Monthly Archives: November 2012

Spinal cord injury & tattoos – why we do it

What’s more popular than iPhones, reality TV and fast food in this country? Strangely, tattoos. Like it or revile it, everyone from old ladies to young kids to yes, people with paralysis, are getting inked (with mermaid tattoos a popular choice among spinal cord injury women). Heck, my mom even has more tattoos me (believe me when I say this is very very weird).

And the reasons behind their tattoos are more powerful (and profound) than ever. Major life changes – births, deaths and rebirths, passions, spirituality, are all celebrated in tattoos. It’s no wonder people turn to the ink gun after a spinal cord injury. From tattoos inspired by Chris Reeve to a 3E Love tattoo, here are three individuals in chairs with some wicked ink.

The first video comes from Pyromaniac 4889, a heavily inked C6-7 quad who has some impressive sleeves (arm tattoos) as well as a torso tattoo of a quote from Christopher Reeve. It’s in black ink and covers a large portion of his left rib cage. The Chris Reeve quote reads, “A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” Watch him explain his tattoos, including his new ‘V for Vendetta’ tat on his elbow

The next video comes from Aaron Wood, a C3-4 quad injured in 2009. He’s created a bunch of cool videos since his spinal cord injury answering people’s questions, and in this video he explains what it feels like to get ink on paralyzed and partially paralyzed parts of the body. He talks about how his arm started to spasm when he got his arm tattoo (and had to bring his gf with to hold it down). He also talks about how he got ribbed by someone for getting tattoos, saying he’s a “wimp” because he can’t feel them. Watch his video (and rebuttal)

The last video is adorable. It shows a girl who just turned 18 getting her first tattoo on the top of her hand. And the design? A very cool symbol that’s all the rage right now in the disability community – a 3E Love symbol (the wheelchair symbol with a heart). Watch as she chats up her tattoo artist

We all get tattoos for our own reasons. There’s something mysteriously powerful about making a permanent artistic mark to your body. For me, my Celtic shamrock on the inside of my left ankle is in honor of my best friend (also paralyzed) who passed away in 2005.

I may not have felt it, but it was something permanent I did to my body that I was actually in control of for once. And while the tattoo didn’t bring Steff back, the power behind the ink really can’t be equaled.

Have you gotten ink since your spinal cord injury? Anything symbolic that honors what you went through?

Watch the videos on post spinal cord injury tattoos!

C7 quad talking about his Chris Reeve tattoo and other tattoos

C3 quad talking about if getting his tattoos was painful

Newly 18 yr old female para getting a 3E Love hand tattoo

SCI Superstar: John Hockenberry

John Hockenberry may be the foremost journalist with a spinal cord injury to exist, and his career started long after he had his spinal cord injury. Injured when he was 19 years old while hitchhiking (the car he was riding in crashed after the driver fell asleep), John became a paraplegic. Even though he was studying math at the time at the University of Chicago, he decided to study music instead at the University of Oregon.

But that wasn’t in the cards for John either. A career in journalism awaited him, not to mention the 4 Emmy Awards and 4 Peabody Awards which would eventually come. After he volunteered for an NPR affiliate in the early eighties, he was hooked, and moved to Washington, DC where his amazing career began.

Why he’s fearless

After being a newscaster for NPR for eight years in DC, covering world news, including being a correspondent in the Middle East for Persian Gulf War, he got his big break – his own 2 hour nightly news show Heat with John Hockenberry (the show received a Peabody award in 1991). The show was canceled in 1991, and he moved on to working for ABC and NBC.

John first got a job for ABC news for the show, Day One, where he covered the civil war in Somalia. He’s also worked as a correspondent in conflict zones such as Iraq, Lebanon, Romania, the Balkans, Russia, India and Afghanistan. Hardcore is hardcore.

And then he moved on to NBC in 1996, where he became a correspondent for Dateline NBC.  This is where you may have seen his face before (I remember seeing him during my high school days, specifically covering the debut of the iBot). He hosted Edgewise, and his own show, Hockenberry, which aired for six months; his one and only solo show (I can’t think of any other wheeler who’s achieved this feat, so this is very cool).

And while working for NBC, he wrote his memoirs, Moving violations: War Zones, Wheelchairs and Declarations of Independence (I know this book has helped a lot of newbies in the first few months of their injuries). He also wrote the fiction title, River Out of Eden. Not to be outdone, he’s a celebrated speaker and presenter on the topics of media, design and cutting-edge technology. One of his most noteworthy speeches: ’We Are All Designers’ (for TED Talks). Watch

And John uses his celebrity status to help the worldwide disabled population. He’s spoken at the United Nations and the White House on the importance of improving the social justice and rights of the disabled.

What’s next?

After working for NBC, in 2008 John returned to NPR to host the live morning radio news show (which he developed), The Takeaway. He and his co-host, Celeste Headlee, interview celebrities and newsmakers. If you tune into NPR in the morning, you’ll definitely hear the soothing sounds of his lightly accented east coast voice.

He’s also the proud father of five children, four of which were born with the help of in-vitro (which he talks about amusingly in his TED speech). After he married his wife Alice in 1995, they got busy “designing” their family. Their last child, Ajax, was conceived naturally (with the help of some new technology).

John is such a role model in the spinal cord injury community. While some people have a really hard time adjusting to a life sitting down, John has used it as a catalyst to push him onto greater things.

Keep track of this thoughts and daily quibbles via his blog Blogenberry and Twitter.

Are you a fan of John Hockenberry’s career? Do you have a favorite story he’s done?

Watch the videos!

John Hockenberry TED Talks: We Are All Designers

Promo for John Hockenberry’s MSNBC show Hockenberry

John Hockenberry interviewing Woody Harrelson on his NPR show, The Takeaway