JT Simpson

I was injured on June 27th, 2016 in a trampoline accident. At the time I was 15, I was on the trampoline with some friends and I attempted a double front flip.

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I was injured on June 27th, 2016 in a trampoline accident. At the time I was 15, I was on the trampoline with some friends and I attempted a double front flip. I ended up under rotating and I landed on my head shattering my C6 vertebrae.

I was sent to the hospital where they did my surgery and I stayed there in the ICU for about a week and a half. I was sent to Shriners Hospital in Chicago where I spent three months doing intense rehab trying to regain as much function as I can. I regained a lot of sensation and function, basically learned how to be myself again.

Eventually I gained enough independence and I was able to go home. Before my accident I hadn’t really understood why people were in wheelchairs. I had never heard of a spinal cord injury. I didn’t think I’d ever end up in a wheelchair so I didn’t really care enough to learn about it.  There are not just physical barriers to being in a wheelchair,

there are a lot more mental and emotional issues to deal with. When my accident happened I didn’t really have an emotional reaction. I was always cracking jokes, pretending nothing was happening, trying to just be normal. One specific thing I remember was being wheeled into the ambulance; I was pretty hungry at the time so I asked if we could stop at Subway on the way to the hospital.

The dude in the ambulance thought I was crazy.

Once I came home from the hospital, I moved to a new school that was a little closer. I was a little afraid. I was a new student, I didn’t really know many people. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react because they didn’t know me, my story or what happened to me. All they knew was that I was a kid in a wheelchair. On my first day, I could tell that people were uncomfortable and didn’t know how to act around me. So I just made a bunch of wheelchair jokes, at first they were kind of shocked but they were more relaxed after that. I made a lot of friends that year and got a lot of questions. They were all the normal wheelchair questions: Why are you in a wheelchair? Can you walk? Are you ever going to walk again? Are your legs broken?

I gave them all simple answers but as the year went on people began asking more in-depth and thought-provoking questions; ones I didn’t have the answers too. One question really stood out to me, it really made me think. A kid I really didn’t know well said, “If you could go back and not be in a wheelchair would you do it?” for people without spinal cord injuries or not in a wheelchair the obvious answer would be, “yes of course”.  When he asked me, I didn’t have an answer so I just said I’ll have to think about it. I really did think about it, I thought about that question a lot. 

My answer to that kid’s question: No, I wouldn’t go back. I thought about what my perspective on life was before my accident, what my goals in life were.  All I really ever wanted to do was be better than everyone else, have more money, be better looking.

I wanted people to wish they were me. I believed if you could do that, you had truly succeeded in life.

I thought about perspective a lot. How we each live our lives through our own perspective. For the most part, you always live in the same perspective. I wouldn’t go back and not be in a wheelchair because I realized that the day of my accident I was given the gift of a second chance at life to live through a different perspective.

Recently I was having a particularly hard time in life. I kept seeing all my friends and people in my life progressing and doing great things and I wasn’t really doing much.I’m 18 and I graduated from high school, but I don’t have a car, a license, a job and I haven’t really been doing anything with my life.

After my accident people would make comments like, “being in a wheelchair must suck” or “what are you really going to do in life?” these comments eventually began to sink in and bother me. But I realized that life is not a competition. Move at the pace you make it, it may be slow or fast but it’s whatever you want. I was letting others define what my life was going to be but my life cannot be defined by those who have not lived it.

My perspective has changed immensely. In the years after my accident, I now understand life is not to be better or have more money than everyone else. Real success is the positive impact you make on lives around you.