Help me WALK again.
After enjoying a night out with friends in Philadelphia , Christmas week 2011, I hailed a taxi to go home. That was my last recollection before suffering an attack where I was left for dead in a city alley. Many facts are unknown but investigators determined that I was most likely struck across the back with a heavy, blunt piece of metal three different times blindly from behind, causing various injuries to my body and spinal cord. Soon after I was found on train tracks with further severe injuries from the fall and damage from the train hitting me. The police investigated but were unable to find the attacker(s) or any other information as to the accident.
Everyone always hears of tragic accidents but no one ever expects they will be the victim. The reality that I was a victim became known to me as I drifted in and out of consciousness in the trauma unit with doctors over my body , tubes and wires, and a priest at my side. It did not become clear what had happened until the priest spoke with me, and I realized I could not move anything below shoulders from paralysis. Emergency surgery awaited me as I was facing the rest of my life in a wheelchair with a 10% chance of recovery to walk. I knew this would be the greatest fight of my life.
I spent 6 grueling months in Trauma, ICU, step-down units, and at a rehabilitation hospital - filled with struggle, frustration, anger, support, love, and the thought of never walking again. I was released home and it is then that I realized that without the help of full time nurses and doctors at my side my real fight would begin. My first weekend home was both sweet and bitter, I knew it was going to be incredibly tough and take every ounce of my mental, physical and spiritual strength to get through this injury. But I would beat it.
These physical, psychological, and emotional elements in and of themselves are daunting, scary, and overwhelming; but they are only part of the battle. The other critical part is the cost of care to treat my injury and recovery. The hospital and rehabilitation costs were just the beginning of a long, arduous process of dealing with insurance to cover and continue to pay for therapy that is essential to my walking again. It is estimated that the cost of the first year's care to treat a Quad spinal injury at one million dollars, $1,000,000. Subsequent years can cost on average $175,000.
Five days a week I am in Physical Therapy, both at an out-patient facility and home. My schedule is relentlessly tough and I give no breaks to myself no matter how much pain I am in or how easy it is to skip my exercises, weights, standing frame, stimulation bike, stretching, or other treatments. Now, 28 months since my injury, 21 months into therapy, I am able to move both my legs on my own (right stronger at present - but left will catch up), proving to myself and to the amazement of doctors that a full recovery is possible with the right support, love, and hard work. To date I have worked relentlessly to recover 75% of what the accident took away.
Until now I have relied on insurance and immediate family for help. I have hit many of the maximum limits with insurance. The personal funds I had available to pay these costs have been depleted. I am humbly asking for your generous donation to help with medical and related expenses such as: continued medical treatment, aqua rehab, exercise equipment, home healthcare, and hospital and doctors fees. Your donation, no matter how big or small, will be greatly appreciated to defray these costs. My goal is to raise $40,000, biggest components are a stimulation bike which costs $16,800, and to pay for further Locomotor Training (see video w treadmill) sessions which cost $400/hour 3 times a week.
Today I am a changed man physically, mentally and spiritually. This accident has been the greatest gift in disguise, replete with lessons on life that forever have made me a better person. With your help I also will become a changed man. With your donations, my guts and determination, the support and love of family and friends, and through prayer, I will walk again.
Each week I will provide update(s) on my recovery and what changes have occurred as a result of your donations - until I post a picture of myself completing a 5K race. Thank you!!!
VIDEOS of my recovery:
You have the option to make your donation anonymous to the public. Administrator of account can see your donation however.
All donations are tax deductible.
What would it look like if I were to create a digital marketing campaign for my school, University of Pennsylvania? First, I would go back to the old days of traditional marketing; just as with everything in life there needs to be balance of the dual sides of the equation. Today we are bombarded with marketing from every which side – especially digitally. The newest and greatest push is through marketing on mobile devices. What radical mix of ideas can help me set UPenn apart, whilst increasing their marketing potential and student enrollment.
When I worked in the dot.com boom in NYC in the late 1990s there were a number of great marketing ideas to fructify. Often I feel we as leaders in the business world we tend to overlook what works so we can reinvent the wheel. The wheel does not need to be reinvented in this case. A recent publication from Harvard Business Review focused on marketing and advertising and why customers purchase what they purchase. The study focused on P&G and was surprising to most who read it. However I feel if both, traditional and digital, were combined creatively and with emphasis on the psychology we would maximize our ROI.
Everywhere we turn we are inundated with endless digital marketing. Sure, we could round up all the usual suspects, throw them all against the wall, and see what sticks. That was yesteryear’s thinking: make it sticky. Whereas now we are more clearly aware of what most often pushes the decision for someone marketed to make a purchase: habit and ease of decision. Habit is based in psychology; psychology drives the emotional component to decision making. Once the habits that form decisions are identified digital marketing can go to work.
There are hundreds of companies out there that will sell you ten ways to the moon and stars. My proposal is a mix of traditional marketing mixed with a participatory digital platform that engages pre-disposed students (through bio and neuro-feedback psychological testing). Traditional marketing collateral materials would be created – with the focus on driving the student to the program that best fits his answers/ habits. Once we have a focused target, as opposed to blanket marketing campaigns where deduction of results is biased and based on antiquated methods, we then can concentrate the focus on his/her needs in order to accomplish our goal: increased enrollment. Follow-up studies would also be instituted to ensure proper future marketing materials, also a component of the psychological paradigm.
At college recruiting events, both on campus and off, is where our plan would be instituted. It would be more of a gorilla style marketing start to the campaign than with digital. Digital marketing will essentially be the follow up where we solidify their decision through carefully targeted modern digital methods and means. We would use brightly colored flyers and creative 4x6 post cards to interest and engage prospective students into asking more questions about UPenn and its programs. Engagement is KEY! There would be three main questions/messages:
1. UPenn will pay you to go to school, find out how.
2. UPenn hates it students, ask me why.
3. UPenn can send you to space, ask us how.
These are simply conversation starters in order to get the prospective student to sit down to further discuss their college choices and why to pick/apply to a certain school. At this point we would also request the student take fifteen minutes to complete a more intensive comprehensive questionnaire – which would then give us the data sets we need to follow up with digital marketing. Additional tests could be formulated for their parents as well – further identifying other desirable characteristic and concerns of the parents when choosing a school.
They key with the digital marketing side now is that it is scientifically data-driven, well focused, and has identified the needs of the student and requirements for their education choice. So often companies throw money at SEO, mobile platform, pop-ups, pop-unders, etc – with no real way to measure the results –yet money continues to flow unabated and measured. But if you have data sets pre-determined through traditional marketing first you can then establish your own university baseline of which to measure from and against, truly giving you incredibly focused and highly targeted digital marketing. There is no need to reinvent what digital marketing already lies in the marketing cosmos, the real need is to make sure it is focused and effective. Today most companies and universities fall short of the finish line to that end.
Why is learning important to you and how has it impacted your life?
Education Comes in Many Shapes and Sizes
In life we often are not taught the value of empowerment at a young age. How does one go about this stage of development? Learning comes in many forms, and for some it is more so outside the classroom. As a young boy I was always interested in exploration, especially in the deep woods. These woods were my cathedral --a place to connect with my soul and my higher being. In these quiet woods I found my laboratory for learning that fed my inner fire.
There is great value in a young person’s life when he is able to learn from an educational journey, find his innermost strength, and slay his personal dragons. Modern society, with its increasing shallowness and attention to social media, gives little credence to traditional rites of passage or outside forms of learning and education. To my good fortune, the adventures in the woods would prepare me for my future.
It began on a brisk mid-summer’s evening when I stepped off a float plane onto the dock of Langskib island in northern Ontario, Canada. The island was part of Northwaters Wilderness Canoe Camp, a camp with a reputation for being tough and rough, the realized dream of one hard Danish cowboy, David Knudsen. The camp is the only one in Canada to canoe the untamed Hurricanaw River to the expansive James Bay.
This trip, referred to in hushed tones as “The Bay Trip” is the modern day ”hero’s journey.” For me it was the stuff of Arthurian legends -- to come home a hero after having faced life’s biggest challenges. The dangerous river journey is followed by the demanding forty-five mile paddle in ocean-like arctic water to the safety of the native village of Moosonee.
We paddled hundreds of miles on the Hurricanaw River, with its class V and VI rapids. We faced raging eight foot whitewater and had to portage our expedition canoes and heavy gear over massive rock- faced cliffs and treacherous, slippery terrain. One false step could easily result in death; lessons and education were abound everywhere – especially interpersonal communication and group dynamics. On the shoreline as the river empties into the mighty James Bay, polar bears stalk their prey.
The Bay taught me much. The magical Northern Lights in the vast sky reminded me how insignificant I am in the universe. My journey down the dangerous river taught me what I was made of inside, what fight exists when I think I have no more to give. Each time in life I face what I think is an insurmountable obstacle, I remember The Bay and often the words of my leader, Seth. He would shout “Teeth to the wind” the words of the French traders as they took the measure of the great northern rivers when transporting their pelts to market in minus 30 degree weather. For me, life is about “teeth to the wind”.
My rite of passage in the far north of Canada changed my life and still reminds me daily: don’t complain, never blame, share what you have and never say I can’t. And, occasionally I ask, who would I be without that first great educational adventure? We may not all need a trip to The Bay. But, I believe we all need some sort of challenge, some adventure with others that tests our will and courage to face what feels impossible. It taught me to dig deep, trust my gut, take risks, be vulnerable, and follow my heart because it never lies.
At the end of the day, it is only through learning and teamwork that we overcome. My quest has taught me that others are inherently good, with their journey . Ultimately they want to be respected and loved with forgiveness standing at the center. Searching out risk and challenging life experience has given me the tools needed to overcome the impossible. Education of the woods and life has given me the tools to now enter into graduate school confident that I can succeed. It has also taught me the value of giving back, helping others, and the intrinsic values of learning that we so often take for granted.
For this irascible wild-man, the challenging journey continues with an unquenchable thirst for life’s lessons. Through education, adventure, understanding, love and forgiveness, I choose to continue my education quest in the Organizational Dynamics program at UPenn. What choices and challenges lie ahead? Education and learning come in many forms – of which I greatly appreciate. Teeth to the Wind!
One day, hopefully in the near future, I look forward to reflecting back on the endlessly forever continuing list of things that had to return in order for me to walk again. The good news is that my body continues to heal in an organic fashion. We know this since the body wants to heal itself and, when provided the right tools, does so in an organic fashion: spotty recovery: no linear model to be applied; healing occurs naturally where and when it is ready. It is an incredibly trying process, testing ones patience at every turn. Not every day sees the fight go on, there are many where I want to give up.
After five years of tireless days working hard to recover I thought I had experienced all there was to experience with nerve pain and recovery. Nerves in my legs and groin areas are in hyper mode. There are days where a pool full of drugs would not help take the pain away – makes one want to scream, almost go nuts in a small squirrel-like way. I have experienced and felt the small nerves, hot cold nerves, big nerves, medium nerves, highway nerves – any and all nerves you have in your body, I have felt recover. Often I speak of the magic of recovery, for being in one’s body as it grows and recovers, as you are alive and living in it, is a miraculous involvement.
There are days when my lower core seems to be strong and connected and ready to play tennis. Then there are other days when I feel like a wet noodle of spaghetti, folding over at the first wince of movement. My body often first gives me a sign, portending future recovery to be firmly in place after it does its work. Just as with my legs when they began to walk, it was a sign of what was to arrive after weeks of further deep work. Since that event my legs have continued to recover, most recently working on being able to lift my left and right thigh from sitting position. All the pieces are coming together!
Last on the list, and not only connected but also one cannot exist without the other, in order to start walking, is recovery in the bowel and bladder region. The same part of the spine that allows you to walk is also the same area that allows for the aforementioned functions. As I do it on the natural side of medicine it has been quite a trying phase(s) of my recovery. And the last few weeks have brought back memories of the fear of a teacher calling on you to go to the board in High School. I take it all in stride if not laughing at the whole process of healing along the way. My pelvic bone has also shifted, causing some very interesting changes, life results. I am healing, I am thankful.
Over the last five years I have received a tremendous amount of help from my friends, family and community. To date I still continue to receive support and help from others. At first it was very tough for me but I have now learned to be thankful for everything in my life, especially the help of loved ones and strangers. We cannot get through life without the love and support of others, at every level. There is not a day that goes by that I lose sight of the gifts of love I receive. Surely I am unable to do what I do each day to recover and help inspire others without the continued love and support of others. Thank you for allowing me to continue on my journey. I am healing, I am thankful. Thank you! Steven
Some people look at me as if I have three eyes when they hear I have not walked again since those initial two times. The first try was because my legs told me to go and walk. The second was to prove to me it was real; and since, my legs have not requested to walk. So I haven’t. In the meantime I know what they are up to: recovery. I can feel the smaller, finer nerves running and connecting – all day and night. It is enough to drive me nuts most days of late - sometimes I jab them to settle them down. Some days there is not enough medicine in the world to take that type pain away. It is through pain we find healing.
There are many different types of recovery. Some I have learned from doctors and studies, otherwise I have used my own healing, and others in the injured community as a basis. My recovery has always been of the ladder type – step by step. My body gives me a sample of what is to come – then it will give it to me 100% in due time. It is spotty, chaotic, and organic – closely following the Quantum Physics model, which we know is how the body operates and heals. Not under the Newtonian, linear model: A-B-C-D, which is what Western Medicine follows, of which Physical Therapy is a part of that system.
My body continues to heal and recover almost daily. As my legs drive me crazy my core is advancing into full recovery. My shoulders and upper back are taking a hammering – my muscles are constantly sore. Some days it can be tough to wheel to the kitchen to prepare food. That is if I am able to get out of bed – each morning I awaken to feeling like my body was beaten throughout the night. I do not dream, pure black sleep – within two minutes of my head hitting the pillow. The question begets: where do I go and what do I do? That is a question for another time.
As my core gets stronger it means a world of change for me. I have begun to sit up so straight that I now I need to adjust to a new point of balance, once again making hot fluids and knives dangerous weapons. When I wheel around sometimes I almost fall face forward into the ground as my point of balance has changed in everything I do, and how. However I am now able get up from the couch using only my core muscles, whereas a week ago I could not. I can feel them engage and then witness them working to lift me – again, after five years – it can cause one to take pause and think on the bigger questions of life.
As time goes on so too does the nature of my updates, and my recovery: I continue to heal in ways that amaze me at every turn – growing inside as a person at the same time. Each is its own journey, with its own story. One part of my plan to give back is a book, a guide book of sorts for those who awaken to a trauma, unprepared, ill-equipped to get through it. The chapter outline was recently approved and so the writing will commence this spring, with plans to publish in late summer, early fall. Much is in the works to give back and start paying it forward. Not a day goes by that I am not thankful for all the donations, prayers, words of encouragement, letters and stories of inspiration received – for they all give me the gas to get out of bed on those days I would rather not – Teeth to the Wind. Thank you! Steven
Hey Steven, I hope you're doing good, I wanted to thank you and share some extremely exciting news, because of you I worked harder than I ever have on my writings, found a producer and am going into production on the Blue Ridge Massacre in June, check it out on IMDB
Steven, you are so in my prayers and I am routing for you every time I read one of your updates, I am reminded of how powerful the human spirit is. How self-healing the body can be if we dedicate ourselves to it. Keep going! Sending you all my love.
Hi Steven, Sorry to learn of this. I wrote you a while ago on Facebook. Let me know if you'd like a visitor. Sincerely, Kelly
Bare feet in the grass activates different areas
Steven, I had no idea of your struggles. Stay strong. A healthy mind can compensate for any physical shortcomings. God bless buddy, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Merry Christmas buddy. Mark
With god all things are possible.
You will walk again and dance the night away once more :) ox you remain in my prayers!!!
YOu have are support & Prayers Cuz.. we love you