I don’t like making a big thing of it, but the fact is, today marks the 7 year anniversary of my spinal cord injury. My mom pointed out that this was the first year that marked an identical circumstance from a weekly standpoint. Like this year’s perspective, I was hit by that police cruiser just after midnight on that Sunday 7 years ago, which gave me a greater sense of nostalgia. I hate thinking that the spinal cord injury defines me. And everyone will say that it doesn’t, but it obviously does. Last time I checked, around 0.005% of the U.S. population has a spinal cord injury. If you’re one of those people, it’s pretty unlikely you have a more defining feature.
I was writing a paper for my MBA today that touched on my aspirations and I couldn’t help but relate them to my injury. Again, I hate that… However, after expressing many of my frustrations, I ultimately came full circle and ended with saying, “…but it’s okay.” My day-to-day might be altered from what it used to be, but it’s been 7 years, this is now my normal. Today, I remembered getting emotional on my first-year anniversary, but I don’t think it would have been possible to reach that emotional state today. In these 7 years, I have so far distanced myself from those struggles that used to seem so inescapable. Ugh, the constant urinary/bowel complications. The unrelenting back-pain. The perpetual belief I was going to die from a relentless urinary tract infection. The obvious inability to walk, or run, or so much as twitch my legs. Speaking of which, I wanted to share a thought I had this week. At the gym, I’ve been relying more and more on the arm bike for my workouts. The arm bike at the gym isn’t just any arm bike. This arm bike is adjustable from every which way, which is without a doubt imperative given my circumstances.
(A recent 1-milimeter backrest angle adjustment allowed me to cut my massage lead time in half)
I grew up an athlete. Some may not consider soccer to be a sport, but hey that’s okay, because I participated in much more than just that. I was pretty heavily involved in snowboarding, track, dirt biking, gymnastics, dodgeball runner-up Freshman year of high school, I mean the list goes on.
I went to the gym on Monday, got to the arm bike, made my adjustments, including a slight additional adjustment I had been thinking about over the weekend. After a few minutes, I found myself looking up so that my legs were out of sight. I then tucked my legs under the chair so that I felt slightly more upright. After continuing to pedal with my arms and increasing my speed, I began to close my eyes. Immediately, I began envisioning memories of my past. Running up and down the soccer field, running on the track, running in my neighborhood, running, running, running. I couldn’t even help it, but a great big smile came across my face – arm pedaling the hell out of the arm bike in the gym with my eyes closed shut. I always aim to finish my arm workouts on a high note. When I came towards the end of my time, I kept coming back to the many memories I had running up and down the Ginghamsburg parking lot. Ginghamsburg is a church that was right across the street from my parent house growing up. The stretch was approximately 1-mile, down and back. There were light poles throughout the stretch, about 20 yards apart from one another. The last and final stretch from light pole to light pole was always a sprint. I always aimed to finish my workouts on a high note. The feeling was back. I was running that last stretch once more. What an incredible feeling. I don’t know if I’ve had an experience like that since the injury 7 years ago. Throughout the week, it gave me motivation. Like anyone, making it to the gym is a constant struggle for me. I know I’ll continue to struggle, but I know this running euphoria recently experienced will ease the struggle, if only for a little while.