We met Pat Schmitt in September, 2011 through Twitter and smiled at his Twitter background emblazoned with “I’m only it for the parking.” Once we saw his lively YouTube video “doing donuts” in the snow in his motorized chair, we knew we HAD to get to know this guy. We thought you would like to meet him as well.
“Sure, I have challenging days, but I believe that if I couldn’t handle it, I wouldn’t have been dealt the situation.” ~Pat Schmitt
Pat Schmitt is an active man who doesn’t let his spinal cord injury limit what he can enjoy in life.
Pat was injured in a motorcycle accident on September 1, 2006. He was 22 years old at the time. After spending 45 days in a coma, Pat awoke to learn that he had sustained a C5/6 injury.
Losing the use of his hands and legs was devastating to the active man, who loved riding his motorcycle and playing softball five nights a week.
Five years later, Pat has a refreshed attitude and can-do spirit. “I have learned to keep doing the activities I love,” he says. “I can’t do them the same way I did before, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy softball, motorsports, or hunting.”
The changes in Pat’s outlook didn’t occur overnight.
The first year post-injury was a rough one for Pat. He recovered in a local Milwaukee hospital, coming home with a pressure sore so extreme that he was bedridden for six months. He also had no physical therapy that first year.
Pat’s situation would soon change for the better. On the first anniversary of his injury, he received his first therapy at the Shepherd Center, an Atlanta-based rehabilitation center. “This was the best experience,” Pat says. “Not only did I get therapy, but by meeting 20 or so other people in chairs, I got to learn by seeing how others did things.”
After only six weeks at Shepherd, Pat returned home. He realized his outlook had improved. “Sure, I have challenging days,” he says, “but I believe that if I couldn’t handle it, I wouldn’t have been dealt the situation.”
He also learned how important it can be to rely on family and friends to help when times are rough. “My family and good friends have been incredible in keeping my spirits up when I felt overwhelmed,” Pat says.
New career outlook
One of the most difficult aspects of Pat’s injury was not being able to use his hands. At the time he was injured, Pat was working as a service technician for a door manufacturer and travelled all over the country performing door installations and training people.
Pat knew he needed to seek career retraining. In 2010, he enrolled in Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin to work on his associate’s degree in business management. He admits that schoolwork is not his favorite thing, however he devotes himself to his studies and to meeting new people in the classroom.
In addition to his studies, Pat recently became a spokesperson for Rollin Wear, a line of apparel for people in wheelchars that Schmitt is proud to represent.
“I am happy to be working with Rollin Wear,” Pat says. “I’ll get to learn more about marketing and they are really good people. They will be coming out with a new line of adaptive fit jeans in the near future that I’m excited about.”
Advice for the newly injured
Given the rough start Schmitt had right after his injury, Pat has words of advice for others who are facing a spinal cord injury:
1) Stay strong. It WILL get better.
“Injury is hard to accept sometimes, but be thankful that you are still here. Don’t focus on the hand you have been dealt.”
2) Don’t get discouraged if some friends “disappear.”
“You may find that some of your loved ones will have a hard time dealing with your injury—not everyone can adapt to the change in your relationship. That is their problem, not yours.”
“On the plus side, some people will surprise you for the good—you will discover that you have solid friends that you didn’t expect that will be there for you through the tough times.”
3) Remember: Your life is not over, you just have to adapt.
“I was devastated after my injury because hunting was such a big part of my life. That first hunting season, I thought ‘I’m never going to be able to hunt again.’ But I learned that although it was different, I could still go out in the woods with my friends and hunt—I just had to do things differently. Since 2007, I have shot three turkeys and three deer.”
“I also coach a fast-pitch softball team for girls ages 13 to 15. At first I thought it would be horrible to be out there when I couldn’t play. But now, I’m assistant coach with the team and have regained my love of the sport and it turns out that coaching has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
4) Live life to the fullest!
“What gets me through is realizing that tomorrow is not a promise—you have to live life to the fullest each day. Be thankful for your health and that you are still here. Life rolls on.”
Do you know someone, like Pat, who is an inspiration for people with spinal cord injuries? Please contact Will2Walk to discuss an online profile. We would love to meet you.