My name is Arthur and here's my story. I walked into the hospital when I was 12 years old, 59 years ago (1962), to undergo heart surgery due to poor circulation in my legs. During surgery, I suffered a spinal cord injury at the L-5 level and lapsed into a 6-week coma. Once I awakened and alert, I wanted to get up and walk around, but the nurse said I couldn't. When my parents and the doctors came in to see me, they told me that, while undergoing heart surgery, I had obtained a spinal cord injury from a cut to the main nerve in my spinal cord. I was told I'd never walk again. I was devastated.
I wanted to go home but was told that I had to go a rehab hospital for 3 months so I could learn how to maneuver my body again and practice using a wheelchair. I thought my life was over! All this at 12 years old. Therapy was very hard, but through the encouragement from my parents, friends, church family, therapy, and physical therapy, my life began to change for the better. A year later, I found myself still being able to do things like participate in sports.
In 1963, I had to think about returning to the 7th grade school, and the thought made me lose my confidence. Once I arrived at school and heard the comments "he can't walk like us. He doesn't need to be here" I felt like leaving! But the confidence and determination of not continuing to feel sorry for myself kicked in overdrive, and that same day I met one student who didn't make any comments or point at me. Her name was Minerva.
When she walked to me, I felt uncomfortable, thinking she was going to be rude, as well. She just smiled and said, “It doesn’t matter to me.” It didn’t matter that I was a wheelchair user because she was impressed with me, the person. My confidence within me, returned.
After our first meeting, we spent time together, during daily study periods. We became a couple, but separated in the 11th grade, due to a misunderstanding. Even though we went our separate ways after high school and college, I still remained positive about my life, became employed, even though poor health led to my early retirement.
Twelve years later, I went to her home to pay my condolences a year after her 1st husband passed, because even though it has been years, I knew what it felt like to lose a spouse. After 41 years of leading separate lives, Minerva and I re-connected later in 2009, dated for two years, and we have been married now for over 10 years.
My words of encouragement to any person with an SCI, especially those with a new injury: "Try not to give up, because confidence and determination, can lead to a positive life for you.” It did for me.