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Q&A: Are you happy?
Staying Positive After a Spinal Cord Injury
Happiness is an elusive thing; I have moments of happiness, I have moments of brilliance, I have moments of sadness. But I would say happiness definitely is at the higher end of my spectrum, you know, but I will always have level of melancholy, and I think that's my landscape. And I’m absolutely okay with that because if I didn't have that, I wouldn't know what happiness was. And so, being able to have both of that emotion available for me, I think it helps me realize reality for what it is and be able to find grace, and all those emotions and life events because it helps me grow.
Yes, I'm happy. I feel a sense of pride, a sense of, you know I made some right choices, good decisions and, you know, I'm happy with a lot of decisions that I've made. It's still tough, a lot of the things that I made, I got a lot of responsibility, but I'm still happy that I made those choices. And that makes me happy.
Define happiness. Happiness is a relative term, I guess. I’m happy in the moments that I have with my family, I’m happy with the moments I have with friends. Whether I’m happy all the time? No, I don’t think anyone is happy all the time regardless of their situation. But before my injury, and now in comparison, I would say I’m about as happy as I was beforehand. It seems strange, but at first, when you’re initially injured, you feel down all the time. But then when things start to return to some sense of normal, I think you could say, or I could say at least, that I’m more or less about as happy as I was beforehand.
Yeah, I’m extremely happy. There’s definitely though challenges, you know, I’m not going to say just because I’m on the other side of the injury that I’m happy all the time. it’s just like anybody else though, whether they have an injury, or is an able body, everybody has their challenges in life and goes through their ups and downs. So, I’m happy one day, sad the next day but it’s the way everybody is.
Oh, extremely. Like I said, my injury just happened, a tree falls on my car, and like I said, I’ve been trying to find meaning. And every time I hear this question, I get a little emotional because I found it, I found the great career, I’m able to touch other people’s lives so it is amazing. Outside of having to do a bowel program in the morning, everything else is pretty great.
Oh yes, I’m happy. That’s one thing that I always say, like I wanted true happiness. I thought I would never be able to be happy in a wheelchair but now I’m truly happy. I can do everything on my own, 100 percent independent. Like I said, my private practice, that’s my world right now that I’m trying to grow. So, as long as I can be a 100 percent independent, I’m perfectly happy. So, everybody that’s in my life, that’s in my circle, I have great support, so I have no worries right now.
100-percent. Yes, I'm very happy, no complaints.
Absolutely, I wouldn't have it any other way. I won't accept anything less than happiness.
Interviewer: What are the happiest things in your life?
Family, and just basically being alive, getting up every day—in Chicago, the most beautiful city in the world. I mean, who couldn't be happy here?
Pretty much happy most of the time until something agitates me. There’s always that one thing, mainly family. Other than that, I’ve been pretty happy, happier than most people that I’ve seen that have dealt with this. Upstairs they call me gigglebox. They’re like “you still smile about everything ,” and I’m like, “why let something so little stop you.” I mean this is not little, but in my mind, I try to make it little.
I’m very happy. I mean I’m not happy that I’m still in this wheelchair, and I will be till my last day, but I’m happy in that I’ve made the adjustments, and I continue to make adjustments, as new situations come up. But, I’m happy that I’m gainfully employed, I’m happily married, I’ve got a wonderful family.
Yeah, I’m really happy. I have a great life, I have great family, and great friends, and I really feel like I’ve been able to do all the big things that I wanted to do. And, I remember I was talking with my friends earlier this year, and I said that “I don’t think that there’s really any big things in life that you can do that I can’t, or that I’m not going to be able to do.” So, I think that’s a good feeling. There are plenty of small things other people can do, but in terms of going to college, and getting married, and having a family and, having relationships, and having good friends and going out—those are all the things that I can do and are some of the most important things. So yeah, I’m really happy.
Absolutely, I’m happy. Definitely, I’m happy. I still have my son; he still is quick as whip. And he came in and I said, “You know, I really wanted you to be here.” And he said, “You know the camera loves me, I don’t want to steal your moment.” So, how could I not be happy? We’re here. We’re not in the same package we were 10 years ago, but we’re still here. And, as long as we have breath in our bodies, yes, we’re very happy.
Yes. I am very happy, because I do feel the joy of so much of the beauty in my life. This is such a cute story. My four-year-old grandson, he was in—this was this past winter, and he came in with my daughter and my oldest, his sister, my oldest granddaughter. They were getting ready to go to Target together, and I couldn't go. I went into the back room, and I started to cry because I couldn't go with them, and then he came back and said, "Mama, why are you crying?" I said, "I'm so upset that I can't go to Target with you and Alyssa." He goes, "You can't, cause you're paralyzed." Just like that, with his hands up, and I just had this big belly laugh come out of because this child was so pragmatic in the way he was dealing with my life, and I thought, well if this four-year-old boy, whom I love more than anything, and fixes my wheelchairs at any given moment, that's cause for great joy. Things like that are in my life all the time and they create laughter and great joy.
It's just a little bump, well, it's a big bump, but I shouldn't take this bump as, "Oh my god I can't go do this, like, let me just stay in bed." You know, I've been told if this had happened to somebody else, that they wouldn't be the way I am. I've gotten so much, how do you say, compliments about how happy I am, about how positive I am, and I just feel like, well, I don't see why being sad and being in bed, staying at home, what's that going to do? I think continue your life, just keep moving forward, and just be happy. I'm happy.
Oh hell yeah, very happy, every day, yeah. I, you know, love to laugh, still love to, you know I love every day, I get up, I do things. I mean, people may look at me and say, "oh my God, that poor bastard, I'd hate to be in his shoes," but you know what, my shoes are not that bad. I, you know, I enjoy myself ever day really, I find some, at least I find something to enjoy, you know, whether it's food, or whatever it is that I'm working on, or some kind of accomplishment that I'm trying to get done, or whatever, my job, at the time, whatever. It's, yeah, oh yeah, for sure
Am I happy? In a strange way I’m happier than I’ve ever been. My life today is better than it’s ever been. And I think that’s because during the time that I spent adapting to the spinal cord injury, I learned so much more about the value of life and the value of life is in the relationships.
I am very happy. You know, with everybody, they can say that they’re the happiest camper and all this stuff, but at times you still get down. I don’t get down so much about me being in a wheelchair any more. I’ve been in a chair for 17 years, I’m fine with that, I’m fine with who I am. But, it’s more I get down because I feel like I don’t do enough. I start having other doubts in my life that has no significance about being in a wheelchair. It was after about 10 years of being in a wheelchair that finally everything started to fade, but that pain—it lingered, I’m not going to lie. I mean, if you’re in a wheelchair and stuff, be ready for a rollercoaster, because you think it’s going to be easy, it’s not. But with time, pain does fade. But, it wasn’t until that ten-year mark that I was completely happy being in a wheelchair. Fine.
I’m mostly happy. I tell people I would be okay with my paralysis if my bowel and bladder would cooperate. You know, I’m on a timer to go to the bathroom, pretty much, both ways, and sometimes the timer works, sometimes the timer does not work. If I drink or something like that, I have to be cautious, or me and my stomach aren’t friends, but we are working on that.
I’m happy. I have a great life, I really like my job, I love my house, I got good friends. My family is great, they’re eight hours away which is also great most of the times, but they visit regularly because I’m the only child and the only grandchild. So, it's good, I’m happy.
I am very happy, I love my life. I love where I'm at, and I love the journey I've taken to get to where I am today. Everybody asks me, "if you could go back in life, George would you change something?" And you know, I like what I have and I like the journey I've taken to get to where I'm at. I'm very comfortable with my life. I feel happy, I feel attractive, I feel sexy and I'm normal. I like my life.
I am happy. I'm happy because I have a wife that's still alongside me, I'm happy because I have a wife that I can help. I'm happy because we can work as a partnership, I'm happy because I get to spend more time with her now than I ever have in my whole life. I'm happy because I'm watching our kids and our grandchildren grow, and watching our family get bigger, and better and stronger all the time.
I'm happy 99-percent of the time. I still get upset, I still mourn the loss, my heart still aches. I just, all the wishing and praying in the world is not going to change where we're at together, and I choose to be with my husband, and we choose to be together. And it's a lot of work and it's not all happiness, but it's not all bad either. So, I love him to death and I wouldn't want it any other way.
Yes, I am really leading a life that I really enjoy. I’m really happy I find my job really rewarding. I feel that a lot of good things have come from a bad situation of my spinal cord injury. My two younger sisters went into occupational and physical therapy, I went into rehab psychology—I would have never done that had I not had my spinal cord injury. I lead a balanced life of things I really enjoy in addition to my job. I really enjoy the city where I live; I have a lot of friends and have had a lot of good times.
I’m content, I’m happy. I’m, like, a little bit…there’s happiness, and I’m like just, I need one more thing to make me happy, to say, “Okay, I can function, I can do this human thing, you know, living with a disability.” It’s just, I’m like right there. And I think I’m happy because I’m almost there.
This is the hand that I'm dealt with and you have to, you know, come to terms with it, and it takes time. I mean, I try to be positive, but there are my down moments when you just turn around and you're like, "Oh my God," you know, how I'm going to deal with this. But, you know, you have to get it within you and move forward. Am I happy—I'm ecstatic with my life.
Extremely. Everything about our life now is a lot richer, every moment because there’s so many more little things to celebrate. And that’s just—even the fact that he’s here today, we get to celebrate that a little bit more because he could not be, he could’ve not been. So, that’s the reality, and the weight of that is just, it makes every day more special in that way. And also, we just get to have fun, just everything is kind of like an adventure now because we get to figure out how to do things that are easy for everybody else. And then when we do them, it’s exciting, and it’s fun, and it’s an accomplishment and it makes me happy, yeah.
I am, I just love my life. I’m so happy for life, I’m grateful that Andre is with us today. This could’ve been a completely different situation if he wasn’t saved, and the technology wasn’t here to make him as healthy as he is today. I’m just grateful to the man upstairs.
Not really, I don’t think so. I think I want so much for him to happen. I see people, they look—and it hurts. I mean, it hurts me as a father; I know it’s got to bother him. Especially when you go into places that advertise as handicap accessible, and their idea of handicap accessible is a rail in the bathroom. You can’t get in your wheelchair, but if you’re on crutches, you can get it. I think that’s more frustrating. And, watching him fight all the time to get insurance to work and get what he needs.
Oh yeah, I’m very happy. You know, there are certain times when we say something that I’ve been blessed to have gotten some things after my injury that people have helped us out with. And people would say, you know, “oh, you’re so lucky.” And I’m like, “I would give anything to have my old life back.” I’m still in that phase, you know that. But it’s the kind of thing of saying like you know things will not replace what I used to have when I had a fully functioning spinal cord. But yeah, I’m 100 percent happy. I mean I still stay active, I still see friends, I’m independent enough that I can work and go to do things on my own. And I have pretty good relations with people, I think.
Oh yeah, I'm a happy person, yeah. Always been happy so, you know, I just got to keep that. Because why be sad? If you're going to be sad your whole life because it's depressing being sad, it sucks. Then you go to medications that make it worse, or you do this to make it worse, or you hurt yourself. Why be sad because it's going to be there when you wake up in the morning; it will still be there when you lay your head at night. So just make the best out of your situation.
Sure, because I don't like the alternative. So, when I wake up, I go, “Okay, I can be sad, or I can be happy, I think I’ll be happy today.” I don't want to say it's that simple, but it really is that simple. And then of course, I start the day with a daily devotion because, once again, faith keeps me going.
Absolutely, I’m very happy. You know, I mean I’ve been in a wheelchair for 24 years, but there’s been so many amazing things happen because of it. And I tell people all the time that if I could go back—I’m like in that truck, and I had the choice to make it, keep going through the intersection, and not ever be in a wheelchair, or knowing what I know now, I would choose it a thousand times over. I would be like, “okay, let’s do this.” I know what to do, I know what to expect and it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be very, very hard at times. But I feel like my life is better because of the wheelchair, and that’s hard to say, like I just can’t wrap my brain around it sometimes. I’m like, “I can’t believe I’m in a wheelchair.” I mean even 24 years later, I still am like “I can’t believe this.” But it’s true, and you just got to make the most of it.
I'm pretty happy. I'm not really a negative person, you know, it's kind of hard to get me down. I don't know if it's an emotional condition I have, or, but, I don't really, I've never been depressed.
There have definitely been times when I haven't been, it's not easy. I think that was one of things—when you first approached me about doing this is that I wanted to make very clear without being negative, because I feel like I'm a very positive person for the most part, I also didn't want to gloss over it to make it sound like it's easy. You know because this is not an easy life, I wouldn't wish this on anyone. I'm not saying that I want to change who I am because I don't think I would do that either, but to recognize that it's not easy to live with any kind of disability, it's a hard life, but at the same time you can be happy and be fulfilled.
I live a great life. I mean, I look at what happened to me, it could always be a lot worse. I see people every day, who have more challenging situations than me. But, the reality is that I can get up every day, I can go to work, and I can have a meaningful job, where I know I’m making a difference. And nights and weekends, I can essentially do the things I want to do. So, I don’t know why I wouldn’t be happy.
I am very happy. I always say it's kind of strange, it took this tragedy to happen to me to put my life in perspective. Like, before I was injured, I didn't go to concerts, I didn't go to plays, I really didn't go out of my comfort zone, but now it's like I push myself to do things like that. I'm very happy.