Getting Back Up
It was a hot and sticky afternoon and Coldwater Lake beckoned. Scott Fedor had gone swimming there many times. But this day – July 3, 2009 – would be different. Scott dove in, not knowing that dry weather had reduced the Michigan lake’s water level. His head slammed into the unforgiving lake bed floor. Scott, 33, broke his neck at C3. He was paralyzed from the shoulders down.
Such an accident would be a personal disaster for anyone. But those who know Scott feel a special, sharper sense of anguish over his debilitating injury. That’s because people who know Scott have seen that he has an insatiable appetite for life and accomplishment.
Since that awful moment at the lake, there have been many difficult days. There will be more. But Scott will not quit. He’s a fighter. Scott worked extremely hard to rebuild his body and mental attitude throughout the first year following his accident. Along the way he kept a journal, and posted the following on his one year anniversary:
“Today is a celebration. I wasn’t quite sure a few months ago how I would feel when today finally came around. Would I be happy? Sad? Scared? Excited? Thankful? Regretful? You name the adjective and I’m sure it crossed my mind at one point. Today didn’t feel any different. I didn’t wake up with some weird tingling feeling, or some heightened sense of being. Nope – I felt the same as I did yesterday and I will probably feel the same way tomorrow.
So there it is; a year has passed since I dove in the lake and I woke up today feeling no different than a lot of other days. But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe I am better equipped at dealing with my situation than I thought I would have been had you asked me several months ago. Today is a celebration. My parents, Kristy and a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer all sat outside, drank some champagne, told some stories about the past year, laughed and cried at times, recalling everything we have all been through. My in-laws sent me a nice message saying they would toast to me at 5:45 PM (the time I dove in the lake).
As we sat in the courtyard, I reflected on this past year. There’s probably a lot I should say to sound profound and full of enlightenment. But instead I thought it best to just keep it simple and focus on all the things I can do now that I couldn’t do a year ago, instead of all the things I can’t. I’m reminded every day about what I can’t do. I don’t always give myself enough credit for what I can do, so last night I asked my mom to make a short list for me – those who know me, know how much I love lists. Here is what I came up with:
I can breathe on my own.
I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want.
I can hold my head up without a neck brace.
I can sit in my wheelchair for long periods of time without any issues.
I can maneuver myself around extremely well.
I can stand up for periods of time without passing out.
I am learning to use a computer and cell phone without assistance.
I can direct my care.
I can travel by van.
I can speak with a strong voice.
I can feel sensation in my biceps.
It’s not the most glamorous list by any means but I am very proud of it. It may be one of the best lists I have ever written, for the simple fact that I had to work extremely hard to accomplish each one of the items. I am not done by any means, and I plan to add a lot more to this list. But I am proud of myself. I feel I stuck it out when a lot of others may have given up. And I would not fault anyone if they did give up, for this is such a catastrophic injury, and if you haven’t been through it, you can never begin to fathom what it is like. But even knowing the road that was ahead of me I still said YES to life. Yes I want to live. I was given the choice by the doctors after being told how horrible my life would be. That was a year ago and I am happy to say I have proved them wrong and will continue to do so. As I discussed with my family today, this past year was all about fighting for my life.
This next year is all about getting back up, getting stronger and moving forward. As I had said this it brought to mind a quote from the movie Wall Street. I feel this past year was all about me finding the character to stay strong and go on. To choose to get up every day in the face of knowing what that entailed. I really did find more character than I thought I had in me. The quote is as follows:
‘Man looks in the abyss and realizes there’s nothing staring back at him. At that moment, man finds his character, and that is what keeps him out of the abyss.’
I looked in the abyss. I found my character, and I have stayed out of the abyss. So now as I look forward to year two I do realize that while I may not be in an abyss I am not on the same ground that I was a year ago. You could say I am in a valley right now; it certainly is not the high point of my life and I need to continue climbing to get back to the higher ground which I want to be on. It reminds me of another quote – for those who know me, they also know how much I love quotes!
‘Falling into the deepest valley is nothing to fear. It just means you are in the perfect position to climb the world’s highest mountain.’
As I think about what was just written, I think about my bucket list. This is a list that I started over 10 years ago and have always carried in my wallet. I am happy to report I have crossed many things off that list. Some of the items I crossed off were things such as: skydive, travel across the country, ride a bull for 8 seconds, write a novel/screenplay. All of these are items that literally have a check mark next to them on my list. There is no check mark next to the first item; the original item and very first thing I ever wrote down, the catalyst for which the whole list was predicated on. “Climb a mountain.” At the time I always thought that mountain would be Mt. Everest. I now realize it is a much bigger mountain. Climb On!”
In September of 2010 Scott was implanted with a Spinal Cough Assist System at Metro Hospital in Cleveland. This system allows him to generate a very strong cough to clear any secretions. In fact, this system has been so successful that in December of 2010 Scott had his trache permanently removed.
You can continue to follow Scott’s incredible journey at www.scottwfedor.com