I recently received an invitation to be the guest speaker at the University of Anderson, located in Anderson, South Carolina. The Adaptive Physical Education Course was interested in my life experience and how I navigate spinal cord injury (SCI).
The students came up with questions and I answered them based on my everyday experiences. In this blog I will share the questions they asked and provide insight into my daily life.
Question: How did you become engaged in paraplegic sports and/or unified sports?
Jeremy: My car accident occurred in March 2001. To my knowledge, there were few paraplegic sports available in upstate South Carolina, where I reside. The nearest place was in Atlanta, Georgia at the Shepherd Center.
Approximately, 10 years ago Roger C. Peace Rehabilitation Hospital in Greenville, South Carolina hired a director of Therapeutic Recreation and she recognized the importance of establishing more adaptive sports and recreation activities. Her legacy lives on through adaptive wheelchair basketball, wheelchair softball, wheelchair tennis, sled hockey, snow skiing, handcycling, golf clinics, and even wheelchair yoga. Wheelchair softball was the first adaptive sport I tried. Golf and handcycling became the next sports I participated in.
Question: In your opinion, how could teachers engage students in wheelchairs in different types of sports?
Jeremy: I believe the best way to introduce sports to a wheelchair user is to understand their level of injury. This is a starting point to determine their physical abilities.
For example: Let's say you have a C5 quadriplegic with limited hand function and limited tricep strength. An appropriate adaptive sport to recommend would be quad rugby or power wheelchair soccer. Another example: You have a student who is a T12 paraplegic and has full hand and arm function along with some abdominal muscles. You can introduce them to all the sports I listed above.
If your student is a minor, involve the parents/guardians in conversations. If there is a physical therapist that works with the student, they can add a wealth of knowledge to sports participation and adaptive equipment.
Question: How have you been able to modify daily tasks?
Jeremy: After 20 years of being in my wheelchair, I have learned to adapt all aspects of daily living. When I take out the trash, I use my power wheelchair to help me get it up our steep driveway. While shopping if I cannot reach something, first I may ask for assistance. If no one is available, I have been known to grab another item off the shelf and use it to knock the item I need down to me. This is resourceful but can be sloppy at times. Like the saying says, “if there is a will, there is a way”.
My kitchen has a few modifications, like a lower sink, that allows me to rinse dishes prior to loading in the dishwasher.
Question: What do you wish people knew about your disability?
Jeremy: I think when most people hear that someone sustained a spinal cord injury, the first thought or reaction is, ‘that individual will never be able to walk again’. There is so much more that takes place when someone has a SCI. It’s not just not being able to walk again. Like the loss of all feeling/sensation below the point of injury. Possible loss of bladder and bowel control depending on the severity of the injury and level of injury.
Although, living with a SCI is hard at times I think there is an assumption that we can’t do the same things we used to be able to do. We can do a lot of the things we did prior injury, but some things have to be modified to make that happen. Things like adding hand controls to a vehicle to be able to drive or remodeling a bathroom for greater independence. If I could simplify, I would wish people accepted that I am no different than any able body person; I still bleed the same, love the same, and cry the same.
Question: What role did faith play in your life after your accident?
Jeremy: Faith was everything for me then and still is today! I knew the moment when I gained consciousness, after my accident, that God gave me a second chance at life for a reason! I didn’t even cry after I found out that I was paralyzed because of Christ's strength in me. I was and remain determined to make the most out of my life. When I feel I can’t do something I recite Phillipians 4:13 over and over again in my mind. I am also blessed with a loving and supportive family. I don’t know what I would have done without all their support throughout these last 20 years. I want to encourage you all that if you start feeling weak or down just recite Phillipians 4:13 over and over and you will be amazed at the strength Christ gives you at your weakest moments. The scripture reads, “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me”.
Question: What are some of the most common types of modifications to buildings and environments that make them more accessible? What other types of modifications do you think could be helpful?
Jeremy: I believe the most common modifications you will see in newer buildings is wider doors, elevators, curb cuts/ramps and accessible bathrooms. I think it would be cool if grocery stores also offered a grab reacher to help you be able to reach things off the shelves in their stores.
Question: How do you drive? How is your vehicle modified to meet your needs?
Jeremy: I drive a Ford F150 and I use hand controls. My truck is equipped with a Bruno wheelchair lift that I control with a handheld controller. The lift will pick my wheelchair out of the bed of the truck and bring it right next to my driver side door where I can then transfer into my wheelchair from my truck.
Question: What advice do you have for children or future students who may become challenged by a physical disability?
Jeremy: My advice for them is that the circumstances at first may seem overwhelming but the biggest thing is to not give up. Put your faith and hope into Jesus Christ and to trust him to give you the strength to continue to push forward with your life. Look to your family for support and comfort. I feel it is also important to find a good peer support group that is the same as whatever physical disability you may have. Connecting with someone in the group who has experienced the similar things is a great way to find support and encouragement.
The opinions and experiences presented herein are for informational use only. Individual results may vary depending on your condition. Always consult with your health care professional. This individual has been compensated by Bard Medical for the time and effort in preparing this article for BARD’s further use and distribution.
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