I grew up in four countries as a child but the SF Bay Area has always been my home. After venturing to Boston for my undergrad and 5 years working and traveling to dozens of countries across five continents as a trip leader for an international biking and hiking tour company, I came back to the Bay Area to pursue an MBA. Shortly after that, one seemingly normal summer day turned into a horrific night that completely changed my life.
I have led my entire life with the belief and desire to make the most of every moment. Following the devastating spinal cord injury I suffered in 2012, I was faced with two options: 1) Listen to the doctors and medical specialists and accept and adapt to my damaged body with little to no hope for improvement or; 2) Commit myself fully to prove them wrong and to work diligently towards regaining function and getting back on my feet.
Maybe you can guess which option I chose…
Since then, I have worked relentlessly not only on my recovery goals but also to make a larger impact on the larger spinal cord injury community. I have presented and spoken to a number of audiences (see my Speaking page for more) about my experience and continue to share my story through my blog, my memoir and more speaking engagements.
In 2015, I co-founded the No Limits Collaborative, a 501c3 non-profit aimed at helping people with SCIs and neurological conditions to access exercise, physical therapy, education and an improved quality of life. I also helped a friend establish and coordinate Comedy for a Spinal Cause, a regularly occurring standup comedy show that raises funds for people with spinal cord injuries.
On July 8th, 2012 I fell from a third story apartment balcony, landed on my neck and shattered the C5 and C6 vertebrae in my spine causing major trauma to my spinal cord and instantly turning my world upside down. A couple of hours later, I woke up in a hospital bed, unable to feel or move most of my body and knowing full well that intense medications were the only thing numbing the excruciating pain coursing through my body.
In response to the injury, my spinal cord had swollen dramatically. I was injected with steroids to control the swelling and told I had to wait a couple of days for the broken bones to resettle and for my spinal cord to come out of panic mode. With my head and neck in a halo and lying flat on a swaying, twisting bed (which prevented muscle atrophy), I could only lie still and stare at one spot in the ceiling for the next 48 hours as family members and friends would come into view, greet and console me, all the while trying to hide their fear and worry at seeing me in this condition.
At 11am on July 10th, I underwent a 7 hour long surgery that involved cutting me open in the front and back of my neck, removing all the pieces of broken bone, reconstructing my spine by fusing together four vertebrae (C4-C7) with titanium rods and screws, and, in essence, piecing me back together.
When I woke up that evening, I was told the surgery had gone well but that I had a long road to recovery, and no one could define what recovery would be…