My first memory following the accident was lying on a hospital bed being wheeled down a hallway and a nurse telling me that I had suffered serious injuries due to a fall while leaving the Marcus Amphitheater on August 24, 2002.
Throughout the first year of my recovery, my mom (Carol) provided almost daily journal entries to a web site to share my progress with web-based well-wishers. She happily recorded my recovery milestones (breathing on my own again, the removal of the halo, mastering the new wheelchair) and words of encouragement from friends and strangers alike. At the same time, my mom never downplayed the frustrations of frequent setbacks or the overwhelming emotions my family and I encountered as we adjusted to our radically changed lives.
Upon leaving Froedtert Medical Center in October 2002 and spending some time with my parents in Chetek, I made my way to the Courage Center in Minneapolis in January 2003. I lived there until September 2004, when I moved into an apartment in downtown Minneapolis under the care of a live-in caregiver and several others that help me get through my daily routine. While at the Courage Center, I received various types of therapy multiple times per day – physical therapy, occupational therapy and pool therapy – all to help me strengthen what movement I have in my neck and shoulders. I also rode a bike that uses electric stimulation to trigger muscles in my legs. The bike helps maintain muscle tone in my legs and also helps with bone density and circulation. I also occasionally worked with different types of assistive technology, which allow me to operate a computer, phone or television remote control.
While each day presented new challenges and frustrations, I enjoyed my time at Courage Center. It really helped me in my transition to living in my own apartment in downtown Minneapolis. Living downtown provides many opportunities to do things that don’t require transportation. I enjoy being able to spend warm summer days at a nearby park, going to concerts, sporting events, movies restaurants and more — all within the matter of blocks from my apartment. I began working again for GMR Marketing, the firm I worked for at the time of the accident, in the spring of 2005 in an Internet research and consulting role. GMR continues to stand by me every step of the way, with the firm and my friends/colleagues there being strong supporters of this annual benefit, creating their own “Bags for Busta” cornhole tournament fundraiser and providing helpful tips and words of encouragement. I continue therapy at Courage Center as part of their ABLE (Activity-Based Locomotor Exercise) Program. I also have my own functional electronic stimulation bike that I ride regularly.
I have come across many people with situations similar to mine. None are fortunate enough to have parents, families and friends like mine. I’m not going to lie – there is nothing that I like about my situation. Every day is filled with obstacles, challenges, frustrations, along with the inevitable ‘What if’ questions. With every passing day this new life seems more and more “normal.” I attribute this to my inherent positive attitude fueled by encouragement from my family, friends and everyone that has supported me throughout this ordeal.
My family moved to Chetek when I was four years old. Growing up there, I learned to enjoy the types of recreation a rural environment provides, including snowmobiling, waterskiing and fishing. In high school I played football, basketball and golf. I graduated from Chetek High School in 1993 and continued my education at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. I graduated from UW (one of the major drivers behind our choice of benefactor) in December 1997 with a double major in journalism (emphasis in advertising) and communication arts.
Following graduation, I moved to Milwaukee to work as a media buyer for an advertising agency where I had been interning since the summer of 1997. In March 2000, I began working for GMR Marketing on the Miller Brewing Co. account. My role at GMR largely involved Miller’s sponsorship of music properties, as well as development and execution of consumer targeted music programming. I believe that my small-town roots, combined with my experience at a major university and living in a metropolitan area, has made me a well-rounded person. I have met many quality people and have had the opportunity to do a decent amount of traveling throughout the country. I am thankful to have many friends from all over the country, with all sorts of different backgrounds that support me in many different ways.
I really have not recovered any significant movement or feeling beyond what I had when I left the hospital in October 2002. But the movement that I do have is most certainly stronger, and I do not have to deal with as much discomfort as I used to. I do not believe significant change will happen without advances in medical research. Whether it is through stem cells or some other revolutionary discovery, I believe it will take some sort of medical procedure for me to walk again. That’s why, when I was approached by two high school friends about an annual benefit to raise money for paralysis research, I embraced the idea right away.
I hope you will join us in our quest for a paralysis cure, along with supporting research to help with a multitude of other neurological and degenerative conditions, including Parkinson’s, ALS and Alzheimer’s.
If you care to contact me, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All the best,