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20th Anniversary

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    20th Anniversary


    It just seems like it happened yesterday. As I post this string it will be my 20th anniversary since I shattered my C6 vertebra in a motor vehicle accident, mva, going less than 25 mph. I was wearing my seat belt and not speeding. I only broke one bone. The only bone I ever broke in my entire life. I was twenty-five years old. The prime of life. Twelve days before I was to be married.

    Twenty years. Wow!

    Life has been good to me during that time.

    So what did I do in that time? Jusk ask and I'll post.


    20th Anniversary. Part II

    Wow! It just seems like it happened yesterday…

    You asked for more. Here it is.

    I was in the hospital for five and a half months. Twenty four days in the intensive care unit, ICU, with a tube in every opening of my body to keep me alive and clinging to life. I was x-rayed so many times I thought I was going to be radioactive. They were also looking for internal damage but there was none. The fear of death was inside of me. I couldn’t sleep because if I did? I believe I would die. I had a stainless steel trach tube down my throat to suck fluids out of my lungs. I had 7 broncoscopies done; a procedure to remove fluids from the lungs. I thank God I didn’t smoke cigarettes otherwise would be dead.

    The impact forced me to go up and bumped my head on the roof of my vehicle. I look at the vehicle in a photograph and I say to myself, “How could I have sustained such an injury with so little vehicle damage?” This accident happen twelve days before I was suppose to be married.

    Twenty years. Wow! So what did I do in that time?

    If I had a choice to be able-body (normal) or spinal cord injured? I’d take normal. But if I had a choice between spinal cord injured and dead. No questions asked. Spinal cord injured. I am still alive today and very good health. I still have life to live. Life is precious, very precious.

    My mom explained it to me the best. My mom was very religious. She said to me, “That God could not give me a cross I could not carry.” I can still hear her voice saying that to me. If you remember Jesus had to carry his cross before his crucifixion. I carry a cross with me every day. No, not the kind you wear on a chain around your neck but an invisible cross that I must carry the rest of my life now. Some days this cross is so heavy I cannot move it. Other days it drags. Others days I walk with it, and some days I run with it. On other days I fly with it. Most days I don’t even know I have with me? But I carry a cross with me. God couldn’t give me a cross I couldn’t carry. I am not pushing religion on you, this is what I believe. I may have a plan but God has always a better plan for me. He will let me stumble and fall and make a fool out of myself and grammar errors on this web site until I realized his direction. He protects me in a mysterious way. He teaches me lessons in a mysterious way too.

    I remember God’s hand took mind and we were silent for a while. I asked him, “Am I going to die?” He told me, “I was too young to die and the days ahead of me will be the hardest days of my life and that He had a plan for me.” I was 25 years old. Twelve days before I was to be married. Death is a big confrontation. Once you face death, how could you be afraid of, like, someone rejecting you? Flying to China solo? Anyone who survives something feels they have a new lease on life. I call it my “extended warranty!”

    We all have an incredible story of courage, strength and of the human spirit to share.

    Twenty years ago on this day, March 23, 1987, my world caved in on me. A bump on the head in a motor vehicle accident. Wow! Hard to believe? That’s all it takes. The window to my future shattered to bits and pieces. My life came to a screeching halt! I remember sitting in my vehicle and couldn’t move. How time seemed to stop. That dead of silence waiting for help to arrive. I felt a tingling sensation going across me from my fingers, fore arm, arm, across the chest to the other tips of my fingers. It was a numbness sensation straight across me. I didn’t know what was going on? I was pulled from the wreckage and taken to the local ER room. One doctor said, “Put a foley in him!” As I was laying on a stainless table I heard a nurse say, “That patient broke his neck!” I was able to move my arms but I couldn’t make a tight fist.

    I couldn’t believe this has happened to me. I never smoked cigarettes, smoked pot, abused alcohol or use drugs? Why did this have to happen to me? I don’t know that answer. Bad and terrible things only happen to bad people not good people? True? Not true. I (we) fall under the category, “When bad things happen to good people.” Terrible things do happen to innocent good people everyday in this world. We just so happened to live to tell about it.

    Every morning when I open my eyes I thank God that I am alive and I ask him to give me the strength and courage to face the day. Every new day is a birthday for me not just October 20th, my day of birth.

    After they pulled out of the CAT scan machine they rolled me in the hallway and my neurologist came up to me and introduced himself, “Hi! I’m Dr. Ser..” I said to him, “Will I ever walk again?” He answered, “No, I don’t think so.” My hope shattered in an instant. I had more questions too. Then they brought my family in. More than twenty people were there. I knew I wasn’t going home soon and this is serious. I thought to myself after everyone left that people die after they break there neck? Don’t they? I always saw that on television growing up?

    I was on the rehab floor for almost five months for one broken bone. The only bone I ever broke in my life! The horrors my eyes witnessed. The death of life I witnessed. The worst ones are the young people who attempted suicide and failed at it and doctors kept them alive. One guy put a gun in his mouth, pulled the trigger and put a hole is the back of his neck. Another guy decide to put a gun to his forehead and when he pull the trigger the force of the explosion of the bullet cocked the gun back just a little putting a hole through his front lobe of his head going out of his top of his head giving him brain damage. One young girl attempted suicide by getting inside her car in her parent’s garage and starting the engine. This is carbon-monoxide asphyxiation. Her parents found her alive but she had extensive brain damage. She was like a limp rag doll in a ‘chair.

    One of the saddest tragedies was a young man, Scott. He graduated in the top of his class at Case Western Reserve University, School of Law. He took his Bar exam south of Cleveland in Columbus. On the way coming home a semi-truck driver driving in the opposite direction fell asleep at the wheel, cross the median and hit Scott head on. Scott hit his head very hard in the impact cracking his skull causing extensive brain swelling. Doctors removed 1/3 of his skull to relieve the pressure. The impact put Scott into a coma which he never came out. He passed his Bar.

    One night my room mate died and a team of doctors, nurses and techs tried to start his heart with some sort of shock machine. They did this to him about 9 times. I heard to snap of the machine then you hear the body rise and fall back down on the bed. This is the kind of horror I witnessed. I was never so frighten in my entire life. I was living in a real horror nightmare. I witnessed a part of life normal people don’t see.

    I was discharged from the hospital on August 28th to my home after five and a half months now sporting a ‘chair. I started to pick up the shattered pieces of my life. My life was a total mess. I wanted to rebuild it. So instead of gluing back the broken pieces together I decided to make a stain glass window of my life and of my future. I couldn’t watch cable television the rest of my life like others do and collect a monthly Social Security Disability check. I wanted more out of life. I wanted challenges, opportunities and travel. I still wanted to learn more in and about life. I still had life to live! So I turned this tragedy into a strategy, and then into triumph!

    About six weeks later after my discharge I did get married in October, 10-9-87, in a private ceremony. Life was different now.

    I lived in an inaccessible house until doorways were widened. Bathroom and kitchen modified to wheelchair usage. Many days I spent hours on the telephone to straighten out hospital bills and trying to get my medical supplies. I ordered basic cable television and got stuck in that Mtv groove everyday. One morning I woke up and I said to myself, “This is no way to live your life. Do something with it.” After considerable thought I wanted an accessible career and I ran after it! I went back to college to earn a degree in Computer Aided Design/Drafting, CAD. I found free Federal and State dollars to go back to college. All expenses paid just as long as I found employment after graduation.

    I exercised some golden opportunities to go back to college and I earned two more Associates degrees (a total of 3) and a Bachelor’s degree. Federal and State tax dollars picked up the tab on all of it. Believe me, there are millions of dollars out there that are unspent each year. I found funds to pay for college tuition in any field, college textbooks, supplies, computers, laser jet printer, titanium wheelchair, showerchair, standing frame, vehicle modifications of Braun swing-a-way lift, remote control operator, power swivel seat, remote vehicle starter and hand controls. Plus a special CAD workstation desk with two power tilt tables to accommodate a 'chair. The money is out there. You have to look and ask for it!

    After finishing my CAD degree in 1995, I was asked to do a speech for the Lorain Leadership Organization where I was introduced to many businessmen and woman that I used this opportunity to network employment opportunities from. I did get two interviews from that talk but I was introduced to a board member who served on the Lorain Advocacy Board For Persons with Disabilities. Several weeks later I was appointed by our Mayor Alex Olejko to serve on this Board. As of this writing I have finished serving my third five-year term on this Board. The last five year term serving as the chairperson of the Board.

    I sought an accessible career and I went after it! After graduation June 1991 I gave myself six months to find employment. I became a soldier. A soldier fighting this crippling war on unemployment. On December 30th I started my accessible career at a small engineering design firm called GLA Finishing Systems. Victory!

    During the last six months I had many interviews one with NASA Glenn Research Center but they weren’t hiring at the time. Nine months with GLA I received a telephone call from NASA stating, “A window of opportunity is open to come aboard. Do you want to join the team?” I said, “Goodbye GLA! Welcome N-A-S-A!” The following year GLA closed its doors and went out of business.

    I job hopped to NASA and been there ever since. NASA has been very good to me. The funds I found to go to college provided me the skills and knowledge to build an even brighter future for NASA, while at the same time expanding my own horizons by strengthening competencies that will serve NASA into the 21st century.

    When I first got hired I was thrilled to work there. Then my job lost that “edge” of being challenged. I wanted something more mentally stimulating. So I went on a detail into another area of electrical design. My first assignment was the Nation’s Space Shuttle Fuel Cell Upgrade program. I couldn’t get enough of “connecting the dots!” I was immediately transferred over to the Space Power and Propulsion Testing Engineer Branch. More exciting work came my way. Work on the International Space Station, the Russian Space Station, two Mars projects and just recently the Space Shuttle replacement Crew Exploration Vehicle, CEV.

    Putting it all together.

    Everyday when the alarm clock goes off I can’t wait to get into work and at quitting time it is hard to shut off the computer and leave for home. My work is fun, exciting, challenging, rewarding and very mentally stimulating. I am very proud to serve my country. I work with some of the best people this great Nation has. They are very bright, talented, intelligent, smart and always pushes the outer edge of the envelope. I have earned the privilege to telework. That is to work at home when my work load is heavy. As an employee with a disability the United States Department of Labor, Office of Disability Policy terms this type of employment “customized employment” where it fits my lifestyle.

    Some of you would be amazed at some of the technologies NASA has developed and created “spin-offs” that help people with disabilities. You may even be sitting on one of NASA’s spin-offs!

    I went from loosing my job in 1987 and being on $625 a month on Social Security Disability, welfare, food stamps and free government food to a six figure income today. To being very active in my community, workforce and at the college I attended. I’ve been in newspapers, magazines (New Mobility, Paraplegia News, Career and disAbled, Action, NewsNet, The Chronicle Telegram, The Plain Dealer, and The Morning Journal), brochures, on the cover of and in employment brochures and infomercials. I have done three television commercials and have been on numerous web sites sharing my story, employment and photographs. I have also done several talks at rehabilitation centers and for NASA too.

    You think you have it made being on Social Security Disability? Don’t have to work and get a free check? Think again. I took a chance and changed the way I live.

    The real tragedy in this story is in the woman who said, “She’d be by my side in sickness and health…” She walked away from me for a man of wealth. She said, “My disability doesn’t go away!” It finally ended January 1995.

    In 1995 I exercised the first post injury opportunity to fly to Anaheim, California, on behalf of NASA to pick up the Employee Year award through Careers and disAbled publications. During this visit I attended the Abilities Expo ‘95 at Anaheim Convention Center.

    When I earned my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Akron, 2001, the commencement ceremony was held at E.J. Thomas Performing Arts Hall, Akron, Ohio, which holds 3000 people. The president of the university indicated to the attendees to hold their applause after all the names of the graduates have been announced. When it was my turn to accept my degree from the president I shook his hand and he handed me my degree. I was going across the front of the stage when I heard people applauding. I stopped center stage tilted my mortar hat to get the stage lights out my eyes and I saw everybody in the entire hall was standing and applauding me. Tears of joy rolled over both sides of my face. This is one of the happiest days of my life I’ll never forget. I smiled and said, thank you. Then I proceeded to leave the stage. The graduates, PhD’s, on the front row padded me on my back as I passed them. My mom and dad could not make it, so I asked a co-worker to accompany me so that someone would be there to witness for me.

    The same year, 2001, I earned the Silver Employee of the Year award from National Business and Disability Council. I was supposed to pick the award up in Austin, Texas, November 2001 but 9/11 happened and it was scrubbed until further notice.

    May 2002, I received a letter from the National Business and Disability Council that the award ceremony is going to be held at the Hilton Hotel, located in the Walt Disney World Resort,Lake Buena Vista, Florida. NASA flew me to Orlando, Florida, to receive this award and I stopped on by the house to say, “Hi to Uncle Mickey and Aunt Minnie too!” What a great time!

    Why did this happen to me? I don’t know? I don’t worry about that question. Maybe God wanted to teach me or make me learn or see: That this very shy, scared and quiet young man has a story to share that gives others hope, strength and courage to more forward with their lives and he now becomes an intrepid voice for them? Or doors of opportunity to go back to college would be there for me to open and run through? Or I would work for the most respected Government agency in the United States of America, NASA, have fun and get paid good to do it? Or maybe one day when I least expected it, I would get a telephone call from China, from a very kind and gentle Chinese lady who would introduce herself to me and chiseled a memory that would last forever! I don’t know why it happened? I can only speculate. I know God smiles at me today. He has used me as clay in his hands.

    This happen 20 years ago and I live with it each day of my life. I am not sad or depressed about it any more. I have dealt with those feelings long time ago. Some days are frustrating still and some days are some what exhausting but that is normal. Mostly what I face today is people’s attitudes, even on this web site. In grade school we are taught, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but names with never hurt me.” It builds character. In this great Nation each citizen has the right to remain silent. That is our Fifth Amendment in the Bill of Rights of our Constitution. Exercise it! I just ignore them and try to understand the people I love in my life more. I laugh when people come up to me and say, “You drive?” and “You work?” I tell them, “Why not?”

    Last May I went globetrotting and took a trip to Qīngdao, China. After spending 28 days in Qīngdao, China, population 10 million people, near the size of New York City. Absolutely mind blowing! Extreme monster in size! I flew from Cleveland, Ohio to Newark, New Jersey. In Newark I got on a Boeing 777 connecting flight to Běijīng, China, then another connecting flight to Qīngdao, China. It puts the word globetrotting into perspective. A magnificent metropolis coastal city in East China's Shandong Province. I stayed in a beach front unit facing the Yellow Sea. The weather comfortable and cool from the Yellow Sea’s mist. If you have the opportunity to go, go! I did! A life changing experience!

    I didn’t go to China for a cure but for a different reason of the heart, a journey, an adventure and a cultural experience of a lifetime. I went and flew solo too. Continental Airlines took very good care of me round trip. Therefore, what came my way I dealt with it? All the Chinese people I met were very kind, personal able, friendly and helpful towards me. I had very little accessibility problems while there in Běijīng and Qīngdao, China. I have to say 28 best days of my life spent in China with a very beautiful Chinese lady. Life is good!

    During this past Christmas 2006 and New Year I was invited back to Qīngdao, China. I spent 19 days this time. The morning of my flight back home was delayed three hours due to heavy fog at Qīngdao Airport. My connecting flight from Běijīng to United States of America was missed and Air China put me up in the Capital Airport Hotel. Where I telephone my friend in Qīngdao and she flew into Běijīng several hours later. The next morning she hailed a taxi and we went to Tiananmen Square making the best of missed flight. What golden opportunities still exist for us out there to exercise!

    Someone said to me, “There are not poor people in this world, just lazy people.” I see that all the time. It is very sad to see people get on Social Security Disability or “get a free check and not work” and stop living their lives because of an event that changed their life? The good that comes out of the bad things that happen to you is to help you become your best, most authentic self. One thing this injury taught me is I am no longer afraid. All my brothers have guns in their homes to protect them. I have the biggest weapon of all that protects me. God. That’s all I need. He’s always behind me. I am at peace.

    Valuable lessons are always being learned and there are endless wonderful gifts waiting for us, especially as a result of the tough breaks we have to deal with. Some people just can’t deal with what has happen to them let alone to look to the future and move forward.

    This is the personal tragedy I suffered and the intrepid way I survive and dealt with it. Many see it as a success story. I just see myself as living my life to the fullest each and every day. Human life is precious. My heart is open and love is still strong. My mind is strong and still learning. My body is still the same, now I sit. My soul is at peace. I am at peace with God.

    This is the darkness in my life that I turned into light. Now through the stain glass window I have built, I now have colorful rays of light flowing into my life. I don’t see myself as handicap or disabled or super-crip or super-quad or extreme-quad. I have a spinal cord injury and I deal with it. I have a different lifestyle. I live with it and I still take very good care of myself as I did before. I eat natural and wholesome foods everyday. I call it the “No-shit” diet with plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, water, coffee, tea, fish, no meats, zero alcohol, zero junk food and a clean lifestyle.

    Life is good!

    Life is great!

    Life is precious!

    Live life now!

    During my first flight to China dinner was being served in the cabin. A fortune cookie was given to every passenger with their meal. I left my fortune cookie for last. Eating my dinner I wondering what it would say? I was done with my meal and I just looked at this cookie. I opened it and it said, “We must overcome difficulties rather than being overcome by difficulties.” I sat back and smiled. What has life taught me?

    What’s in store for the future? The future is brighter than ever and very promising. Now that the stain glass window is built. I am working on another one for my new home. I am now in the designing phase of a new accessible home, very modern not high technology. Once that is completed I want to go back and earn a Master’s degree in Business Administration, MBA. I still want to travel too. In a short time I will be in a far away distance land where the people say, “Food is heaven.” Today’s modern medical practices I want to have a little ti with the beautiful love in my life. Life is still good! Life is precious. Hope. Never give up on hope. One day there will be a medical break through that will shift the paradigm of therapies of all spinal cord injured. We all must take care of bodies first. Never give up on hope and pray.

    Able-bodied or spinal cord injured, the bottom line is attitude. With the right attitude you still can run after and achieve your dreams, ambitions and goals in life. You don’t need legs to do that. What you do need is a sound mind. I problem solve. That is why God gave us a brain. Use it, don’t abuse it!

    Now? Someone posted, “What sucks about a spinal cord injury the most?” Absolutely NOTHING! You still have life to live. Stop complaining and do something to make that change!

    I have always said, ”I don’t want to be different. I want to make a difference.”

    What are you waiting for? A cure?

    Go out there and live life!

    Before it’s too late!



    Last edited by titanium4motion; 24 Mar 2007, 1:32 PM. Reason: Members of Carecure wanted more.
    "We must overcome difficulties rather than being overcome by difficulties."

    If you had to break a bone why on earth did you pick that one?

    OK, I'm asking - get posting!


      20 years wow
      same here never broke a bone, always healthy. Only broke one bone in my wreck. T12 though, much lower than yours.
      Glad you are doing well. Did you still get married?
      If you can't handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don't deserve me at my best.

      Sometimes it is easier to widen doors than it is to open minds.


        Twenty years is huge .... do something really special for yourself (I know I did lol)!!

        I've enjoyed reading your posts and you seem to have had quite the interesting life ... please post what you did in going from 'lost' (your words from a previous post) to your position now!
        Roses are red. Tacos are enjoyable. Don't blame immigrants, because you're unemployable.

        T-11 Flaccid Paraplegic due to TM July 1985 @ age 12


          Naturally, I won't say "congratulations" to you.

          I will ask what has been your single greatest personal accomplishment in those twenty years?


            Wow 20 years. I can't imagine it. Best thoughts going out to you. From what I've read in your posts, you have made it work.
            T7-8 since Feb 2005


              Happy anniversary? Or not?
              Last edited by artsyguy1954; 24 Mar 2007, 3:21 AM.
              Step up, stand up for:

              'He not busy being born is busy dying." <Bob Dylan>


                are congrats in order? i'm always at a loss for words ... t4m good luck to ya mate!