This is the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is something that I always had but now it is something that I have to fight for each day. If you would’ve talked to me 2 years ago I would’ve said that there is nothing missing in my life. I knew what made me happy and I would go about each day doing those things. I would’ve been perfectly content starting a waterski school somewhere down south or out west. I would work a regular job during the day and work hard to earn a living just like everyone else. But that was normal back then and today my life has been completely turned upside down. Everything I worked towards before my accident was towards a dream that now will never come true. But it was not wasted and now I’m here putting the pieces together to try and figure out how working towards that old dream can now be put towards a new dream.
What’s it feel like to not be able to do the things that you love? To have your entire life planned out and then to hit a wall and realize that that’s not going to happen. It feels horrible to say the least. You’re now stuck in a world where you are completely lost and you have to find new meaning in your life. That thought of feeling like my life is over ran through my head constantly throughout 2011. But eventually I was able to realize that I could still put those pieces back together. Life was not over but it took me a long time to realize that.
All it would focus on last year was how I could get back to that old life. I wanted to walk again. I wanted to get back on the water and win another state championship and set a new personal best for slalom. I wanted to ride my longboard down the street or ride a bike. All I wanted was a normal life. I wanted to be able to get myself out of bed and get dressed in the morning. I was getting sick and tired of taking a shower sitting down. I wanted to take a long, hot bath. I was sick of catheters. I was sick of taking medications all day long to stop the spasms in my legs. I was sick of always being uncomfortable. Most of all I was sick of having to rely on others.
This is a lot to accept for any one person. Especially for a young, incredibly active person like me. I was bitter for a while. I could not imagine something more terrible that could have happened to me. All I focused on was what I could not do. So I focused 100% on trying to get it all back. But all it was was a huge discouragement. In therapy I wanted to walk but I could not even sit in a standing frame for more than a few minutes because my blood pressure would tank. How was I going to walk if I could not even stand without blacking out? On top of that the only thing I could move were my toes. If I was going to ski again then I needed my left hand. In therapy they had me squeezing cotton balls to which I could not even put a dent in. The occupational therapist just told me to keep squeezing and that the muscles would get stronger. But how could you exercise muscles when you could not even move your fingers? I started to hate every second of therapy. I was going nowhere.
After spending a year of doing therapy where they just try to get me used to life in a wheelchair I did my research and found an incredible therapy program at Ohio State. It is called locomotor training and they suspend you above a treadmill in a harness where 2 people move your legs in a walking motion. This repetitive motion is supposed to retrain your spinal cord how to walk. So finally, a year after my accident there was hope again. The program has been incredible and I have spent hundreds of hours on that treadmill. But still the only thing I can move is my toes. I have done everything in my power to try to be able to walk again. I started this therapy in January and I continue to do it. But the ultimate goal was not fulfilled. I am not walking and I think that unless there is some type of magical cure I’m sorry to say that I will never walk again.
I’m sorry to say that to some of you who believe in miracles. For those of you who’ve been praying for me for almost 2 years now. But I’ve accepted that I will never walk again and you’d think because of that the prayers were for nothing. But acceptance was really the key to getting my happiness back. Your prayers have been answered because I have moved on with my life and through this pursuit of trying to get my legs back I learned so much. I’ve learned more in the last 2 years than most people learn in their entire lives. And now I’m here to help. I’m truly grateful to have this story to teach others what life is all about. Your prayers have helped me realize my dream and to put those puzzle pieces together. Because of that I found happiness once again and as I continue to reach out to people life will just keep getting better.
Do not take a single step for granted. Thank God when you put each foot on the floor every morning and then you stand up. I would kill for that. Smile when you jump in the shower and you can feel the warmth covering your entire body. Even be thankful just to be able to go to the bathroom on your own. I see it every day how people take things for granted and it drives me crazy. Stop whining about the littlest things and remember just how much you have. I wish I could trade lives with just one of you for just an hour. If you could live life how I would live it up for that one hour then you would always have the biggest smile on your face.
So almost 2 years later I’m here just looking at what I have now. I no longer dwell on the past. It only drove me crazy and I now understand that life will never be how it used to. So I have to look at what makes me happy. My friends are still here. My family is still here. Everything is still here. Most of all, I’m still here. I was at the movies last night with my brother and my best friend Curtis and it got me thinking. What if it was just the 2 of them and I was never going to be there again? So I thank God for every breath I take in because I was so close to having my last.
I’m in the greatest possible situation I could be in right now. I live on my own regardless of my situation. I finished my degree at Ohio State which I never thought possible. I have the most incredible girls taking care of me. Best of all I have my voice and my words and with those I can change the world.
I have a new dream for my future. Of course I’m working on my book. I’ve been doing public speaking but I’m dreaming bigger and bigger each day. I want to be in the national spotlight and to share my story with hundreds of thousands of people all over the world. And I can see this dream coming true slowly but I know it will happen. People keep coming into my life who are willing and have the tools necessary to get me to where I want to be. These are the prayers that you made that are being answered. I will never give up on my dream. This is the pursuit of happiness.