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How do you see your future?
Future Life Planning After a Spinal Cord Injury
Q: How do you see your future?
After a spinal cord injury, individuals often re-evaluate many aspects of life, including how they see the future. There is a period of readjustment often marked by new goals and expectations.
Many people report that after adjustment, life goes on very much as it was before. Individuals are presented with new opportunities and develop unexpected relationships unimaginable before paralysis. Meaningful connections make many feel hopeful for the future — some even brighter than it was before.
We asked 100 men and women to share how they see their futures after paralysis. Their illuminating answers are in the videos below.
A successful future. You know, I currently own a house, but I want something a little less hectic, so the game plan is to get something a little bit more easier to deal with, you known, continue my career, hopefully, you know. Like I mentioned before, maybe work as a case manger social worker in a rehab setting, you know, and hopefully get married, have kids. You know, live the American dream.
Well I don't know, you never know what the future holds. I like staying busy, I'm trying to grow a company, I've decided I'm, I've decided just recently I'm going to run for political office. Fourteen years ago when I got shot, I lost my job. I didn't want to lose my job or my career, they—it left me. So, I've been kind of without a job for 14 years, although I've found many things to keep myself occupied, I still didn't have a job or career. And this opportunity has arisen where now I can kind of get my job back, and I will be the police of my area, or the beat cop of my area, again, and be able to take care of the whole 41st Ward. And that's my plan, and I'm going to do that.
I definitely want to keep playing sports, and see how far I can go with rugby, and racing and fishing. I want to keep working at Shepherd and doing peer support at Shepherd, eventually maybe get through school.
I think looking ahead to our future, I think he’s going to figure out what he wants to do when he grows up so to speak. And, he’s going to, you know to find his own way, whether it’s his own business, or his finding, you know, that he wants to change a career, do something different. Overall, I don’t see a lot of change for us. I think I’ll continue to work, I’ll probably continue to work full time, you know, forever now. I think that we’ll survive, we’ll move forward. You know, there’s no other options.
In the future, I just want to be able to be an inspiration to other people, and I want to be able to give more of my time. And, let people know that just because you’re injured, life doesn’t stop there; it’s a new beginning. Cherish those moments, and just be positive, and a lot of possibilities and opportunities come up every day. Take advantage of those opportunities and continue to live your life in a positive way.
I'm really happy at work. I just got my last promotion, so I’ll be doing this for a little bit. I don't know. I would like to find somebody to share my life with, but at the same time, I’m pretty set in my ways, and like I’m good with me and just me. I don't feel lonely. So, I don't know, we will see.
We continue to make goals together so that we can do things together, and I see us just growing old together.
I hope it’s really bright; I would like to think it’s very bright. I have no reason to believe that this injury is going to hold me back from things that I really want.
Because of my career in counseling, I feel like that doesn’t have to end, it can continue on. The idea was always that I would sort of fade away. So instead of working four days-a-week, I would work three days-a-week, and then maybe two days-a-week and so I could bring myself down to whatever feels comfortable. Obviously, the wheelchair changed the amount of time I spend in my office. I don’t get up at early, I don’t stay as long as I used to, and so, I’ve condensed things, and so I don’t see as many clients. But it is still very fulfilling, and I like what I do at this point. But at some point in the future, we’ll have to make those decisions.
I see my future much like my present. Just continue living my life, being happy, watching my kids grow up and you know just moving on. One day retiring, and buying a camper and travelling across the country.
Normal, like any normal—this is my accessory. Pink is my favorite color, so I’ve already kind of gotten that part. My wheelchair will just be an accessory, and I’ve gotten past the part of “oh my God, I’m like in a wheelchair.” So, dating, hopefully being married one day. Like I said, doing something I can to give back. Because I think it’s very important when you’re in this situation to help others, to have conversations, to talk to people with new injuries. And, to kind of help them through the things that I’ve gone through and share my story and circumstances with them. So, maybe to be able to help them.
I don't, I don't do that on purpose because I have no idea, I have no idea. And usually, when I looked in the future, it was always the worst-case scenario, so I know that's my tendency, that's got to out of our mix now. Now it's living each day to its fullest, that's the goal. And then maybe in the back of my head there's the hope that that will translate itself into being what I want for the future.
I see our future to be bright. We just have a lot more life left to live and we’re just excited about what’s to come. And we are excited to be able to tackle all the things that come with being married, and eventually having a family and getting a house. And all of those things are things to look forward to and they’re an adventure to look forward to. So, we are really excited about what’s to come.
I see it as a continuation of what we’ve been doing. We’re just going to grow old together, that’s all. We’re going to celebrate family occasions. We have a huge dining room and it’s nothing for us to have 16-20 guests, and for her to help prepare a meal. She doesn’t do it on her own, her aide works with her. And, we do a lot of family entertaining.
I think it's a work in progress. I think looking ahead in the relationship with Nick, I see us happy, and hopefully having a family, staying, you know, happy with our jobs and our life and with friends and family.
Very good. Starting February, I’ll do photography fulltime, and just take every day just as it comes, and spend more time with my grandkids. So, future is excellent.
If I could continue doing what I do here, and incorporate my psychology major, that would be wonderful. I would like to get married, I don't know, I'm getting kind of old. Babies would be nice, but I don't know about rolling around chasing babies at 30-plus. But right now, I'm really just focused on staying healthy, I'm really loving my career, and I think I'm going to learn how to drive.
I expect to get married in the future; I expect to have children, big house, family, all—the whole nine yards. It's going to be great.
I see it as full of potential. Of course, you know, there's so much that's just wrapped up around sort of being a parent, and watching my daughter grow, and, you know, I'm full of the sort of fear and joy, and excitement and anxiety, that's all packed into that. You know, the focus is less on me. So, you know, my future, not that it's pinned on her and her successes, you know, wanting to be there and wanting to make sure that she's off to a good start.
I’m hoping to retire in the next three years. I am hoping to rebuild a little house that’s on a lake in New York, sell the house here in Chicago. I probably would think of—if all the money, all that works out—having a loft or condo down in Nashville, Tennessee, and winter down there. And the other thing I kind of have to think about is that where the house is in New York, it’s in the middle of nowhere. So, there’s not exactly a lot of what I call, “medical care,” if I needed that. So that kind of makes me a little nervous. But, my grandmother who’s 98 lives there, my parents in their 70’s, they live there, and they get through it all, but they have some pretty horrendous stories. And so, that’s always been a consideration, “Should I even attempt to do that, because of what it is.” But, I’d like to get at least a few years living on the lake, have a boat, and just go out and do what I can on a boat. Because we’ve rented pontoon boats, I can get through and work those pretty well. I participate in bass fishing tournaments and such, which is kind of cool. So, yeah, I’d like to do that, that’s what I’d like to do. And I might even teach at a community college, some business or something. So, things like that.
I see my future, well, I live on a farm so lots of farm animals and adventures with my husband. Maybe managing a campground at Yellowstone or something for the season. Just getting out, and meeting people and continuing to be adventurous. He has been at every single State except for Maine, and so I’m going to knock them all off, and then we’re going to go to Maine together at the end. And just to continue to be adventurous. I don’t want to ever become complacent, and lazy and just not be driven. I always want something, a goal to reach, you know like a dangling carrot in front of me. And that’s, I see grandbabies one day, I look forward to being a grandmother, I think that will be fun.
I would love to go back to school. I was in school to be an elementary school teacher; I've got three years done of a degree. So, I'd really love to go finish that up and get into teaching, which is really my calling.
I’ve been stuck, I haven’t done anything. So now, I’m trying to motivate myself more, so that’s why I’m trying school, or a home job, so I actually can see a future because right now I don’t. I can’t channel it, or see what’s going to go on, so I’m trying to put it together.
I remember being nine years old and hopping on my bike, and saying, "I'm just going to ride my bike until I find the right girl," because I always wanted to meet someone I could grow old with, and have kids with, that would be nice. Yeah, I want to get married.
I hope to continue to work, I love my job, I love being here at Marianjoy. I hope to continue to work for several more years. And if I’m blessed with those years, I look forward to seeing my grandkids grow, spending more years with my wife, and maybe checking out a couple more lighthouses along on the way. And, you know, I don’t worry about the future.
I hope to be, you know, living independently, and helping people—I'm not sure how yet because I don't know what kind of degree I'm going to end up with. But just doing something for other people...working with people, because that helps me, it always has. And continuing to be social, artistic and happy.
I want to get married and have children eventually. I want to get married, I want to get married before I go bald, and no girl wants me any more, you know. Children, I do want children, but in my situation, that's where the college degree comes in, and a very, very high-paying job.
I see it as just keep on moving on. I do not let this stop me. I do what I want to do for the most part when I want to do it. I may have to make sure it’s accessible, but I just do what I need to do, and I keep rolling.
The future is that Mike gets to do a lot more stuff on his own without me assisting him. Absolutely year four is different than year one, and even this last year, year five, as we've entered it now, we're half way into year five. He is able to drive and go bicycling on his hand cycle, he does a lot of stuff together and it feels more about independence, and that feels good for both of us.
Hopefully it is great as it is now if not better. You know, hopefully it’s—believe me, it’s not all butterflies and unicorns—but hopefully it’s as great as it is now and progressing better every day.
It depends, within a week I’ll be deciding whether I’m going to go back to school. And last November, I had a conversation with somebody who reminded me that I like school, and reminded me that I enjoyed my time on the debate team when I was in high school and they reminded me that at one point in my life I considered being a lawyer. And that led to grabbing a book on the LSAT just to see how I would do, and reading the book, and taking a few sample tests. And then I took the LSAT just to see how I would do, and I did pretty well, and applied to a couple of law schools ,and got into my first-choice law school, which is Georgia State, right, it’s close. And so I, within the next week, will be deciding whether I’m actually going to pursue that because I am 55, I’ll be 59 when I finish. I don’t know how much more work I’m actually going to want to do at 59. So, it may not be worth all the time investment, but it might also stave off Alzheimer’s for three or four years, you’re learning something new. So, I think there’s a real good chance that next month I’m going to be at least giving it a try for a semester, or a year, and seeing what I think about it after that.
Right now I would say I see myself working this year, and then going back to school, hopefully medical school I think. And then, I see myself getting married, having a family, working. So, I want to work and have kids just like my mom did. And, yeah, I see myself staying close to my brothers, and hopefully close to their kids, and my parents, and the friends that I’ve made in college and high school. It seems like I have a really good future ahead of me, I’m excited.
Well at one point we kind of thought Danny would be with us for long into his adult life. But now, I think once he graduates he'll go to college just like any typical kid. I think he'll get a degree; I think he'll do wonderful in life. I think he'll live independently. So I think as far as looking at our future, I think it will be like anyone else's, where their kid goes to school, go to college and begin their career.
I think it’s wonderful. I mean, I don’t try to look too far into the future, I just take it at maybe a couple of months ahead in advance, and so I plan that way. So, I think it’s going to be positive which every way or direction I go into; I just have to make sure I’m happy.
As much as I have enjoyed living with my stepson, he's going off to college like in two weeks, so it's nice to think of us as more of a couple, and that's from a personal relationship future is that it's nice to think we'll almost be like empty-nesters, only at a fairly young age. That's an exciting thing to look forward to from a personal relationship standpoint. From a work standpoint, I would really like to, you know, finish my PhD. And, as far as jobs, I would really like to do something in a research think tank, as long its applied where—because I think the most important thing for me is to feel that I am improving the condition of people with disabilities, is that it has to be of something where I feel that I'm of benefit.
I’ve got a son that’s going to graduate from high school next year, and we’ve got two weekends of recruiting camps for lacrosse, so I’m very excited about that. I’m in the process of really getting serious about my diet because I recognize that, as with anybody, heavier means shorter as it pertains to longevity. And so, really getting serious about some of that. So, I’m very excited about those things.
I’m hoping that he finds out what he wants to do. Going back to school this semester is a biggy. I’ve been trying to get him to, but he’s ready mentally now to do it.