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Learning to Live Again After a Spinal Cord Injury

Posted on 02/26/18 in LEAP Spotlight!

Learning to Live Again After a Spinal Cord Injury

LEAP Board member Scott Fedor never expected a simple summer swim at a Michigan vacation home to change his life. But almost immediately after he dove into the too-shallow lake water, he knew his life would change forever. His barking dog alerted family members, who quickly saved him from drowning. But being rescued was only the beginning of an arduous recovery from spinal cord injury, a life-changing event that still presents him with a myriad of daily challenges.


“As I lay in the ICU after my accident, I knew I had a choice to live or die. I had already coded a few times and was on a ventilator. My doctor and family asked me if I wanted to be “let go” in the event of another code. But I realized I didn’t want to leave my family. I simply loved them too much and wasn’t ready to be separated from them. So, I told myself ‘don’t give up’. I chose to live.”


After a six-month stint involving surgeries and extensive rehabilitation at Metrohealth Hospital in Cleveland, Scott was moved to a nursing home, where he stayed an additional 14 months, learning to do everything over again as a quadriplegic, or person affected by paralysis of all four limbs. “It was an emotional and mental recovery even more than a physical one” said Scott. “Every day I had to find the strength to push through, realizing I was not going to walk again. But I was determined to leave the nursing home and find a way to live back in the community as an independent person.”


Scott was eventually connected with Linking Employment, Abilities and Potential (LEAP) when he had recovered enough to try living in an apartment with a variety of supports. “LEAP was there to help me with a valuable range of transition services. I remember the first night alone in my new apartment, lying in my bed and experiencing such a range of emotions. I was thankful to be out of the nursing home but couldn’t help thinking ‘Now what?’. I felt very sad, and knew I had to discover something deep inside myself that would help me to keep trying.”


According to Scott, he found his primary motivation by setting small goals related to personal independence and trying to achieve them each day. As he mastered them, he set even more ambitious goals, including resuming his career, and designing and building himself a unique home adapted to his needs, both of which he has accomplished. “Living with a spinal cord injury is like running a marathon with no finish line,” said Scott. “There’s still so much I enjoy, so much I want to do. I work, I have hobbies, and I socialize with family and friends. I constantly strive to do more than I did the day before.”


Scott’s vision of recovery has expanded far beyond himself, inspiring him to help others by joining the LEAP board of directors in 2011. Scott also started a foundation called Getting Back Up. “The idea for the foundation really grew out of my own experience of being denied physical therapy in the nursing home, due to insurance limitations. Physical therapy was a lifeline for me- it was mentally enjoyable as well as critical to my health, affecting such crucial factors as muscle strength and circulation. Getting Back Up helps others with spinal cord injuries to obtain physical therapy when insurance will no longer pay.”


Scott is also writing a book about his experiences, using voice-activated software. “Many people think that someone who experiences a severe injury like mine doesn’t enjoy any quality of life. But I want others to ‘look past the chair’ and see someone who still thinks of every day as a wonderful opportunity. I hope my story will inspire others to transcend their own personal setbacks and find new ways to embrace life again.”


Scott currently serves on the LEAP Board of Directors and is President of Getting Back Up. Visit Scott online: http://www.gettingbackup.org/, Facebook: @GBUSCI or Twitter: @GettingBackUp

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