Have Faith in Yourself
By: Janelle LoBello
Name: Jared Coppola
Living with a C5 spinal cord injury, Jared Coppola, age 19, says, "Right now, I'm just focused on getting stronger, so I can get back on my feet."
Injured in September 2009 during the first football scrimmage of his junior year, Coppola has persevered as a Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) patient at Boston Medical Center in Massachusetts four-days-a-week.
Step by step at the NRN
Having been at the NRN since June 2010, Coppola has come a long way. "When I first started, I might have been able to stand, but wasn't able to take any steps by myself. Now I can do the six minute test, I walk 329 feet by myself with a walker in six minutes."
Coppola admits his arms and legs on the right side of his body are stronger than the left. "I can move my fingers and grip on right. With my left hand, I can move my fingers a little, but it's hard to grip something that's heavy. When I walk, my right leg is pretty much fine, after a couple of steps, my left leg starts to drag."
And speaking of never alone, one of Coppola's triplet brothers can relate. Brandon fractured his C5 vertebra just one year before him.
"He didn't have paralysis," explains Coppola of his brother's injury. "He came off the field with a stiff neck and sat on the bench. Mom said, ‘You're not playing. We're going to the hospital to see what's wrong.' They said it was fractured. But he didn't have surgery, no paralysis. He just had to wear a neck brace for a couple of months and can't play contact sports again."
Sporting a new sport
A freshman at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) studying in the business school, Coppola plays quad rugby through UNH's Northeast Passage, whose mission is to "create an environment where individuals with disabilities can enjoy recreation with the same freedom of choice, quality of life, and independence as their non-disabled peers."
Coppola, a New England Patriots and Texas Longhorns fan, says, "I didn't really think I'd have a lot of time to do rugby, so I didn't think I would play at first. I went to practice, tried it out, and liked it."
Advice to others
"The toughest part is the beginning, and getting over the fact that you're hurt," admits Coppola. "You just need to move on, and even though you're injured, good things can come out of it if you allow them to. Have faith in yourself that you can get better. Don't dwell on the fact that you've gotten hurt, or if you'll walk again, it will take a longer amount of time."
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