Once a Teacher Always a Teacher
By: Sonia Lima
Name: Rich Fabend
"My mental rehabilitation lagged behind the physical, I had two problems that consumed me," explains Fabend of his time in rehab. "One was would I no longer be able to do the things that I loved like outdoor activities, and the other was that I wondered if I would simply exist until I passed away."
During his rehab, Fabend read Christopher Reeve's book, Still Me, and couldn't get this line out of his head:
"I refuse to allow a disability to determine how I will live my life. I don't mean to be reckless, but setting a goal that seems a bit daunting actually is very helpful towards recovery."
"The quote by Christopher Reeve is an attitude, and I think that individuals who have disabilities have to develop that attitude," says Fabend: "That they are not going to be inhibited by that disability and instead must work through it. I think of myself as the same person, only shorter!" Like Christopher Reeve said, "I am still me."
Helping others and himself
Fabend's website, www.handihelp.net, that he started in January 2008, is a place that demonstrates simple solutions for physically challenged people, such as picking up a piece of paper, how you can mow your own lawn, and how to use a trigger adapter when hunting. "I came up with a trigger device that allows me to fire a gun with my mouth, and it only cost $2 to make it," states Fabend. "The plans on how to build the devices are all free on the website."
"I spent days and days trying to find the right device to pull the trigger. I tried string, I tried leather, and nothing worked," explains Fabend. "Then one day I thought of a cable tie (a simple piece of plastic that gets used on wheelchairs to hold the wires in place)."
Fabend also gardens with raised vegetable boxes his son built that allow him to drive his wheelchair under. "I grow potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and beans," says Fabend, "and the plans for the box are also available on the website."
"I wanted to show people how living with a disability can be easier," Fabend explains of his demonstration videos on YouTube. "I wanted to show that there are alternative ways to do almost anything!"
Fabend became a teacher years ago to help young people and continues that today. "My message is not really very different than before I got hurt," says Fabend laughing. "Because I'm in a wheelchair, people give me some amount of credibility, I guess."
He speaks to local public schools and colleges in therapeutic recreation classes and recreational conferences about attitude and disabilities. "I encourage people not to be discouraged by failure," explains Fabend, "because failure provides opportunity for growth."
Fabend had questioned if he was going to have quality of life after his injury. "I tell people from the minute that I hit the bottom of the sea floor, I was the luckiest man in the world. I had wonderful doctors, and a supportive wife, who has stuck with me through thick and thin. I bike, I kayak, I don't do them like I used to, but I still do them."
"I love hunting because turkey and deer don't care that I am in a wheelchair" says Fabend of his favorite outdoor activity, "and they don't care that I fire the gun with my teeth. They don't feel sorry for me. I'm just another predator." (By the way, Fabend's wheelchair was made in Australia, and it has four-wheel drive and balloon tires.)
Though Fabend says some people refer to him as a hero, he doesn't agree. "I am a person who is dealing with the misfortunes of an accident," says Fabend. "Heroes are like the fireman, police officers and the military who do a job knowing full well ahead of time the possible consequences of their behavior, and they choose it anyway. That to me is a hero."
Here is Fabend's website and his YouTube videos that demonstrate how he does these simple solutions.
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The Adaptive Sports Center (ASC)A non-profit organization located in Colorado that provides year-round recreation activities for people with disabilities and their families.
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Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.
Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.
Check out programs in your area on our one-of-a kind online searchable Quality of Life program database. You can search by location or topic. GO