Mark Grantham

I grew up the youngest of five siblings. Growing up, I pursued many activities including sports, music, and outdoor recreation. After I graduated high school, everything was proceeding as I had planned.

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I grew up the youngest of five siblings. Growing up, I pursued many activities including sports, music, and outdoor recreation. After I graduated high school, everything was proceeding as I had planned. I went on to college and continued to be involved in all the activities and hobbies that I has always pursued within my church and community.

On June 9th, 2006 I was working as a lifeguard for a children’s camp. The kids took a 10 minute break, sat on the edge of the pool, and wanted all of the workers to take turns jumping in and splashing them. They specifically wanted to see me slide down an inflatable waterslide. I proceeded to start down the slide and halfway down it collapsed.

I hit my head on the concrete and the momentum threw me forward into the water.

Fortunately, even though I hit my head hard enough to break my neck, I wasn’t knocked unconscious.This allowed me to hold my breath while underwater but even more importantly, out of the eighty or so people who were present that day,

I was the only one who was trained in how to deal with a head and neck injury, fortuitously enabling me to direct my own care to prevent further injury. After the paramedics arrived, I was life-flighted to the hospital and rushed into surgery. When I woke, I was given the diagnosis on my injury including my paralysis. I was unable to move my fingers nor the rest of my hand. The majority of my arms were paralyzed as well as the rest of my body from the chest down.

After staying in the hospital for two weeks, I was moved to a rehabilitation hospital in Colorado for three months where I was surrounded by others with spinal cord injuries from all over the US, learning about spinal cord injury, and how to live with it. It was both fascinating, challenging, and incredibly rewarding.

After returning home, I had a very positive and upbeat outlook and I wanted to face this challenge head-on. However, something unfortunate was happening every day. Pre-injury I had always been in the gym, pushing myself very hard and consequently my metabolism was very high. After I was injured, my body went into overdrive working to repair itself which caused my metabolism to increase even more. The doctors suggested that I do anything and everything to stop losing weight.

They instructed me to increase my intake of calories substantially, even going so far as to encourage me to consume ice cream every day, making all my friends jealous in the process. No matter the approach, however, I continued to lose weight and I dropped from 175 lbs to 106 lbs in a span of seven months.

My lowest point came in January in 2007 when I was so thin that I started to experience the breakdown of tissue in my body and was forced to spend the majority of every day laying down in bed.

At this time, my city experienced the first of two consecutive ice storms and we lost power for 13 days. In essence, it’s served as a metaphor. As I lay there shivering under five or six blankets, I too felt powerless. For the first time since my accident, I started to experience feelings of anger, sadness and frustration at what was happening. However, as I lay in bed day after day and night after night I started thinking about what I was experiencing and I made a choice. I wouldn’t stop trying. I made a conscious decision to keep on keeping on.

I’m extremely blessed to have an amazing support system comprised of family and friends. We live in a world that can be very negative and cynical. I encourage everyone to surround themselves with positive and supportive people, but alas, it still comes down to one person.

The important thing is this: you have more control and impact on your life than anyone else. What you decide to do when you’re confronted with adversity is what matters the most.

As I started to learn how to do things like how to feed myself, how to drive a car, or even how to cast a fishing pole again, I noticed how my focus began to revolve around my abilities, including problem solving. Most of all, I received a great deal of strength from my faith. Everything in my life has meaning because of my faith. Nothing stays the same. Change is inevitable, and sometimes change can happen very quickly. Sooner or later everyone will experience an event that could be painful and cause some level of a hiccup to their plans, prompting a choice.

You can either identify that it’s terrible, despair at your circumstances, and wallow in self-pity. Or you can acknowledge and accept that something unfortunate happened which you cannot change, and instead choose to actively focus on your future.

Ultimately, I have found what happens to you is not nearly as important or impactful as what you decide to do about it.