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Making a Difference. In His Own Words: Eric LeGrand

Eric LeGrand with his mom Karen at the Capitol</

Eric LeGrand with his mom Karen
at the Capitol

Throughout my life, I've always focused and trained to make an impact. When it came to football, I worked tirelessly in high school and went on to play football for Rutgers University. By my sophomore year, I led the team with 13 tackles on kickoff coverage and recorded a tackle-for-loss in seven games.

Then, on October 16th, 2010, in my junior year, my life changed. We were playing against Army in Met Life Stadium and I suffered a severe spinal cord injury. Following the collision I remember laying on the ground for several minutes before being carted off, only able to move my head. I was taken to the intensive care unit of the Hackensack University Medical Center, where doctors determined that I was paralyzed from the neck down.

I fractured my C-3 and C-4 vertebrae and that night I underwent nine hours of emergency surgery to stabilize my spine. About two weeks later I was transferred to Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation, one of the nation's leaders in spinal cord rehabilitation.

After three months, I had regained movement in my shoulders and sensation throughout my body. The rehab was making an impact. This was when I entered the Reeve Foundation's NeuroRecovery Network (NRN).

Even though I was in a chair, I wouldn't let that stop me from making my impact on this world. I led my former team, the Scarlet Knights, onto the field at Rutgers's stadium for the game against West Virginia. Sports Illustrated chose this as "The Best Moment of 2011." I resumed my college classes, and have launched my career in sports broadcasting as an analyst for Rutgers Football Radio Network. Then, in April 2012, I was offered the final spot on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster, and on May 2nd, 2012 I signed my official NFL contract.

I've spent the past three years going around and talking with people who have suffered a spinal cord injury; talking to them about my impact and how to make theirs. What I have learned is that we all have powerful stories to tell. And it's so important that we use these stories -- that we use our voices -- to make a difference!

I spent some time on Capitol Hill recently, talking about issues that are important to us. I've learned that there is a lot to do, and for Congress to listen to us, they need to see us, hear from us and connect with us. We all have issues that hit close to home -- one of them for me is the importance of the Paralysis Resource Center (PRC), the NeuroRecovery Network (NRN) and supporting the amazing research that is happening there. We are each our best advocates and the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is here to help us be heard.

There is so much we can do to have an impact on the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. There is so much we can do to impact how Congress sees us and supports us. There is so much we all can do!

Our voices matter. Our stories matter. And, in Congress, as the programs and policies that are important to our community -- the PRC, the NRN, Quality of Life Grants, reimbursement for Complex Rehab Technology, Essential Health Benefits, and other critical issues are debated and defined, we must always remember it is our voices that make a difference. It is our voices that ensure that these programs and policies are protected and enhanced.

It is only through US that we can continue to make an impact, through the power of WE. Over the coming months, we will need advocates to TAKE ACTION. We will need you. What impact do you want to make?

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders