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A Life-Changing Yearly Reminder with Scott Chesney

Hello and welcome to ONWARD Journeys. This is our multimedia blog that shares the latest spinal cord injury (SCI) research, advocacy, and stories. We will explore the various journeys taking place in this ecosystem – from research developments to personal breakthroughs. We will bring you these highlights through articles, video interviews, and first-person narratives from changemakers making a difference in the SCI Community.

By Scott Chesney

While there are some anniversaries that we cherish and treasure forever, an anniversary of one’s spinal cord injury is not one of them. Each year the date of our accident, injury, or when our illness began that resulted in paralysis, is mentally etched in our minds forever. We will never forget where we were, who was with us, how old we were, and what specifically happened (if we can remember that moment as there are some who can’t) to us on that day.

So, what does one do on his or her SCI Anniversary? It really does vary based on the individual person and what one is feeling on that date. Some will try to ignore it because it is just too painful to recall that moment and while they may come across that way, it is impossible to truly ignore the memory of that day. There will be others who will head in the total opposite direction, go out with a few friends, and mark the occasion as almost a celebration for being alive. And then there will be some, who may spend the day in isolation, recalling as many details as possible as if it happened yesterday. There is really no wrong way of handling the anniversary of possibly the most traumatic experience in one’s life.

“There is really no wrong way of handling the anniversary of possibly the most traumatic experience in one’s life.”

It was just my time

As for me, the 38th Anniversary of my SCI will be on December 28, 2023. I remember the day when paralysis began like it was yesterday. As a 15-year-old sophomore in high school, my life was all about movement, pushing boundaries, and living life as a teenager to its fullest. Just three days after my family and I had celebrated Christmas, I awakened to a numb, big left toe the night after a high school basketball game. My toe felt like the pins and needles one experiences when a part of his/her body falls asleep. Thinking nothing of it, I went to basketball practice and within 48 hours that numbness went up my left leg, up my right leg, and left me paralyzed, unable to move and feel normally, from my belly button down to my toes. There was no accident, no injury, and no physical trauma. It was just my time. I would find out months later that I was born with an arterio-venous malformation (AVM) in my spinal cord that could have never erupted, erupted when I was 5 years, 55 years old, etc. at 15 years of age, just as I was stepping into my manhood, paralysis would become the most traumatic experience in my life.

I will be grieving

Having focused more on the positives that paralysis has brought into my life for the past 37 years, there is a different direction in which I will be taking in acknowledging my anniversary this year…I will be grieving. As this has been one of the most challenging years of my life, I have finally begun focusing on my mental health. You see, when I became paralyzed I did not address the mental and emotional effects that paralysis undeniably delivers. I just could not go there. I just put my head down and plunged forward, doing everything I needed to do to manage paralysis, physically. Physically, I have been very vigilant in my care with very few complications and secondary conditions. Unfortunately, mentally and emotionally, I have suppressed everything that 15-year-old had every right to feel…until now.

I am trusting the process

So, on December 28th, I will continue my grieving period in which I have learned is a combination of sadness and anger. The sadness and anger that not only the 15-year-old had every right to feel, but those same emotions which this 53-year-old has been feeling. There is never a wrong time to go back to the drawing board, to do whatever it takes to make peace with the past and heal. Normally, when we hear the word “heal” we think of physical healing. Well, as I have learned, the mental and emotional healing is just as important as physical healing, if not more. Please know that while “grieving” probably sounds very depressing to many people, to me it is liberating and again, healing. I am trusting the process, a journey that is taking me to all new depths mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

“I am trusting the process, a journey that is taking me to all new depths mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.”

We will be back with more ONWARD Journeys, so stay tuned!

*All ONWARD devices and therapies, including but not limited to ARCIM®, ARCEX®, ARCBCI™, and ARC Therapy™, alone or in combination with a brain-computer interface (BCI), are investigational and not available for commercial use.

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