This molecular biology researcher shares how he re-entered the workforce after a spinal cord injury
On Christmas Eve, 2007, cancer researcher Dave Gillespie collided with a tree while snowboarding at the Brighton ski area in Utah.
His spine was stretched to the point of severe damage resulting in a T6 complete break – no sensation from the sternum down.
“I never lost consciousness,” recalls Gillespie. “I knew most of the surgeons who were likely to be operating on me, and I remember telling the emergency medical personnel exactly who to call and how to reach them.”
The team of surgeons fused his spine between T-9 and T-12, and he spent five and a half months in the hospital.
Going back to work meant creatively navigating the workspace
Dave says he always wanted to get back to work and his current research on brain cancer. “It was (and is) my passion.” He returned a year after his accident.
His employers at the Huntsman Cancer Institute kept his spot open. But how did they help to create an accessible workplace – a bustling, close-quarters laboratory filled with co-workers?
“Lab work is usually done standing up so there’s not really any room for the wheelchair underneath the tables,” says Dave. “Equipment like microscopes and centrifuges, which are expensive, are typically shared. There is little space to spare so supplies are stored on high shelves.”
The solution was not to alter the lab, but rather, to alter Dave’s wheelchair. He now uses an electric wheelchair that converts by to a standing position, locking Dave’s legs into place so he doesn’t fall over.
Impact to family life
Dave and his wife knew about wheelchairs long before the snowboarding accident. Their middle son, Russel, has a form of epilepsy that causes multiple seizures daily and has left him with mental capacity of a nine-month old.
“My SCI has been very stressful on our marriage. It’s a lot harder on my wife than me. She has a whole new set of responsibilities – house chores that I used to do and near solo 24/7 care of Russel, who is 14 years old now and 5’11”.
The couple discussed separating, but made the decision to stay together. They recently celebrated their 21st wedding anniversary.
“In general, I’d say that people are much more open and friendly with me now than before my injury,” Dave says. “But I think that might be because my personality is more socially inclined today, and I’m more talkative than I was before. I’m more of an advocate now.”
Dave’s advice for the newly injured
In the years since Dave’s accident, he has learned a few tricks for making the most out of life despite a spinal cord injury.
“I used the bus to get to work for awhile. I have a van now with hand controls and a ramp so I can roll in. Most vehicles can be modified to fit your needs. This was really important for me because having the car allows me to get out of the house and helps me to feel like a productive member of my family doing the grocery shopping or taking the boys to their activities.”
Focus on the things you can do.
“I’ve had my pity-party days, but ultimately decided that I just couldn’t sit around. I received a grant for a handcycle through the Challenged Athletes Foundation and participated in the St. George and Salt Lake City marathons. I am also active in the University of Utah TRAILS (Therapeutic Recreation and Independent Lifestyles) program.”
“I had to face it straight on. I probably wasn’t getting a miracle. The longer I spent in denial, the longer it was going to take for me to start a new life with my SCI and get back to the people and things I loved. I think this is also good advice for people that want to lend support. Sometimes, they try to be positive and say, “I know you’re going to walk again.” But this can put a lot of pressure and unrealistic expectations on someone with a SCI.”
Don’t let the focus on your disability be a disability.
“I got a broad spectrum of reactions after I returned to work. Some people didn’t talk to me at all. Others wanted to do everything for me. I’m not shy about asking for help when I need it (makes more sense for someone to hand me something from a shelf above their head than for me to completely adjust the chair to sitting mode, then back to standing mode multiple times). But I’m also not shy about saying, “Thank you, I can do that myself.”
Do you have a story about how you re-entered the work world after a spinal cord injury? We would love to interview you for a future profile. Please contact Will2Walk today.
This Texas father-and-son partnership supports injured high school football players with their organization, Gridiron Heroes
“It’s really hard for these guys down the road. They become forgotten athletes.”
~Eddie Canales, co-founder of Gridiron Heroes
Football is more than just a game in Texas.
Hundreds of Texas communities revolve around the excitement of high school football season. For top players, the high school football years can be the best ones of their lives—the young men taste success, competition, and glory.
But there is another side to high school football. Every year in Texas, about three young men sustain spinal cord injuries; the total injured is about a dozen annually for the entire United States.
Chris Canales was one of those young men. In 2001, in his senior year, he was injured while making a touchdown-saving tackle. Doctors told his father, Eddie, that Chris’ spinal cord injury meant that he would likely not be able to move anything below his shoulders.
The Canales family adjusted to their new roles as caregivers; Eddie quit his full-time job to care for his son while Eddie’s wife, Pita, assumed the role as full-time breadwinner.
At another football game, everything changed for Chris and Eddie again
On the first anniversary of his accident, Eddie invited Chris out to a high school football game, hoping to cheer up his son by sharing an activity they had always enjoyed.
During the game—the first one Chris had attended since his accident—the father and son watched in shock as a young man went down on the field and could not stand up. The two men knew instantly what had occurred.
“It was the year anniversary date of his injury. It was starting to sink in that he was going to be in that wheelchair and playing football was over for him. He had already graduated and all his friends were gone. Chris was on a path of depression, wanting to isolate himself from the outside, not wanting to go to rehab and shutting down emotionally. So I took him to a State Championship game. This was the first high school game he attended since his own injury.
I merely wanted to get him out of the house, hoping to snap him out of that mode of feeling sorry for himself. We had no clue, we would witness someone else suffer a spinal cord injury.”
After watching the injury and seeing the player, Corey Fulbright, being lifted and put on a cart, Chris turned to his father and said, “Dad, we needed to go and help him. I know what he is going to go through and you know what the parents are going to go through. We need to go and help them.”
Eddie and Chris spent time at the hospital with the injured player and his family, providing emotional support during the player’s transition to his new life.
From that time, Eddie and Chris realized their calling: to create Gridiron Heroes, a non-profit organization to help high school football players with spinal cord injuries and their families.
“It was as if the Lord revealed his plan for Chris and our family,” says Eddie.
Helping the most vulnerable athletes, those who are injured and forgotten
Unlike college and pro athletes with injuries, high school football players with spinal cord injuries have neither a financial nor emotional support systems.
The parents and the player are left trying to make sense of the injury and figure out how to cope. The team, other students, and the coach are often unprepared for the situation and have few resources to guide them.
Perhaps most trying of all is the agony the injured player feels as he watches his friends go on to college football success, while he must struggle with extreme physical and financial limitations.
“It’s really hard for these guys down the road,” says Eddie. “They become forgotten athletes.”
Eddie and Chris are determined to provide hope to these injured athletes, encouraging them through the mundane-yet-important parts of rehab and helping to inspire the young men to go on living life to the fullest.
Gridiron Heroes also supports the former athletes through financial means as well, providing funds for wheelchairs, vans, pressure-reducing mattresses, and monthly $100 Wal-Mart gift cards to help buy necessary supplies.
The duo has no corporate sponsor and raises all the funds themselves through donations from the football community and benefit events. “We make our funds go a long way,” says Eddie. “Spinal cord injuries can cost a family hundreds of thousands of dollars, so we do what we can to ease their burden.”
One thing remains the same: the love of football
You might think that after dealing with a spinal cord injury sustained from high school football, Eddie, Chris, and other people associated with Gridiron Heroes would be against the sport.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
“Gridiron Heroes is not about deterring people from football,” says Eddie. “We still love football—and all the young men we work with say over and over that if they had it to do again, they would still play. The game of football is a bond we all share.”
Eddie does believe, however, that the football community can and should do more to recognize these young athletes and their sacrifices.
“We hope that the football community will take a bit from the military and start ‘taking care of their own,’” Eddie says. “No one likes to think of the injuries that can happen, but we must deal with these issues as a community so that players get the support they need.”
Eddie Canales and the Gridiron Heroes organization is currently vying for $250,000 in prize money from the CNN Heroes project. People can vote for Eddie as “Hero of the Year” up to 10 times a day until 12/7/11. Please see www.gridironheroes.org to learn more.
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.
“Be normal… actually, never be normal.”~Gina Campbell lives by these words and brightens the world around her with her positive attitude and industrious nature.
Gina Campbell was injured in a diving accident, just before her 18th birthday, on October 11th, 2003. She suffered a break at the C5/C6 level, leaving her in a wheel-chair and with limited use of her hands. Since then, she has continued to pursue her goals with the same gusto as before the injury.
Gina is gregarious, driven, and relentlessly positive.
Facing injury at age 18
Just days before her 18th birthday, Gina left her home and place of birth in Chowchilla, California to pursue her cooking passion and receive culinary training in Tucson, Arizona.
There, she began to work in a restaurant and, typical of Gina, quickly began to make waves. After only working there a short while, she influenced the menu, integrating her own personal flair into the restaurant’s offerings.
On October 11th, 2003, Gina was invited to hang out with some co-workers after work. A miscommunication about the depth of the pool led the young woman to dive into the shallow end.
Gina dove into the shallow end of the pool and instantly felt her neck break, “I knew what had happened. It was so serene, as I laid at the bottom of the pool, I was thinking, okay, I’m going to die.”
She was pulled from the pool by onlookers and rushed to a hospital by ambulance to Tuscon’s University Hospital. Eventually, she was transferred to another hospital in Santa Clara, California to be closer to her family.
Keeping her spirits high during treatment and recovery
Throughout her entire injury and recovery, and despite numerous setbacks including three separate surgeries to fuse her neck, Gina never lost her spirit.
A few months after her injury and after several surgeries, Gina was thin, bruised, and forced to wear a halo brace. Not to be defeated, however, she decorated her halo with flowers.
Initially, Gina dealt with many dismissive physicians: “doctors would come tell my mom ‘she’ll never walk again and never be normal’”. On one instance, later in her treatment, a doctor asked her if she sat around all day. She responded, “I wish I had time for that!”
Gina was lucky to have the support and love of her family throughout her recovery. On one instance, “my aunt was being really solemn when they first came to see me and asked ‘Gina, how do you feel?’ I responded with ‘I don’t!’”.
Today, after numerous surgeries and physical therapy, Gina is paralyzed from the chest down, has paralyzed triceps, and has limited use of her hands.
Education in Arizona
Gina would not let her injury affect her chances of getting a good education.
After several physicians told her she would not be able to handle a few, if any, courses, Gina enrolled in Gilbert Community College. She started fulltime at GCC, and after two years, enrolled fulltime at Arizona State University (Tempe).
Gina graduated from Arizona State recently, in Spring of 2011, with a degree in Political Science.
Since Gina refuses to let dust settle around her, she is now enrolled in law school full time. She plans to become a lawyer and advocate for disability issues on state and national levels.
Activism and handicapped parking
Gina chose Political Science as her major because it directly influences another one of her passions: political disability advocacy.
Gina has been involved with numerous issues that affect those with disabilities, the largest one being handicapped parking laws.
She recounted how she became involved in this arena.
Gina, being an active person, has equipped her car with the tools that allow her to drive. She is, however, dependent upon handicapped parking, as only handicapped parking spaces have the room necessary for her to exit her vehicle.
One day, someone parked in the hash-marked part of a disabled parking spot she was occupying. As it was then (and still is in many places), parking in the hash marks of a handicapped parking spot was not illegal.
Unable to access her vehicle and stuck in 100 degree weather, she began thinking, “something needs to be done.”
Gina has addressed cities across the Phoenix metro area. She spoke in front of the Gilbert City Council and multiple police chiefs to discuss handicapped parking. In the city of Gilbert, she successfully campaigned to tighten enforcement of handicapped parking rules.
“These issues aren’t just important to me, they affect all truly handicapped people, ” she says.
“Food’s my passion”
Gina continues to develop her cooking skills with the same drive as before her injury. She maintains a cooking blog, The Culinary Quad, where she showcases her latest creations.
Although her injury leaves her unable to prepare most food components herself, Gina enlists the help of her husband, Lewis, and her caregivers to assist in cooking what she cannot do herself. This teamwork yields palette-pleasing food that never fail to please the palette.
Maintaining a social life and “high standards”
Gina decided long ago not to let her injury change her outlook on dating: “I’m not lowering my standards just because I’m sitting!”
Not long after her injury, in 2004, Gina met her future husband Lewis. The two were wed on April 17th, 2009.
Advice to the injured
Anyone who knows Gina realizes that nothing can stop this force-of-nature young woman.
Gina offers the following lessons, each of which both the injured and non-injured can take to heart:
Lesson #1: Don’t listen to negativity.
Surrounding yourself with negativity and a negative mindset will make you focus on what you cannot do, leaving yourself unable to be a functioning person.
Lesson #2: Focus on what you can do.
Obsessing over what you cannot do will leave you depressed. Think about what you can achieve and what you want to do. With that attitude, you can achieve anything.
Lesson #3: Do what you did before, just different.
Just because you are injured does not make you any less of the amazing person you were. Just do what you love and do what you can.
Lesson #4: Do what you can.
Fight for it; you know what you are capable of.
Gina’s story is an inspiration to us all. It is a classic example of anything you put your mind to, you can achieve. If you would like to help us share more stories like Gina’s for people with spinal cord injuries, please volunteer or donate to Will2Walk today!
Despite spinal cord injury, a life of accomplishments and joy
On March 26, 1996, Jenny Kreutzer was on a youth group ski trip when her life changed forever. The high-school-age girl slammed into a tree, snapping her spinal cord with an incomplete break at the L-2 and L-3 level.
Over the past 15 years, Jenny has refused to let her disability hinder her energy and passion for living as normally as possible.
Today, Jenny is a wife and mother of two, a human resources professional, an active volunteer with Wheelchair Sports, Inc. , and a Girl Scout troop leader.
The latest in her long list of accomplishments was being crowned Ms. Wheelchair Kansas 2011, an honor Jenny earned for her resilience and determination while living with her spinal cord injury.
We chatted with Jenny about her accomplishments and her daily outlook.
Keeping a positive attitude through a trying time
What made you decide your injury was going to be a part of your life rather than the definition of your life?
“I had a lot of support and I had a lot of things going for me before the injury – high school, the newspaper and work at McDonald’s,” Jenny says.
“I never really thought twice about the chair. I figured I had my arms and my mind, and as long as I had those things, I could still do everything I wanted to do. I guess what kept me going was that it’s just how I’ve always been.”
Setting and accomplishing goals
The office wasn’t wheelchair accessible, so she often had to put in a huge amount of effort to get to the office in her long-legged braces and wanted to try short-legged braces instead.
Her therapists weren’t encouraging when she set this goal, so she took matters into her own hands.
What were some of the goals you set for your physical rehabilitation and how did you accomplish them?
“My first goal was to be able to walk across the stage at my high school graduation,” says Jenny.
“I did that with the long-legged straight braces, which was really strenuous and challenging. After that, I decided I didn’t really need to go to therapy anymore. I was tired of living my life around it.
But one day I thought that maybe if I did put a little bit of effort into it, maybe I would be able to get short-legged braces and then walking could be my primary way of getting around.
So it was just a goal I set for myself at a certain point in college, and I did it!”
Why did you decide to leave your physical therapist and continue on your own? What exercises did you do and did anyone help you?
“I had a bike I had been using for exercise. They had one [at the office] too that they would always have me on for the first 15 minutes or so,” Jenny says.
“I would tell them, ‘I have this at home, I want to do things to help me with my balance and things like that.’ But it seemed like every time I went in, they would just put me on the bike and never get me up.
I went for I think four or five sessions, and I just thought, ‘Why am I wasting my time doing this around their schedule?’
So I started on my own. My mom and I went out and walked around the track and just did it that way.”
Facing her fears by returning to the slopes
Nine years after her accident, Jenny took a huge step in her recovery. She joined the program called Challenge Aspen, an organization in Colorado designed to give first-time disabled skiers an opportunity to tackle the slopes again.
Some people may have thought she was crazy, but it was an important obstacle for Jenny to overcome. She and her husband went again the year after that first run.
Explain what that experience was like, facing the fear and the mountain again after so long.
“When we got there and I was getting fitted for the skis and everything, that’s when it really became real. Like ‘OK, I guess I’m really going to do this!’” said Jenny.
“It wasn’t until we were about halfway down the mountain the first time that it really hit me emotionally. They had me tethered in and I had expert skiers with me, but I think they had more confidence in me than I had in myself.
They had us going a little bit faster than I wanted to go and I got a little freaked out, so I stopped for a bit.
I went and had lunch and decided I wanted to go back – it was what I came here to do. So I went and by the second day I was skiing by myself, which they said was pretty unheard of. I was really proud of that accomplishment.”
Conquering the challenge of motherhood
How did you prepare yourself for the role of mother?
“After my husband and I got married, we never even talked about how many kids we would have or anything, we just assumed we would have them someday, so when we got pregnant, it was kind of a shocker,” Jenny says.
“Everybody asked, ‘Well, how are you going to do that? You’re in a wheelchair.’
I just said, ‘I don’t know, I’ll figure it out just like every other mom figures out how to be a mom.’”
Do your girls understand your disability?
“It’s all they’ve ever known and they don’t acknowledge that it’s any different. There was only one time I can ever remember that one of them acknowledged it,” says Jenny.
“We were at a park and my daughter wanted me to push her [on the swings]. Since it’s so hard to get through the sand in the wheelchair, I told her ‘You can play around by yourself and I’ll sit here and watch.’ Her response was, ‘I wish I had a stand-up mommy.’ That’s the only time she’s ever said anything like that.”
How has being a disabled parent inspired you?
“That experience at the park really inspired me to get involved with a local organization that is making a park for disabled children,” Jenny says.
“I thought, ‘Yeah, that’s wonderful for disabled children, but it’s also great for parents with disabilities who have able-bodied children so they can interact and play with their children at the park.’”
Staying Fit, Healthy and Active Today
Do you use your braces to walk at all, or are you usually in your chair?
“Primarily I use my wheelchair, so even though I can use my short-legged braces, I prefer my chair because it’s easier for me to keep track of my kids and to keep up with my work,” Jenny says. “I get around much faster in my chair so it’s my main mode of transportation. “
How do you keep fit, healthy and active in your wheelchair?
“I am actually a little underweight from what my doctor would like, but not by much, so she encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing.,” Jenny says.
“That’s basically just running after my kids, we go swimming in the summer – I don’t really swim, but I get in the pool and move my legs around.
I eat enough to be full and we really eat healthy. I do play wheelchair tennis, although that’s only a couple months out of the year.
That’s really how I do it is by choosing to eat right, not eating too much, and listening to my body when it tells me certain things I don’t need.”
Creating “A New Normal”: Finding Balance and Strength
How do you think your life would be different without the injury?
“It’s hard to imagine what my life would be like without the injury.” Jenny says. “I would hope that it would be the same, but I don’t think it could be any better. “
“I think by having my injury, it’s helped me to try harder, to do things better, because I always felt like people thought I couldn’t, so I wanted to prove them wrong.
The injury actually opened up a lot of opportunities for me that I wouldn’t have had before. Like college – I wouldn’t have had the scholarship I got. Even though I worked during college, I never had to worry about student loans, so that was a blessing.”
What are your goals moving forward?
“Before the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas competition, I was really just going on with my day-to-day, working my job and doing my volunteer activities,” Jenny says.
“But now I’m really excited about the next step, which is the national Ms. Wheelchair competition in August.
At first I was really hesitant about the whole thing because I didn’t think I had the time to devote to it, but once I heard more about it, I figured it was something I needed to make the time for.
So that’s my goal for right now, to represent Kansas well and be a good example for my Girl Scout troop and my Wheelchair Sports friends.”
What advice would you offer to others living with spinal cord injuries and those who are struggling to live a “normal” life?
“I think you have to make a new normal and you have to surround yourself with people that are going to be supportive,” Jenny says.
“You also need to set goals for yourself and sometimes your goals are going to change.
I had an idea of what I wanted to do, but now I have this opportunity with the Ms. Wheelchair Kansas organization that I never even would have thought I would be interested in or feel comfortable doing. But after going through the competition and meeting the other women, I have just been very inspired by the program.
It has me thinking outside of my normal realm and my normal day-to-day activities and really wanting to try something new. You have to be willing and open to trying new things. Take life as it comes, and don’t get stuck in your ways.”
Would you like to share a story about you or your loved one’s experiences with a spinal cord injury? Please contact Rich Hamill today to discuss.
Will to Walk Founder Rich Hamill has met people all over the country who live with spinal cord injuries. We would like to introduce you to some of the people who are interested in joining with us to find a cure.
Matt Brandt is a full-time Electrical Supervisor living in Vail, Arizona. He was injured on July 4, 2007 while on vacation in California. Matt keeps a positive attitude and remains committed to health and fitness while science is busy finding a cure for his injuries.
We caught up with Matt and asked him to share his story.
How did your injury occur and what was the extent?
I broke my neck (C-6 incomplete) while body surfing on a boogie board at Laguna Beach, California on July 4, 2007 when I was 50 years old. We went out to the coast for a family vacation got to the beach mid morning and hit the surf. It was my turn to ride the boogie board and what a ride I had.
The surf took me all the way in and dumped me head first on the beach. Thanks to my son being right there to pull me from the tide because I knew I was in trouble.
What was your initial medical care and recovery like?
I was in the local California hospital for about two weeks and after a couple of surgeries, they flew us to Barrows in Phoenix. They told my bride and I we would be there for eight to 10 weeks for rehab. We worked extra hard and were discharged after six weeks. After Barrows, I came home to Tucson and did out patient therapy for a year and a half at St. Joseph’s hospital.
What adaptive tools and methods do you use to stay mobile?
I use an AFO brace and a walker. I recently received a recumbent 3 wheeler from my co-workers and with a degree of difficulty am trying to go a little further each time out.
What is your fitness regime like?
I work out three days a week at the University of Arizona Adaptive Gym and swim at the City of Tucson Adaptive Pool. I also have a work out plan I do at home two days a week.
What are your biggest frustrations?
One thing that bothers me is that it seems like there is little communication between resources between different cities. I have had physical therapists in Tucson ask me about what facilities exist in Phoenix, and vice-versa. It seems like a real waste of effort for these organizations not to share information more.
How do you stay positive while you wait for a cure?
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think “I wish I would have…” but then again I look at how bad it could be and how much more other folks have to deal with. Yesterday is gone and today is a gift and it is up to me what I am going to do with it…Try harder.”