What I Now Know: Sterling Thomas

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 08, 2019 # What I Now Know, SCI Awareness

Dear Ster,

Today you will wake up and realize you just spent your first night in the hospital, and we both know how you feel about hospitals. I want to lie to you and say now that you have experienced one of your greatest fears, and things will become better, that there will be nothing further to worry about but lying to you will only hinder you. Don’t get me wrong things will get better eventually just not in the way you’d expect, which can be a good thing. I wish I knew the things I’m about to tell you, but I am glad for the opportunity to share them now.

One thing I don’t have to tell you is how you got here. You remember the hit that left you lying motionless on the field because you are able to tell people exactly what happened before seeing the video. What you won’t learn until a couple of weeks later is that you have experienced a spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, that doesn’t tell you much because every time you hear something about a disability that’s more than a knee injury you find a way to shut it out and keep yourself in the dark. I don’t blame you because it is a scary subject to think about.

Now let me tell you about spinal cord injuries, now that you’re part of the community, you’ll get used to saying “SCI”. SCI’s are different for everyone who experiences them. In your case, your spot of fracture is at the C5-C6 vertebrae (a place I’ve found to be pretty common). To sum it up you have lost sensation and movement from the collarbone down, you can move your arms and have limited hand function. I know this is the hardest news you have ever heard to this point and can’t imagine a life where walking isn’t an option and a wheelchair is your only way to get around. Don’t freak, this is only the beginning. I also know it will be hard for you but you’re going to have to talk, think, and learn about your situation so that things will get better because they can and will.

It will be hard to go through life living with an SCI for a while. It is not a short or easy transition; you will basically have to learn how to live all over again. The best advice I have to help with this process is to take your time and don’t ever allow yourself to feel rushed. You might be able to learn from others' experiences and apply them to your way of life but somethings you will have to figure out on your own. There will be times where you get frustrated and discouraged but the athlete in you won’t let it beat you. As with anything, continue to work hard and persevere.

Another thing to add to the long list of changes that you will experience is relationships. Most, if not all, the relationships you had prior to your injury will change. Some people you will grow closer to, others you will lose contact with. You will also be given new opportunities and meet many incredible people that you wouldn’t have otherwise. In whichever case always remember you’re loved by many, you’re not alone and you won’t have to go on this journey on your own.

Lastly, I want to tell you that the more you focus on what you can do over what you can’t the easier life will be and the more you’ll enjoy. As Captain America said, “It’s not about what we lost, it’s about what we still have.” Even though you lost many abilities there is so much more to you that you will later find out. You will be able to reach and inspire more people than you can imagine. You will also be able to still fight for your goals and dreams, it will just look different. God has allowed you to be in this position for a reason, trust him and know he is in control.

Your friend,

Sterling