Quality of Life spotlight: Determined2Heal

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on May 30, 2019 # Quality of Life

Rock climbing, hang gliding, whitewater rafting, indoor skydiving, and scuba diving are not sports often deemed available to individuals living with paralysis. But Josh Basile is working to change that.

“There are so many constraints on people living with SCI to have fun,” said Basile. “After paralysis, the outside world can be terrifying. I want to show people that they can live with adventurous wheels.”

Living as a C4-5 quadriplegic since age 18 from a 2004 surfing accident, Basile started looking for a way to help others soon after his injury. In 2005, he founded Determined2Heal, a non-profit focused on empowering the paralysis community to live healthy, active and meaningful lifestyles. His initial efforts were directed toward creating SPINALpedia.com, a mentoring platform which now has more than 12,000 searchable paralysis-related videos, links and blogs.

“I started with the goal to share my story and mentor others, but I quickly realized that was not enough,” said Basile. “I’ve developed the motto, if you can dream big, you can wheel big.”

Five years ago, Basile decided to develop Moving Forward with Adventurous Wheels, an adaptive sports program. A medical malpractice attorney by day, Basile dedicates much of his free time to researching and organizing adaptive sport opportunities ranging from sailing to paintball. In 2016 and 2018, he received Reeve Foundation Quality of Life grants to help cover the activity costs, so families could participate for free.

“I do the leg work and the Reeve Foundation helps to cover most of the financials, leaving families only to worry about making smiles and lifelong memories,” said Basile. “I go on 90 percent of the adventures. Since I am often the most paralyzed person there, I try to motivate and inspire others to be as adventurous as they can be. I encourage those who attend to take a chance and live outside their comfort zone. The only limit is what you are willing to try.”

Over the years, Basile has organized more than 100 different outings covering 19 unique adventures. One of the many adventures he facilitates is slingshot golf which he invented to enable golfers with physical limitations to play competitively. Since 2016, more than 300 families, friends and caregivers have participated in an adventure thanks to Reeve Foundation support.

“I can’t thank the Reeve Foundation enough for helping me change the way the world sees paralysis,” said Basile. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Even if that way is different, different can be fun. We hope to empower our athletes and adventurers to wheel after their goals with newfound confidence.”

Basile credits a number of role models as his inspiration, including both Christopher and Dana Reeve.

“When I got injured, I didn’t know anything about SCI except Christopher Reeve. He will always be the face of the SCI world,” said Basile. Reeve passed away only two months after Basile’s injury. “It was devastating to see him go so early in my journey. Without Chris’s efforts and dedication to the spinal cord community, we would be far behind where we are today. Even though I never was able to meet him, his legacy has motivated me to follow in his wheel tracks and ‘Go Forward.’”

Six months after his injury, Basile met Dana Reeve at a conference. “I felt so lucky to talk to her. She left us too soon as well, but her positive spirit will live in me forever.”

Last year, Basile became a trained peer mentor with the Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program. He often directs families who are looking for resources or support to contact the Reeve Foundation.

“I’ve become an expert at navigating this world, and the more we can all unite as a community to support each other, the better” said Basile. “With the right attitude and creativity most anything is still possible. I think of life with SCI as a long-term investment. I am hopeful for a cure, but at the end of the day, your best advocate is yourself. Living with adventurous wheels is possible and you can certainly turn heads along the way.”