Well another crazy week is behind me. Putting aside the UTI, pressure sore and busted titanium rod in my neck, I was able to deliver the keynote address at last Friday’s 16th Annual SCI Forum. Everything went according to plan and I felt very grateful for the opportunity to share my story and hopefully encourage others facing similar challenges. I was told that this year was a record turnout for the forum — I would estimate that the audience I spoke to was somewhere between 125-175 people. Lindsey assisted me with moving through the PowerPoint slides and Will was kind enough to record the event. The Plain Dealer also had a few cameras there to capture my speech but will not be able to share the video with me until my story is printed. I have already been approached by others to come give my presentation at their place of business. At some point, I may put a few minutes of the speech on my website.
In addition to my presentation, there were a few informational sessions, vendor displays and some Chinese-themed entertainment. One of the vendors was displaying an FES bike/hand cycle which I was able to try out. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it over to my friend Chris’s new spinal cord fitness center last week because of the cracked metal in my neck. I was pretty bummed out, considering how much I was looking forward to trying out the bike. So I was pretty excited to be able to demo a similar piece of equipment at the Forum. My feet were strapped to the pedals and a motor moved the foot pedals as if I was doing it myself. I did a little over a mile before I had to stop and let someone else try it out. What I liked about this piece of equipment was that it could be used with motor or with FES, in which case electrodes would attach to my muscles and stimulate them to use my own strength to pedal. I definitely plan to secure a piece of equipment like this for home use. Not to mention, when I was cycling I thought I felt some tingling in my legs.
Earlier in the week I had a visit from Kristy’s parents, Gary and Karen. They drove in for the day to visit me, and brought along, Gracie, my old German Shepherd pal. They also came bearing gifts – an aloe plant, antique cigar box, food and a pink flamingo! As tough as my separation from Kristy has been, it is still very nice to visit with the family.
I also spent part of the week getting all the paperwork together for the nonprofit organization I am starting. I have had to file Articles of Incorporation with the state of Ohio and will soon be filling out Form 1023 to achieve 501(c)(3) status. I was able to talk about the foundation during my presentation and even handed out brochures to the audience that included information about it. I want to especially thank Margie, who spent a few late nights, quickly putting together a temporary website for me. There is much work that remains, but I am very excited about this endeavor. I really am determined to help reach as many people as I can to raise awareness and support for those living with an SCI.
Katie and two of her children, Maura and Sean, paid me a visit today and also brought Communion for me. The kids kept themselves entertained playing with LG and Horatio, two cats on loan from my parents, while Katie, my Dad and I were able to catch up. Of course, my alma mater, St. Ignatius, was a topic of discussion as it usually is (Katie’s husband, Dan, is a teacher at the school). I also promised Katie that once school starts I will come speak to her class about faith in God and the obstacles He helps you overcome.
The latest Lehigh University alumni magazine was just mailed out this past week and mentioned my accident in it. Several acquaintances from college who I haven’t spoke to in over 13 years since graduation, have reached out to me to offer support and donations. Thank you to my fellow Lehigh alums!
Finally, I continue to ask everyone for their prayers for the Johnson family and my buddy, Alex, who’s going through a tough time and was rushed to the ER last night. These stupid spinal cord injuries are so unrelenting and constantly test your mettle. Alex is the toughest guy I know, even though he’s only 13 years old! Please keep him in your prayers along with everyone living with an SCI.
Thank you all for the tremendous support you continue to show me! Stand strong!