From: Milford, MA
Program: Service Dog
Minimum Goal: $8,000 | Amount Raised:$500
My name is John Stuhl, I am 48 years old, and have spent the last twenty seven years confined to a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down.
On September 01, 1991, I suffered a spinal cord injury, a T-12 burst fracture, and the impact of the fall caused my lower vertebrae to burst, severing my spinal column, leaving me paralyzed. My accident was caused by a railing failure and a really bad landing, at first I blamed the fall, I cursed gravity then I turned my anger on the thirty six plus feet I fell, eventually I figured you can’t fight or blame gravity. Lying in a hospital bed you have an abundance of time to think, too much in fact, eventually I posted blame where it belonged, I was responsible, and I should have stuck the landing. I won’t say that night haunts me, but it is something I doubt I will ever forget. I still remember speaking with the doctor after awaking from multiple surgeries, that sad look he wore, the difficulty he had explaining my situation, I actually felt bad for the doctor, he was young and I doubt he had delivered his share of terrible news, I’m sure he got better at it, all doctors do. While he spoke I remember feeling alone, the doctor explained the long road ahead, the many challenges, the task ahead was daunting, and again I felt isolated and alone.
The staff at Massachusetts General Hospital were kind and compassionate, even the food was pretty good, most importantly, and I remember the support my family and friends provided. I remember my softball team visiting after a tournament, well after visiting hours, they carried a large trophy, and a ball signed by the team, a ball I still have. I will never forget the hope it brought me, how important this act was, the strength it gave me, I wasn’t alone, and would not be, how it kept me going, gave me hope, yes, I was in tough shape, my situation was dire, I would need many months of intense in house and years of outpatient therapy which I received at New England Rehabilitation in Woburn, MA, again, the staff, occupational and physical therapists are fantastic. I was always so grateful when I received visits while in patient at New England Rehab, especially considering the long distances my visitors traveled, and the hellish traffic on 128. I left the rehab with one goal, independence, I didn’t want to be a burden, not on my family, not on my friends, not on anybody, I needed to be self-sufficient, I needed a job!
The people closest to me supported me emotionally but more importantly they challenged me. With their support, I stubbornly drove for independence, this allowed me to return to college, get involved in adaptive sports and most importantly gain the confidence to drive, to return to work, accept responsibility.
My goal was to always return to work seeking self-sufficiency, eventually I returned to the work in 1995 where I started a small business, worked with some incredible people and took great pride in the responsibilities I oversaw. For the last 14 years I have worked for the Department of Defense, specifically, the United States Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM), Military Nutrition Division (MND) at the Natick Soldier System Center (NSSC) in Natick, MA, and yes, the Army does love it’s acronyms. In 2004 I was hired by the United States Army. I work every day closely with soldiers and civilians, and again take great pride from that assistance I provide.
My goal has always been to demonstrate a strong interest in maintaining an active and productive career, but as I have grown older my physical limitations increase, the complications associated with a spinal cord injury have blossomed and they have begun to take their toll, whether infections, blood pressure, or stomach and skin ulcers, I stubbornly attempt to overcome my maladies, when I was younger, I took my health for granted, maintaining good health was easier, when you are young, you recover quicker, but you cannot outrun age, time always wins.
I always considered myself fortunate, strongly independent, I prided myself but by my mid-forties my complications began to take their toll. What once cleared up in days now takes months, I find myself in an almost constant state of sickness. I always took great pride in my independence, but for the first time I realized that I cannot do it alone, and I need not do it alone, there is help, I found NEADS.
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