A Milestone in Achieving Independence as a Quadriplegic

My name is Bill, and I have worked for 180 Medical for over 10 years. About 28 years ago, I was involved in a motocross accident that rendered me a quadriplegic. You can learn more about my story here. Over the years since then, I’ve been able to help and counsel others who are also dealing with life after a spinal cord injury. I am happiest when I am helping others, and these days at 180 Medical, I spend a lot of time just talking to our customers on the phone who are new to catheterizing.

As some of you might already know from my previous blogs, I have been a C5-6 quadriplegic for the last 28 years. With many of our customers also having spinal cord injuries, some of whom are still quite new to being paralyzed, I thought I would share a little story with you about how something negative that happened to me actually turned out to be a very positive situation.
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One beautiful summer Saturday night in my hometown, my friends dropped me off at my parents’ house (where I was staying at the time) after a fun night out. It had not been a full year after my accident, so I was still new in my journey to adapting to life in a wheelchair, but my parents’ home had been outfitted with various adaptive accessories like a porch lift, so I could make it inside more easily in my wheelchair.

While wheeling myself up the incline, I looked up and realized I was about to run right into a giant spider web with an equally large spider perched right in the middle. Needless to say, my natural reaction was to jerk back away from it, and when I did, I flipped out of my chair backward and hit my head pretty hard on the concrete. I saw stars for a few minutes, but luckily, there was no major injury.

After coming to the realization of what just happened, I realized I should probably at least move off of the pavement, as I am rather susceptible to getting pressure sores. So I was able to pull myself and my wheelchair onto the grass at least. For a while, I just laid there wondering how I was going to get back into that wheelchair. I had fallen out before, but I always had someone available to help me get back into the chair. I knew that I couldn’t yell loud enough to get my parents’ attention or anyone else’s. And I couldn’t call anyone, because this is before cell phones were such a common thing as they are today. No one was around to help, although my faithful dog stayed beside me, more than happy to lick my face because she knew something was wrong. It was a sweet gesture, but unfortunately, she was no help in assisting me getting back into the chair.

The situation came down to two options: I was either going to have to spend the night in the yard until my parents woke up, or I was going to have to figure out how to get back into my chair.

Back when I was still in the rehabilitation center, I recalled seeing a paraplegic man demonstrate how he got back into his wheelchair. At the time, I remember I thought I would never be able to do something like that, and I was amazed at his abilities. For those of you who are not familiar with spinal cord injuries, paraplegics have full use of their arms and hands and some of their upper body, depending on their level of injury. As a quadriplegic, I am paralyzed 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. I also have no use of my hands and the rest of my upper body. This is a definite disadvantage as compared to a paraplegic, especially in a situation like this one.
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After giving it a lot of thought, I decided I would just have to do my best to reenact this technique myself. My first attempt did not go well. I was able to get my bottom up to the cushion in my chair but the cushion was too tall for me to get up onto it.

After struggling to the point to where my arms were giving out, I decided to abort that attempt. I then decided to take the cushion out of my chair and sit on it to give me a little more elevation and to make the distance to the seat of my chair a little lower.

I rested a few minutes to get my strength back up, then I positioned myself in front of the chair and pushed up with all my might. I almost had it except my knee fell to one side, and I couldn’t quite get myself all the way onto the seat of the wheelchair. Still, I knew I was very close at this point, so I couldn’t give up!

I figured that if I could hold my knee in place with my chin, I might be able to make it. After resting again to get my strength back up, I got back into position, put my chin on my knee, and one last time, I pushed as hard as I could. And I did it! I was able to get my bottom back onto the seat of the wheelchair, slide myself back, and got upright again.

Although I was totally exhausted from going through all of this, I was overjoyed — and that’s putting it lightly — to know that I had just achieved something that I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do on my own.

Since that time, I have been living independently.

I am able to take care of all of my daily activities as well as working full-time here at 180 Medical. I also love getting to participate in adaptive sports such as kayaking when I can.

Unfortunately, I do still fall out of my chair on occasion. 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.

This was just one of the many challenges I have encountered that have helped me realize my goal of being an independent quadriplegic. I wanted to share my story in the hopes that, if you are struggling with any issues due to a physical challenge or disability, this will inspire you to keep trying and never give up.

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About the Author
Jessica is the Marketing Specialist at 180 Medical and has been a part of the 180 family for over 9 years. In her downtime, she enjoys creative writing, making art, seeing new places, and spending time with her loved ones.