We took the field that crisp Friday evening to the sounds of cheering fans and the feeling of invincibility that comes only with one’s senior year of high school football. I remember thinking to myself how long of a walk it would be to get back to that locker room at halftime… but I never made that walk. In fact, I didn’t walk for the next three days; confined for the next week to my hospital bed.
Through a freak accident as I had been tackled, I had suffered fractures of four vertebrae in my spinal column. At the time of injury however, whether due to adrenaline or stupidity, I didn’t realize the extent of my injuries, promptly jumped up, and jogged off to my sideline. After my initial CT Scan the mood turned somber as the doctors and nurses started assessing the true damage to my neck and back. The doctors told us there was a good chance the swelling might cause paralysis, and if it did, I might regain sensation and movement as the swelling abated, but that there was a good chance it could be irreversible. As I lay in that bed early the first morning, not knowing if the paralysis would set in and if I’d ever be able to walk again, I wiggled my toes every so often, just to make sure I still could.
Sometime that night though, while fearfully wondering what my future had in store for me, I had a realization which gave me my first feeling of true contentedness. One which has since changed not just my perspective on life, but has truly changed who I am. In those hours of pain and fear I realized that I had no control over what was happening to my body. I could worry all I wanted, get angry or get scared, but none of these would have any impact on the outcome of this terrible waiting game. The only thing I could control was my attitude about the situation and how I handled my thoughts and emotions. From that moment, throughout the recovery process, and until today I was resolute that no matter my body, my mind and spirit would never be broken. I would be able to get through whatever life could throw at me, and I was determined to do it all with a smile. Instead of thinking to myself why me, what did I do to deserve this? I thought to myself why not me, if others can get through this why can’t I? This fundamental shift in perspective has since given me the courage to seek out opportunities and better be a man of action.
My biggest set back has since become my biggest gain as this recognition has stayed at the forefront of my mind throughout the two years since my injury and will hold that position of honor indefinitely. I learned the power a note of love and encouragement can bring, as well as the influence that comes with positive support from those close to you. I came to understand the importance of perseverance and mental fortitude as I struggled to walk, and dealt with the hardships of a willing mind but an unable body. And I discovered my belief that when we can learn from everything around us, we grow and mature ourselves and are then better able to help those around us do the same. No matter the circumstances, with the right attitude and a little support, we are all capable of incredible feats and unbelievable successes. Without a doubt, this is something I believe.