This article was originally published in our 1999 Fall Newsletter and published on our website in the early 2000s. We found that there was still a number of active Internet links to this page, so we have republished it with the original text and photos.

Dianne O’Dell’s Story

Dianne with a microphone headset and a computer monitor in front of herEveryone has dreams: Dreams of personal success, of power or influence, perhaps even of greatness or wealth. Anyone who believes in dreams knows that they do come true, even if only fulfilled in some small way; and in so doing they help to significantly mould and shape our lives. Dianne O’Dell is one such dreamer. Dianne was born February 13, 1947, at a time when polio was savagely claiming victims throughout the country. Dianne was snared by the throes of polio in June of 1950 and accepted the consequences of this formidable enemy without fully understanding the implications or the decisiveness of its attack. Dianne was imprisoned by an iron lung shortly thereafter, and there she remains, depending upon it to breathe for her while she cannot.

Dianne always dreamed of writing a children’s book. But she despised the idea of dictating it for someone else to write and longed to do this herself, in much the same way as she longs to hug someone.

Dianne said, “I have had two dreams in my life. The ability to write without the help of others” and “to write my own letters and perhaps books.” She continues, “My dream of writing a book without help has come true. I had started a children’s book over 12 years ago. The computer I had then gave me nothing but frustration. It must have been three years before I realized that the method of voice recognition that I was using would never work for my voice. It broke my heart to think of all the wasted money people had contributed for my benefit. Now my expectations have been more than fully realized . . . I am making good progress.”

Dianne smiles

In the early 80s Dianne acquired a voice-input computer with which she could dictate one letter at a time. “Charlie Alpha Tango” produced the word “cat”. By today’s standards this method of putting text into a computer seems rather primitive, but Dianne managed to take a giant step forward with that computer and make a good start on her first book.

It was a long, hard road, and Dianne soon became weary of the ordeal. Combined with failing health, voice recognition errors too numerous to count, and other difficulties, the book was not to be finished at that time. Then in the nineties, voice input technology made a giant leap. Now, through numerous donations by friends and family; not to mention a yard sale and bake sale or two, Dianne has acquired a 1998 model computer system with word processing software and voice input software much more suited to her needs. Dianne has now acquired enough skills using her computer to write letters to friends and family, create greeting cards and, more importantly, to finish her first children’s book, which is now at the publisher.

Congratulations, Dianne, from all of us at The STAR Center, for a job well done.