What's Your Story?


We need 10 stories, what's yours?

Disabilities have a way of providing commonality to people who may otherwise have absolutely nothing in common. They share however that one unique circumstance or event that provides a common bond which most people will never understand. Slice of Life series articles are those that share the special experiences of those living in a wheelchair, and we are looking for 10 stories that we can publish. This is your chance to become a published blog writer! Don’t worry about grammar or punctuation, we will correct that and provide you a proof copy before publishing. We know that each who sit in a wheelchair have their own unique story. What’s your’s? Share it with us at info@unitedspinalusa.org. Here’s mine.

I don't know why I felt so calm on that 100° June day lying there on the side of the trail, the thought of not being able to move should have terrified me. Just minutes before I was enjoying an aerobic bicycle ride, until the sand on the sidewalk caused my front tire to slide off into the rough, throwing me headfirst over the handlebars. I remember wondering if this condition was temporary or not, and I had the urge to engage in an SOS prayer. You're familiar with those, it is the type of plea bargain with God about what you will do in order to escape your current situation. I reasoned however that present circumstances were too serious, and that it would somehow be improper to engage in such a discussion with the deity.

I always thought of a bicycle as my friend, and transport to freedom. When I was in late grade school, (six through eighth grade) my bicycle allowed me to have a paper route across wide-ranging neighborhoods of noncontiguous subscribers. I delivered to homes who subscribed to papers other than the hometown Peoria Journal Star. My customers morning appetites ranged from the Chicago Tribune to the Chicago American, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Daily News and Wall Street Journal. You needed a bicycle to cover that route, and you needed that route to pay for the bicycle. It was the first major asset I ever invested in, and it served me well. My friends and I rode all through the Bradley University campus and streets of Peoria. My bicycle was a single speed, green Murray Wildcat. Some of my friends had the more coveted Schwinn Stingray, and one of my friends had the ultracool, five-speed Schwinn Orange Krate. Being an American history buff, sometimes I imagined my bike was a fighter plane. I thought of it as an F4F Wildcat fighter, not as fast or nimble as the others, but a lot more durable. It seemed like the guys with Schwinn's were always tinkering with their rides, and I likened their bikes to the faster, and more maneuverable Mitsubishi Zeros. I had a vivid imagination as a child, a trait which I have never tried to outgrow.

I didn't have much cause to ride a bike in high school, and the fact that my trusted Wildcat was stolen just prior to my freshman year was part of the reason! During the literally hundreds of miles I logged in grade school, I never incurred any real injuries. I was hit by cars twice, but the incidents were pretty minor. The only serious injury I remember to any of my buddies was when I was racing through a remote parking lot with my friend Bill Sellers, who owned the Orange Krate. We were dashing for home, and he was fairly well ahead of me. Unfortunately, he did not see the cement parking divider until it was too late. The impact threw him off his bike onto the concrete, causing him to be pretty badly skinned up. He also lost a number of teeth in the incident. After checking with him, I rode furiously to his house to summon his parents. I remember the grim look on their faces as I described the accident, and urged them to hurry with me back to the scene. While I never forgot that accident, the thought never occurred to me that I would be involved in something like that – or much worse.

Back on the trail, I remember thinking that my present condition might be permanent, even though the word paralysis never entered my mind. I never gave serious thought to the fact that I might die, but I knew I needed to condition myself mentally for the potential of a very different future. I remember telling myself I had until the ambulance arrived to stop feeling sorry for myself, and I vowed then and there to never look back, never give up and remain positive.

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