PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The stranger had tears in his eyes as he pushed through a crowd to reach Sam Schmidt in his wheelchair.
Schmidt was watching his team tune up a pair of engines, the roar was relentless and the man had to lean in close and shout in Schmidt’s ear to be heard. Thank you, the man said over and over, never expanding upon his gratitude. He tried to shake Schmidt’s hand, awkwardly just patted it, thanked him again and backed away.
Quadriplegic turned inspirational speaker: “When you’re faced with adversity, you have two basic choices. Curse the darkness or light a candle.”
Billy Keenan said he had it all.
“At that moment in time, I was living my best life,” he said. “My wife and children were happy and healthy. At 46, I was in the best shape of my life. I was a competitive triathlete and surfer for the last decade.”
Nearly eight years after Chris Norton was left paralyzed in a college football accident, he wed the woman of his dreams in a charming Southern ceremony where the pair were surrounded by tearful loved ones and friends.
In June 2016, Matt Wetherbee was left paralyzed after going head first into a wall during a pick-up basketball game. Severely damaging his spinal cord, Wetherbee was transported to the hospital where he spent two months facing a number of complications, and ultimately relocating to a rehabilitation center.
Since that time, Wetherbee has continued to work on his mobility at the Journey Forward rehab facility in Massachusetts four times a week. Last year, his longtime girlfriend Kaitlyn Kiely decided to run the Boston Marathon in his honor as a way to encourage him that his rehabilitation was a marathon and not a sprint; that his daily progress would one day pay off.
When Brett Colonell took up sketching as a hobby years ago, he didn’t know yet how it would one day evolve into an integral part of his life. Even now, as he explores art as a fulltime profession, he still refers to himself as an artist in training, despite the significant audience his art has drawn on social media.
What many of his fans don’t know is that in 1997 Brett sustained a complete C4-C5 spinal fracture after a motocross accident, leaving him a quadriplegic with no movement from the neck down. After his spinal cord injury, he completed his rehabilitation at Craig Hospital.
Brian Keefer has always been an adrenaline junkie.
A 2008 gymnastics accident in which Keefer suffered a spinal cord injury that left him a quadriplegic could have stopped him, but it didn’t.
“Brian’s had some adventures since he’s had his injury,” his father said.
From scuba diving in the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California, where “sharks swam right into my face,” to ziplining at Roundtop Mountain Resort in Lewisberry, Keefer has had his share.
Steve Adubato goes on-location to the Kessler Foundation’s 16th annual “Stroll ‘N Roll” and speaks with Rosalie Hannigan, a Kessler spinal cord research participant, about her accident and her journey to recover her mobility.
Every morning, Brian Keefer looks up at the framed words of encouragement covering his bedroom wall, and he smiles.
“Brian, you keep smiling because that’s what makes you so special! … Keep believing that you can fly!” one says.
“You’re my hero and inspiration,” reads another.
Those notes, written by friends and family, are Keefer’s favorite part of the room “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” built for him in 2011.
Todd Stabelfeldt is a pretty chill dude. He lives 90 minutes from Seattle by ferry, in a home with his wife and occasionally two stepkids. He runs a consultancy for healthcare databases, but once considered becoming a comedian. He’s a dog person.
Stabelfeldt also happens to be quadriplegic. He’s been paralyzed from the neck down for more than 30 years.
And because of that, Stabelfeldt has a unique relationship with technology — not unique for him and his crew, which goes by “The Quad Squad,” but unique for many people who are able-bodied.
If eye-gaze technology, motion sensor tracking and functional electrical stimulation sound like secret weapons of the CIA, you’d be half right. Much of the newfangled equipment in use for those with medical disabilities came out of technology originally designed for the government. Now, it’s helping injured and ill people with life’s basic needs.
Former Saints player Steve Gleason, diagnosed with ALS in 2011, propels his custom wheelchair with only a glance.
“I have an infrared eye tracker that is connected to my laptop and serves as my control center,” said Gleason.