Eden Welply started learning how to play guitar at age 8, and she quickly learned that playing music could change the air in the room.


"I was getting very good at it," she says. "I can say that now, but I definitely wouldn’t have said that before."


Welply’s life will forever have a "before." In February, she was heading to class at Texas State University in San Marcos and was hit by a car.


Although doctors didn’t think she’d survive, Welply has spent the past 10 months in and out of hospitals and rehab centers. She can no longer walk or use her hands, but that hasn’t stopped her from dreaming about making music.


Welply was nominated for this year’s Statesman Season for Caring campaign by the Health Alliance for Austin Musicians, an organization that helps local musicians get access to health care and insurance. Season for Caring helps the featured families first but then helps hundreds of others through the local nonprofit organizations with which it partners.


Before the accident, Welply was a 24-year-old barista in South Austin, who was writing and recording songs for an album and studying art history and women’s studies in college.


"Music creates an experience in any space," she says. "That’s why I was attracted to performing. People really took to what I was doing."


Her spinal cord wasn’t completely severed, but the injury was so high in her neck that doctors assumed the worst: Total paralysis,with little or no movement below her neck. But because she has regained some movement in her arms and wrists, she can work an iPad, which means she can work on music.


The injury compromised her diaphragm, so although she can still sing, her voice doesn’t have as much force as it used to. "I feel really separate from that person now currently, but people would be really quiet when I was playing and singing," she says.


She’s also using her voice in new ways: To speak up for herself about her own medical care and to speak out about what it’s like as a young person who has experienced a catastrophic injury. "I want to advocate and educate so people can feel good about what they have, but so that people understand that this could happen to anyone at any time."


As she quickly discovered in the various care facilities she’s lived at this year, rehab is hard to come by in the U.S. "It’s a crude thing for an injured person," she says. "Help shouldn’t be that way, but it is. But it’s completely out of my control."


Insurance companies and care companies struggle to pay a living wage to at-home caregivers, so the quality of the care isn’t great unless you’re lucky enough to get a spot in a rehab-dedicated facility like the one she’s staying at in Houston.


"The transition from hospital to hospital can be overwhelming, and there have been a lot of hospitals," she says.


This most recent tradition to TIRR Memorial Hermann has been particularly rough. She had been at home for a few months this summer and was at another rehab facility in Central Texas, but while being transferred to Houston, she developed sepsis from kidney stones. Her fevers were so high that she was having seizures.


But even with that setback, she’s been making gains. She can now put on her socks and turn herself in bed at night. "But it hurts a little in the middle of my head," she says. "You can feel the neurons that are so weak, and my legs feel so heavy."


Welply had so many facial fractures that she says she looks like a different person, but because her brain wasn’t permanently damaged, she feels like her personality is the same.


She’s still a dreamer, an artist, an advocate, and her art has already been a place for her to express and console herself.


"Things get life-threatening quickly, so my health has to be what I’m thinking about, but I think a lot about music at night," she says.


While in the ICU earlier this year, she wrote an album’s worth of songs. There’s one called "Could I Forget Myself?" Another, called "White Wedding," is about letting go of romance. "Or maybe not," she says.


Even while still undergoing rehab to try to recover as much function as she can, she’s working on a grant proposal with one of her art professors at Texas State for a mixed media art exhibit called "The New Normal" to explore the way people see what disability looks like.


"For most people, being in a hospital can haunt you," she says. "The ventilator wasn’t a small plastic thing with tubes. It was a large, living organism."


Her physical injuries have been humbling, but so have the emotional ones. "In life, we compartmentalize our struggle and our pain, but when it’s in your face like this, there’s no way for me to push it back," she says.


She died on the operating table on the day of her accident, and that brush with death has transformed her profound ways. "You can’t control any of this," she says. "But you do have the choice to make life the way you want it to be."


Welply would love to have help with putting together the art exhibit ‘The New Normal,’ as well as home health care when she gets home, a cleaning service, music recording sessions, Dragon Dictate software, an Ableton Sensory Percussion Kit and track pad, and an adapted vehicle.


To find out more about Welply or to donate an item on her wish list, contact Health Alliance for Austin Musicians (HAAM), 512-541-4226, myhaam.org.