Tag Archives: wheelchair videos

SCI Superstar: Ricky James

One word has been driving Ricky James since he broke his back – perseverance (and he has the entire thing tattooed up his left leg in huge cursive font).

If you know motocross, you probably know who Ricky James is (and maybe knew about him before injury). He was a rising 15 year old star in the motocross world who started racing at the age of 2 (they called him a “prodigy on two wheels”). He was even home-schooled so he could keep up with his crazy schedule.

Motocross is in Ricky’s blood and always will be. That is why after his accident (he hit a dirt embankment racing Amateurs Nationals in Lake Whitney, Texas), he was the last guy to ever think of wiping his hands clean of the sport he grew up sleeping and breathing. Are you kidding? “Motocrossers are a different breed,” says Ricky.

Why he’s fearless

Ricky became paralyzed after breaking his spine in half (check out this insane x-ray of his injury on his site under “What is SCI?”) at the T6-7 level, but that didn’t stop him. Thanks to a family friend who was also paralyzed, after only five weeks after his injury Ricky was back out at the track with friends. He is still so alive, still so strong (both physically and mentally) and has energy that just won‘t quit. I love that Ricky refuses to let his injury stop him from doing what he loves. In layman’s speak? He’s on the same bike.

Ricky uses a steering stabilizer for more balance, electronic shifting and an electronic start to make up for the use of his legs; and those mods are NOT cheap. Thanks to his sponsors, including SoCal Trucks, Colours Wheelchairs and SHOEI, he has the coolest set-up any adrenaline-addict paraplegic could dream of (and also thanks to help from the paralyzed motocross experts @ Para Pros Racing).

Ricky was back racing within months of his injury, and is doing a lot more on top of straight motocross. He also races motokarts (“adaptive motox;” a new sport created by the X-Games, which he was in in 2008) and off-road trucks. “I don’t want to be known as the wheelchair guy that races,” he says. “I want to be known as that really fast guy who happens to be in a wheelchair.”

What’s next

Finally healed up after two riding injuries (yep they still happen. He took a several month break after dislocating his shoulder), Ricky did something that always impresses me whenever I hear of a wheeler doing it – completing an Ironman triathlon. He went to Lake Placid, NY on July 20th to complete in his second (yup second) Ironman triathlon.

His first Ironman was in 2008 in Kona, Hawaii. Ironman triathlons are insane acts of endurance, requiring entrants to run/push a marathon (26.4 miles), swim 2.4 miles and bicycle/hand-bicycle 112 miles. Ricky is rocking his still-there abilities to their core.

As a representative for Life Rolls On, racing any way he can still get it (including NASCAR trucks) and living the beautiful life in Oceanside, Cali (a tad jealous of that one), at 23, Ricky has made his way through the wilderness of his youth in a beautifully refined piece (I‘m sure to many people‘s surprise). He just refuses to quit, and I, and the motocross world, love him for it.

Watch the videos!

NBC Sports profiles Ricky James (great interview with his parents, beautiful clip)
Fun interview with Ricky James (with an Aussie reporter) about Ironman (and see his multiple leg tattoos)
Ricky James talks about his accident and how he can still ride (from Transworldmx)
Cool clip of Ricky James in a PSA from Life Rolls On

SPINALpedia through co-founder Britt’s eyes

My only concern when my dad was first injured was whether or not he would live. I was told pretty early that he had broken his neck, but I had no idea what that really meant. In my 12 year old mind, my interpretation was that one day I would help my dad walk again, but once I learned what paralysis really meant that image was shattered.

Having lost my only brother in the accident, I was left to figure a lot of it out on my own. I remember cleaning the screws from the halo bolted into my dad’s skull. I learned how to use a hoyer lift to help him get into bed. I even took shifts waking up at 2am to help turn him at night to avoid pressure sores. Transfers, cervical vertebrae, catheters and spasms became a part of my normal vocabulary.

My dad and step-mom were transitioning too—learning the ins and outs of life with paralysis. My step-mom connected with other spouses of quadriplegics, and my dad toiled daily in all kinds of therapy. One day he was struggling with a Velcro sleeve to hold an eating utensil, when another quadriplegic rolled up and said simply, “try this.” My dad watched him weave the fork through his immobile fingers, and it is how my dad has eaten ever since. I watched these things happen and saw how the power of connection and mentoring made such a difference in our lives and how much it expedited the adaptation process. However, I began to wonder, what would have happened if we lived far away from a big city? What if there were no mentoring programs or no one with similar mobility for my dad? I quickly came to realize how many people weren’t as lucky as we were, and I couldn’t accept that. Something needed to bring the entire community together—that something is now SPINALpedia!

SPINALpedia is a growing online community of people affected by paralysis—those paralyzed as well as the able-bodied supporters— who share their experiences to help others learn to adapt their lives more quickly and realize their potential. Searches are efficient—members specify details of their mobility and situation to filter relevant videos and members. Whether you’re a paraplegic aiming to transfer in and out of your car or a ventilator dependent quadriplegic hoping to use a computer again, you can filter content and find exactly what you are looking for. No more sorting through millions of YouTube videos and no more reading pages of text-based information which may or may not be useful. You can even search by your relation to paralysis, helping spouses find other spouses, parents find other parents, and friends find other friends. We have created a living, breathing, dynamic manual of life affected by paralysis, completely customizable to your needs.

Our mission is to give people the tools they need to redefine their lives and to free up precious time. As we help more people cut the number of years it takes to learn certain tasks and reduce the number of people unaware of their potential, we will slowly change the negative, condescending perceptions of paralysis, as more and more people are out, active and happy in society. We don’t have a say in the challenges we face in our lives, but we do have a say in how we move forward. Join SPINALpedia, learn from others, share your own triumphs and together we will redefine life in a wheelchair.

How will (or do) you contribute to SPINALpedia? What impact has mentoring had on your adaptation after a spinal cord injury?