September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, which means it’s a great time to spotlight one of the awesome people in the 180 Medical Community living with a spinal cord injury (SCI). Erik has shared his story, including how he discovered his new passion for adaptive skiing after his SCI.
A Car Accident and Unimaginable News
One snowy winter morning in January of 2000, Erik was driving his Jeep home after leaving a friend’s house. He hadn’t slept in a while, and he thinks he must have fallen asleep while driving. The details are still fuzzy for him. All he knows is that the vehicle crashed.
As it turns out, he broke his arm, shoulder blade, and two vertebrae of his lower spinal cord in the accident, leaving him paraplegic. In other words, Erik was now paralyzed below the waist. While he still held out hope, he knew it was likely impossible for him to ever walk again.
After a week of surgery and recovery at the hospital, he was ready to head to rehabilitation therapy. Luckily, he was able to go to a rehabilitation facility in the town where he grew up in Massachusetts. After three months of rehab, he was able to move home with his parents. “It definitely made things easier than if I was back out on my own right away.”
Of course, he knew even with their help, life might never be the same.
An Early Battle with UTIs Helped Erik Find 180 Medical
While still new to living with his spinal cord injury, Erik began to encounter a common but frustrating problem: urinary tract infections (UTIs). UTIs can be an especially tough issue for catheter users with spinal cord injuries. However, there are options that can help, as Erik found out.
Advanced products like hydrophilic catheters and closed system catheters are designed to reduce the risk of contamination from hands while also potentially helping reduce the risk of infection. After consistent bouts with urinary tract infections, Erik’s doctor prescribed closed system catheters for him, which he now receives from 180 Medical.
“They’ve helped keep me healthy enough over the last two decades that I graduated from college, led an adaptive ski program, competed in the Boston Marathon and the X Games, and I continue to work in the ski industry,” Erik says.
Like 180 Medical’s founder Todd Brown, Erik is proof that finding the right catheter products can turn your quality of life around.
Erik Prefers the GentleCath® Pro Closed System
Over the years since Erik’s accident, he’s discovered which products work best for his unique needs. “180 Medical has been great to work with over the years,” Erik said. “They sent me samples when there are new catheters on the market. Because I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I’ve found what works for me, but it’s always good to be on the lookout for what’s new.”
For the last few years, Erik has been using the GentleCath Pro Closed System Catheter. “It has everything I need in a closed kit. It’s always easy to keep a couple in the car, a couple in my ski bag, and a couple in the backpack I take to work. It really simplifies that part of my life.”
180 Medical’s trained Product Specialists can work with your doctor and insurance plan while helping you find the intermittent catheter that works best for your needs. Contact us to try our free catheter samples and learn more about how we can help you.
Racing Into a New Passion
After Erik’s recovery from his spinal cord injury, he began to feel restless. He wanted to accomplish something new and get active again.
“Being originally from Boston,” Erik said, “the Boston Marathon was something I had always seen on TV growing up. After my injury, I decided I wanted to qualify for the race.” So that’s exactly what he began working to do. “It took a few years and practice at many other races but I did finally qualify for the 2005 Boston Marathon.”
Around the same time, Erik had decided he was ready to strike out on his own and move back north to the mountains. As an avid skier before his injury, Erik now took to the slopes to try out a new adaptive sport: mono-skiing.
Thanks to the New England Disabled Sports, a nationally recognized adaptive sports program for people of all ages, Erik was able to safely learn the ropes of adaptive skiing after his SCI.
Adaptive Skiing After SCI
First, what is adaptive skiing? This is a sport specifically for people living with disabilities, such as spinal cord injuries, to experience snow skiing. This is accomplished using specialized equipment, such as a mono-ski.
And what is a mono-ski exactly? It’s a device where a skier can comfortably sit while skiing. Usually, mono-skis are ideal for amputees or individuals with a condition such as spina bifida or a spinal cord injury.
Erik loved adaptive skiing after his SCI. He ended up competing in the 2007 and 2008 US Alpine National Championships as well as the 2009 and 2010 ESPN X Games. In addition, he took a job with Ability Plus, where he led an adaptive skiing program in New Hampshire in the White Mountains for several years.
Today, Erik works in ticketing for the Cranmore Mountain Resort while living in New Hampshire with his wife Beth.
“I just love living in the mountains,” he said. “I do whatever I can to stay here.”
Erik credits the help and support of local adaptive sports organizations, including Northeast Passage, New England Disabled Sports, and Ability Plus, for helping him find his passion and staying in the White Mountains, where his heart truly belongs.