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A Milestone in Achieving Independence

My name is Bill, and I’ve worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. More than 30 years ago, I was involved in a motocross accident that rendered me a C5-6 quadriplegic. Because many of our customers also live with spinal cord injuries, I’d like to share a milestone in achieving my independence as a quadriplegic.

Bill Fullerton

Facing a New Challenge On My Own

Let’s go back to when I was still fairly new in my journey to adapting to my new life in a wheelchair. It wasn’t even a full year after my accident, but I went out with some friends on a beautiful summer Saturday night in my hometown. After we hung out, my friends dropped me off at my parents’ house, which is where I was staying at the time.

Earlier in the year, we updated my parents’ house to include some various adaptive tools to make it wheelchair-accessible, such as a porch lift. With it being late at night, my parents were already asleep in bed, so I quietly started wheeling up the incline ramp. Suddenly, I looked up to see I was about to run right into a giant spider web with an equally large spider right in the middle.

Needless to say, my natural reaction was to jerk back away from it. However, as I pulled back, I flipped out of my wheelchair backward. In doing so, I hit my head pretty hard on the concrete. I saw stars for a few minutes, but luckily, it wasn’t a major injury.

After a while, I realized what had happened and decided I should try to move off the pavement. I had already learned early on how susceptible I am to getting pressure sores. I was able to pull myself and my wheelchair down onto the grass at least. However, for a while, I just laid there wondering what to do. How was I going to get back into that wheelchair?

I had fallen out before, but someone was always there to help when I did. This time, I was totally alone. I knew I couldn’t get my parents’ attention if they were asleep. Plus, back then, cell phones weren’t common so I couldn’t call anyone on the phone to help me. My faithful dog, however, stayed beside me, more than happy to stick around and lick my face. She knew something was wrong. It was a sweet gesture, but of course, she was no help in getting me back into my chair.

Trying to Get Back in My Wheelchair Independently

I had two options. I was either going to spend the night in the yard until my parents woke up or I was going to have to get back into my wheelchair independently.

As I lay there, I remembered my time in the rehabilitation center when a paraplegic man demonstrated how he got back into his wheelchair. At the time, I thought I would never be able to do something like that.

You see, paraplegics typically have full use of their arms and hands or even some of their upper body, depending on their level of spinal cord injury. However, as a quadriplegic, I have paralysis from the collarbones down. I have partial use of my arms. My biceps work fine, and my triceps work in my left arm but not much in my right arm. Also, I have no use of my hands. This is a definite disadvantage in a situation like the one I found myself in.

I took a while to think it over. In the end, I knew I needed to try my best to get back into my wheelchair independently.

Finally Achieving My Independence as a Quadriplegic

My first attempt did not go well. I was able to get my bottom up to the cushion in my chair at first. However, the cushion was just too tall for me to get up onto it.

After struggling to the point where my arms were giving out, I decided to abort that attempt. Next, I took the cushion out of my chair and sat on it to provide a little more elevation. This made the distance from where I sat on the ground to the seat of my wheelchair a little shorter.

I had to take breaks and rest every few minutes to regain some strength. However, I kept at it. Next, I got in front of the chair and pushed up with all my might. I almost had it until my knee fell to one side. Still, I knew I was close so I couldn’t just give up!

I decided if I could just hold my knee in place with my chin, I might be able to make it. I rested one more time. Then I got back into position and tried putting my chin on my knee. One last time, I pushed as hard as I could. And I did it! I was able to get onto the seat of the wheelchair and slide myself back. I was upright and in my wheelchair again – all on my own!

inspiring spinal cord injury quote - Hard things are put in our way to call out our courage and strength.

Living an Independent Life with a Spinal Cord Injury

Although that process was totally exhausting, I was overjoyed. That’s putting it lightly. I achieved something that I never thought I’d be able to do on my own. That was absolutely one of the biggest milestones of achieving my independence as a quadriplegic.

Since that time, I have been living independently. I’m able to take care of all of my daily activities independently. I also love getting to participate in adaptive sports such as kayaking when I can.

Bill Fullerton Adaptive Kayaking

Of course, I still fall out of my chair sometimes. This is just part of life, or at least, it is for me. Luckily, I am able to get back into my chair without having to rely on somebody to assist me anymore.

This was just one of my many challenges to overcome in order to be an independent quadriplegic. I share my story in hopes that if you are struggling with any issues due to a spinal cord injury or another disability, this will inspire you to keep trying and never give up.

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About the Author
A Milestone in Achieving Independence
Bill worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. As a quadriplegic with over 30 years of experience, Bill loves peer mentoring, sharing his first-hand experiences, and helping others who may have questions about life after a spinal cord injury and self-catheterization. He enjoys spending time outdoors as well as watching and attending motocross events.