I was hurriedly getting ready to go out with my best friend, Wendy, on the morning of August 23, 2014, when my cellphone rang. The caller ID showed it was my son Josh’s number. Since I was running late, I thought I would finish getting ready and then give him a call. Then I got a call from Josh’s Dad. I answered knowing right away that something was wrong. Josh’s friend, Ray, had contacted him when I failed to answer my phone. To this day, I still don’t remember exactly what his Dad said, but I remember crying hysterically at the news. Then I called my friend, Wendy. She has always been like a second mom to Josh and has three sons of her own who played Ultimate Frisbee with him. Immediately, Wendy rushed over to help me pack and drive me to the hospital.
Once at the hospital, I rushed to be by Josh’s side. It was then that the neurosurgeon gave me the horrible news. Josh had suffered a broken neck and spinal cord injury and needed immediate surgery. She tried to prepare me for the worst but I just looked at her and said, “You don’t know my son.” After surgery, she came to the waiting room, and with tears in her eyes, informed us it was worse than she expected. Josh might be on a ventilator when he came to his ICU room. Again I said, “You don’t know my son.” Fifteen minutes later, she returned with a big smile on her face and said, “He is extubated, cracking jokes, and looks like a million bucks!” Now that was my son!
Josh’s faith, strength, courage, and sense of humor helped him rise to every challenge he has faced since his injury. During his first night in ICU he was ‘partying’ with his friends, singing songs and even had a friend video him doing the ALS ice bucket challenge. The next day, he asked me to help him respond to work emails. Finally, I told him no more answering emails as his job now was to focus all his energy on his recovery. That was really hard for him to let go of something that he saw as his responsibility.
Josh maintained a positive mindset and determined attitude throughout his recovery - which inspired not only his family and friends, but everyone who met him. When he arrived at Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia for inpatient rehab six days after his injury, he was more than ready to get started. Even after he strained his left deltoid muscle weeks later, he pushed past the pain to press on with his recovery. The harder they worked him, the more he loved it!
It amazes me to think how much Josh has accomplished and how far he has come since his injury in August 2014. I will never forget Josh telling me he was taking a driving evaluation only four months post injury. He had no doubt he would pass and did so with flying colors! Two and a half months later, he had acquired his Virginia Driver’s License. Josh also began working part time a few weeks after coming home while participating in intense physical therapy and working on his invention. Never did Josh imagine though that his story and invention would soon receive so much attention. There have been many articles written about him and he has been on the local news three times. His latest achievement was being the recipient of the Science Museum of Virginia’s 2015 STEM Catalyst Award.
Josh has always been very sociable and athletic so hanging with friends, both old and new, and participating in adaptive sports has kept him energized and excited about life. Since leaving rehab - Josh has waterskied, snow skied, driven a jet ski, rock climbed, driven a four wheeler, played quad rugby, hit golf balls, as well as participated in rowing, lacrosse, tennis, cycling, bowling, swimming and pushing. In December, Sportable honored him with their 2015 Rookie Athlete of the Year Award. I have a feeling Josh’s bucket list is to do every adaptive sport and activity at least once in his lifetime. He has always been quite the adrenaline junkie!
Both of our lives did a 180 degree turn on that horrible day in August 2014. Josh was enjoying a new job and living with friends in northern Virginia and I was due to start college in September. But, in an instant, life changed for us both. As his mom, I wished I could have changed places with him, but I couldn’t. I could only care for him and support him. Though the first few months were difficult for me due to health issues, Josh pushed hard to gain independence and a lot of the physically hard work was soon behind me. The hardest part then became keeping up with his incredibly busy schedule. Now Josh is looking to become a homeowner. It is proving to be a very difficult and challenging adventure. But with Josh’s ultimate goal of being totally independent, having a house adapted to his needs is a necessity. Though no mother ever wants to see her child to have to live life as a quadriplegic, I am very proud of how he has met this challenge with such courage, perseverance and fortitude. He is one amazing son and I love him very much!
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