I’m going to start this article with my punchline because it’s important in understanding who I am: Appreciate everything you can while you can. I’ve always been that kind of person who would be on a hard bike ride and look down and think, “Thank you legs, you’ve brought me on some amazing journeys.” I would stop driving home from work just to watch a gorgeous sunset. I’ve always liked to appreciate the little things in life, but sometimes I would be so wrapped up in them I would forget the big things, like my overall health.
I sustained a spinal cord injury two years ago in a small plane crash. Flying was something I had worked hard to enjoy my entire life. Since my accident, I learned quickly that life is still possible with an SCI and that these things can be enjoyed again. Very few things will look the same and obstacles in life may appear different, but enjoyment is still there.
The only thing for me that has truly felt the same post-injury is flying. The first time I got back into the air with a friend at the controls I suddenly felt right. One hurdle I have to overcome to fly solo again is my medical certification from the FAA. Because of the SCI and other health issues this is one I haven’t been able to overcome yet. I’ve only been able to enjoy this feeling a few times in the last two years, but I know my health and the joy only flight can bring me are important enough to still fight for.
With no effort I can still enjoy a sunset. To fly again, I need to modify a plane with hand-controls and get my medical certification back. Both are hurdles, but they are ones worth putting in the time and effort to get that feeling back. Flying with hand-controls has been the easy part, it’s not much different from driving with them.
To circle back to my punchline – find the things that bring you joy regardless of your injury – once you’ve found those things, appreciate them big or small. Equally as important is to fight for the things worth fighting for. This applies to everything from personal relationships and simple things like a sunset, to the big things, which for me is flying. An injury isn’t the end, its just change, and if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that the only constant is change.