It was forty years ago, but could have been yesterday. I can still smell the sterile rooms throughout the hospital and hear the beeps of the monitors, the groans of the sick and injured, and the bustle of the people that were everywhere. Still, it was the loneliest I ever felt and the fear in a 16 year old football player who was now being called a quadriplegic after a crazy water skiing accident was off the hook. I realized that the hospital was no place to recover from a catastrophic injury; and in the early days of a long journey, I was thankfully told "Don't let the No-Hopes win." The No-Hopes referred to a professional culture that filled my young mind with a daily list of something I dubbed "the CAN'T NEVERS." It was a constant assault from doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers who felt obligated to remind me that I would never walk, use my arms, have sex, return to my school, just to name a few. I was taught to fill out social security papers to prepare me for my 18th birthday. Sadly, nobody mentioned rehab scholarships or college grants for disabled folk. It was a sea of negativity in 1977, hardly a place to get better.
In 2018, I feel damn lucky. I had a support group that refused to allow me to be that kid that wallows in despair. My cohort in rehab was seven dudes. Six died in the first three years. I wrote a different narrative that is as relevant today as it was during the time disco was dominating the airwaves. My Master's Degree, thirty year career in Education, and current stint on the motivational speaking tour should serve as normative behaviors for patients going through crisis. If not that, my two children I've raised and three books I've authored speak loudly about the quality of life and fulfillment of the human potential is possible for all of us, regardless of our circumstance. So, what is the difference between me and the other six brothers who couldn't beat the No Hopes? Walk with me on this journey over the next few weeks. I can tell you now, however, where it begins and ends; the magic word is CULTURE!