Back in October 2010, when Stephanie Aiello was just 20 years old and returning from a trip to Las Vegas with two of her close girl friends, she ended up dozing off as she was driving. The car veered off the freeway and they crashed.
One of Aiello’s friends didn’t make it and Aiello herself was injured at the C-5 level. This meant that Aiello would be paralyzed from the chest down.
After the accident, Aiello was sent for rehabilitation at Casa Colina in Pomona, California. Her mother, Sandra Aiello, went with her daughter to the center to become her full-time caregiver. Every day, they worked together to help rebuild Aiello’s muscles and allow her to regain her independence.
Aiello made quick progress and by Christmas Day, the doctors had given her permission to leave the facilities to travel with her parents to her grandmother’s home in Upland, California. It was just her second time leaving the center, and 40 family and friends had gathered for the occasion.
Then, tragedy struck again.
As Aiello’s parents were driving away from Casa Colina, a drunk driver ran a red light. He’d been driving at 70 mph when he slammed into the Aiello’s car.
The entire family survived, but suffered severe injuries.
Marco Aiello, Stephanie’s father, suffered a concussion, bruises, and a swollen knee. Sandra, who had been in the backseat with Stephanie’s wheelchair, got the worst of the crash because of the wheelchair’s many parts. She had broken ribs, a fractured scapula, a punctured spleen, as well as other injuries across her body.
That Christmas, the family spent the night in the hospital with Sandra on the operating table and Marco kept in the hospital for treatment. While Marco was released the next day, Sandra had to remain in the facility for further treatment and her own rehabilitation before she was allowed to leave.
In the wake of the second accident, family and friends have taken turns serving as Aiello’s caregiver in Casa Colina.
“The saddest part of the whole story is that Sandy, the mother, was her 24-hour caregiver,” said one of the Aiello’s family friends, Tracy Crow. “She never left the site. She was doing everything for Stephanie - feeding her, bathing her. Now she's in the hospital.”
Although Aiello is pushing herself through her rehab and treatment, everyone is concerned for her psychological health. “Her beautiful smile is diminishing,” Aiello’s aunt, Angie Atkins, noticed.
Now, six years later in 2017, Aiello’s life has completely changed. Not only have she and her parents recovered well enough to return home and be a family together, but she’s also been able to continue pursuing the career goals that had been put on hold when she got into her first car accident in 2010.
Back then, Aiello had been on track to become a cosmetologist.
Now, Aiello has her own YouTube channel where she teaches her followers how to do stunning makeup looks. In each video, you can see her struggle to use the brushes, pick up her palettes because of her paralysis, but she doesn’t let this stop her.
Over the years, she’s found ways to open her brushes and thread tools creatively through her fingers to use them as effectively as she could before the accident.
She has thousands of followers on YouTube and Instagram now. Aiello is eager to take on the full responsibility of her role as a social media figure. She strives to provide her followers with good makeup tips and techniques, but she also hopes to share enough of her story and her journey to encourage and reassure others that they, too, can get through whatever challenges they are facing.
Aiello is refusing to let her limitations define her and “doesn’t like when people tell [her] what [she] can do.”
See how she’s doing today: