It was the end of the 2010 College football season that pushed me to seriously thinking about writing this. On October 16, 2010, Rutger’s defensive lineman Eric Legrand was paralyzed in a collision during a game against Army. My father, a Rutgers alumni, who has close ties to the athletic department there, was swiftly taken back to the time of my injury. Although there were no similarities between the two incidents (other than the eerie fact that Eric wore number 52, the same number I wore playing high school football) the results were terribly alike, paralyzed from the neck down and 10,000 questions.
Spinal cord injury was fresh on our minds when this happened and my family and I were wondering how we could reach out to this young guy and his family, not only in solidarity as fellow Scarlet Knights (my dad) but to offer ourselves as a resource of hope having lived with this type of injury for the last 20 years. It was at this time that my wife Jayne, a buddy of mine and myself ultimately decided that it would be a great idea to reach out to anyone who is now living with and asking questions about quadriplegia and spinal cord injury.
Although there are many, many resources available now both in print and on the Internet about the technical aspects associated with such a traumatic injury, I sometimes feel that the personal side, the day to day, individual experiences living like this can be overlooked. And in most cases, beneath the medical terms, different diagnoses, opposing viewpoints and the quest for “The Cure,” they are.
So here I am, about to launch a new philosophy about living with a spinal cord injury. This isn’t intended to be “The Quadriplegic Bible, Extremely Sarcastic Edition.” That may be saved for later. No, it’s simply going to be my story. Believe me, I know my experience as a quadriplegic has not been duplicated anywhere else. There is absolutely no way that some of the things that have happened to me in the last 20 years cannot be believed. Trust me, it’s hard for me to admit they happened at all and I sure as hell wouldn’t make them up out of respect to other disabled people around the world.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve heard this, or someone told you that, or the manual clearly states, I promise you that one more perspective isn’t going to hurt. Besides, with 20 years of experience, my perspective has definitely strayed from the mainstream doctrine on how to live as a disabled person. Right or wrong all my lessons have been learned on the battlefield and specifically, in the trenches. Trial by fire, for the most part, has given me great practical knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t when it comes to facing daily challenges. There are certain lessons you only need to learn once. Granted, for me it was sometimes twice… okay, maybe a couple lessons three times. I’m assuming your average quadriplegic might not be as hard headed as I am, based on this, the majority of you won’t have any trouble meeting any obstacle with ease.
To finish up this little introduction I have to include one thing. I can’t emphasize this enough – “I am not a doctor!” I haven’t really said anything up to this point to indicate or allude to the fact that I’m some kind of medical professional. Any suggestions, tips or instructions included in this book are my own personal choices and opinions. I have always consulted with my doctors or with specialists if that were the case. Every time I face an important medical decision, I get my facts straight. I learned my stuff. Even with the web I found that the best way to learn was by asking questions. After a while and with some experience I could recognize certain things and confidently make an executive decision on a plan of action. As I tell my little story I’m hoping to share a little bit about some of the major decisions I had to make. Especially the ones that hugely improved my quality of life. After reading some of this my credibility with you or others may go right out the window. In that case, taking my advice, might seem counter-intuitive. On the other hand, there’s a good chance that what I have to say, may start to make sense to you.