I mean, all these hiking updates are great and all, but let's hear from somebody who's REALLY overcome some obstacles. I met Aaron last summer when he came to Spaulding Cape Cod outpatient for therapy. He went to Empower SCI's one week pilot program last year and, well, I'll let him tell you the rest...
November 3, 2011, I fell 80 ft from the 8th story balcony from a complex in Malden, MA. Survival was grim. I was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital where the expertise had saved my life. I don't remember much until December 13 when I was being transferred to Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. What I do know is that my body was brutally beaten. Every bone broken including my C4 and my T12 vertebrae where the spinal cord was severed. I am a paraplegic with, incredibly, my head intact.
While being at Spaulding for 2 1/2 months, I had come to terms with what had happened and what was permanent. I was mentally beaten. Trapped in a hospital bed, completely full of despair, depression, pain, grief, and so many more emotions. Words cannot even come close to describing how I felt about my life. I thought my life was doomed.
I was sent home and scheduled for outpatient PT and OT. My physical therapist suggested a program that was getting on its feet and starting the pilot program that summer. Of course I was leery because I was completely dependent on my PCA's and anyone else who was around while I was stuck in my bed. But I went, not knowing how I was going to get all the help I needed to get ready each morning.
The first day at Stoney Brook University, I was completely ecstatic to see other people like myself in wheelchairs. I had not been around anyone else in a chair since I got home. Just the feeling of that is indescribable. Being around people with a common denominator, like being in a wheelchair, makes you feel at ease, like you're not alone.
While at EMPOWER, there are a lot of times when you are one on one with PT or OT to help reach your goals that you had set up when you arrived. I had three huge goals that I didn't think I would accomplish, but gave it a shot to at least get better. I worked hard that week, and was able to do so with all the encouragement around me. I still can't believe that at the end on one week, I had met ALL my goals, with the ability to do so by myself with confidence.
Another favorite aspect of the program were all the activities they had going on. Before my accident, I would never have thought of, or wanted to go kayaking. We did, and I had a blast doing it; I can't wait to do it again. I also went swimming and bike riding and other just plain FUN STUFF.
I will be forever grateful for this program and for the learning experience I had. I came home full of life. Anyone who saw me before and after EMPOWER was just beside themselves with what a transformation I had achieved. I learned more about living life on life's terms in this one week, than I had learned from kindergarten to graduation. It's an experience I will hold in my heart.
Aaron J Souza
Go on over to the Cool Causes link to learn more about EMPOWER or to donate to this amazing program.
And thank you, Aaron for taking the time to tell your story. You are a rock star!