library or around town, it’s OK to ask her why she uses a wheelchair.
Over the years, the 43-year-old Dalton resident has experienced many times when she is out in public where young children may point at her or say something to the grown-up with them to ask why she is in a wheelchair.
Children are often shushed or whisked away – and families may avoid Nussbaum altogether.
Nussbaum, who for years has presented in front of classrooms and other organizations about preventing spinal cord injuries, said she doesn’t mind when parents give her the opportunity to answer children when they have questions about her. Some parents have given her that option when children point her out, and she appreciates it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has kept Nussbaum from visiting schools throughout Stark County as part of Aultman’s Think First program. For several years, Nussbaum and a trauma nurse have visited schools speaking about risky behaviors and preventing injuries.
“As long as I can prevent one kid out of every class I speak to from getting injured, I feel I still have a purpose in speaking to the classes,” she said.
Until she resumes speaking engagements, a newfound hobby has kept her busy.
Before her injury, Nussbaum was working toward becoming a lawyer. Instead, she is an entrepreneur. Over the years, she has sold makeup, handmade jewelry, and now pinecone art has taken off.
Since February, Nussbaum has made over 60 hand-painted pinecone wreaths and flower arrangements. One wreath takes about 20 hours to complete. She has photos of her work and sells through Facebook: “Lisa’s Pine Cone Patch,” and Instagram: “lisas_pine_cone_patch.”
A couple of friends have helped to keep her with a good supply of pinecones.
She also offers inspiration to others as she keeps up her positive attitude and shares some of her daily adventures on Facebook.
Last month, Nussbaum was featured in the Spinal Cord Injury Model System fall newsletter.
How Lisa rolls
Fiercely independent, smart, and creative – and self-proclaimed as stubborn – the 1996 Dalton High graduate’s personality traits and positive attitude have helped following her spinal cord injury at 21. Nussbaum was getting ready for her senior year of college when a diving accident suddenly left her without use of most of her body. Nussbaum is considered a quadriplegic, but she has some use of her arms and hands. She worked hard to learn how to pick up a fork and pencil again, and to learn how to get around in a wheelchair. Nussbaum spent three months at MetroHealth Hospital in Cleveland. She went through physical and occupational rehab six days a week. About a year after her injury, tendon transfers on her arms were a big help to her.
She later completed her college classes.
“I feel like my stubbornness and independence helped me after the injury because I wanted to regain as much independence as I could,” she said.
“A lot of friends and family have helped,” she said. “We’ve definitely had a community of support.”
She continues to need a nurse most days of the week, but when she is on her own, she is resourceful. What happens if she drops her cellphone on the floor? Without the use of her stomach muscles or legs, she can’t lean down and pick it up. It may take some effort and ingenuity, but Nussbaum will figure out how to retrieve her cellphone by herself – thanks to a broom, dustpan, plastic bag and a hanger.
“Things were definitely a challenge in the beginning,” she said. “They still are but I’ve learned to be creative to adapt things to make them work for me as best they can.”
Nussbaum had been engaged to be married, but her fiance eventually left her after her injury. Like a love story out of a movie, she was reunited with her “high school sweetheart.”
“Jason and I have built a wonderful home where I have the freedom to do all the things I love,” Nussbaum writes on her website, howlisarolls.weebly.com.
“Everybody tells me we should write a book,” she said.
Lisa and Jason live in Dalton with their cat, Zanga. Nussbaum vacuums, sweeps and enjoys gardening.
“I can do all those things – I just do them differently,” she said.
Nussbaum’s favorite hobby is cooking. She has original recipes on her website.
“I’m all about the attitude,” she said. Nussbaum writes on her Facebook page, “How Lisa Rolls,” in a 2019 post: “My hope is that if anyone faces what I have, you do so with as much positive attitude, determination, and acceptance as possible! And don’t forget humor!”