All About Cosmo Socrates Trikes
- Cosmo’s Story
- Achievements List
- Injury Details
How would you react if you woke up paralyzed?
The story about how I got injured is one of my favorites to tell because so many more stories follow it and honestly, whenever I feel a little down or find myself with no motivation, I recall this story and remember who I am and why it’s crucial that I continue to push my limits and live outside the comfort zone. What’s outside the comfort zone? The Danger Zone!
Think back to the first Iron Man movie. In the beginning, he’s living the party life of fame, money, and women. Nothing had actually gone wrong, but you see a genius with bent morals not using his full potential for the good of the world. Tony knows something isn’t right though and it starts to weigh on him. Then, he almost dies from an attack and becomes a prisoner in a cave where he transforms into Iron Man. When he comes back, he has a clear vision and sets out on his missions of saving the world.
That could almost be my story. Here’s the real thing, it’s longer and has a lot of pictures too.
Before I got injured, I always wanted more and to become great. I was fairly successful, but I was missing a greater purpose and clear direction. I was an adventurous bodybuilder who took risks and was something of a leader. Bringing my friends to the gym and using my bodybuilder knowledge to help them improve or being the first one to jump off a cliff after organizing a group of friends to go to Canyon Falls (and yes, most of them followed me).
I loved exploring and I would be the guy to bring only a small backpack with him to travel across Europe if given the chance. I had gone glacier hiking in Iceland and was athletic enough to be fairly good at ice climbing. I went to Africa on a mission trip and for my 18th birthday, I took the train, alone, across the US and spent a week in Colorado.
The cool air hitting my face felt refreshing, like giving someone in hell a glass of ice water. I was speeding down the ski hill, tense and almost losing control, making a last-second move that launched me up a ramp. It was the biggest ramp at the hill and I lost control in the air. As I was flying in slow motion two stories in the calm air, I remember thinking “shit.”
The next memory of mine is in the hospital with a nurse cutting off my good underwear. I was mad, but I couldn’t stay mad because my drugged eyes saw a cute nurse and I tried to flirt.
I couldn’t remember my best pickup line, or what a pickup line even was, but I could remember my mom’s phone number, which hasn’t changed since I was a kid and she got her first cell phone. I don’t remember much of the call, but I remember the doctor holding the phone up to my ear and thinking, “why does a hospital still use a 20-year-old landline phone?” Then my mom said something, and I responded, trying to sound casual, “Hi, mom, I can’t feel my legs but I’m fine, you don’t need to come up here.” I was about 500 miles away from home.
A two-hour bumpy ride in an ambulance and off I was to the next hospital for surgery. I woke up, saw my mom in the room and was oblivious to time. It didn’t even occur to me that a whole day had passed until a few hours later. When I woke up, I thought that I was about to go into surgery, not realizing it was already finished. I asked them to give me more drugs to “K.O.” me, as I wrote on a piece of paper, resembling a toddler’s handwriting.
From the little bit of personal development and leadership experience I had, I knew that I had to be the one to be calm and confident. No one was going to give me the tough love that I needed, so I had to do it myself. I’ve always held myself up to high standards. I knew that I was no longer going to be able to go snow camping or hike glaciers in Iceland. I wasn’t going to give up on my bodybuilding or adventures, though. But I knew that it was a big change and no longer would I be able to play volleyball diving in the sand, and listening to Kenny Loggins.
A lot of friends came by to visit me in the hospital. The timing was good, actually. I had gotten injured the weekend before final exams and as people were heading home for Christmas break, I was on the route home, so they stopped by. I never realized how loyal and true my friends were until that moment.
My Mom was already working from home, so she stayed with me every day in the hospital, and once I went to rehab, she was in the ambulance with me as we traveled the 6 hours to Chicago and then sated with me for the month of January until I went back to college, where she dropped me off and I was back in my apartment and received by my loving friends. Having the support from my Mom being with me and my family visiting me often was crucial to my recovery. Along with my friends and everyone on Instagram, it all contributed to my success.
The entire time in the hospital, rehab, and every day since I have always made sure everyone knew I’m okay. When people visited me, I made sure to show them I was fine. One of those “never let them see you bleed” things (but not exactly, I was very vulnerable, more like never let them see you acknowledge that you’re bleeding). Because my mom was with me the whole time, I knew that I needed to show her, my family and anyone else that I’m the same person, and better . I still had my irresistible wit and charm, I kept an insanely positive attitude, one of “everything works out for me” and “push yourself to the very edge.” The nurses in rehab and the hospital all loved to be assigned my room, we bantered the whole time unless I was asking questions and learning as much as I could. I did the same thing with the doctors and the physical/occupational therapists, we were a big happy family.
My vision was refining itself, becoming clearer each day. I was on a mission to show everyone that this is nothing more than a little hiccup and that I can come back stronger and better than before. I already had my goals in life, it was in rehab and in the hospital that I decided to go all in. I probably became more ambitious than I was, before I got injured.
All I knew was that there is always an equally great opportunity for every bad situation. I was determined on finding those opportunities and taking on each days’ new challenge with love and eagerness. I wanted it to be hard, I wanted to struggle, I wanted to overcome.
Over time, my vision was clear, my mission was set, and all of this made me realize that if my mind subconsciously knew that I was a leader when my conscious mind was foggy after surgery, then I can lead and help others. That’s what I’m here to do. Your life isn’t over, whether you’ve been paralyzed or gone through any hard experience, your life has just begun, and we don’t have time to waste.
The Achievements List
What crazy things have I done since being injured?
Here’s a bullet point list to show you that within a year, you can do a lot. I’ve been very, very fortunate to do all that I have and almost none of it has to do with me. All I did was say yes and if it weren’t for the people in my life, I wouldn’t have done near half of these things.
So, you may not have the same ambition or connections, but so long as you stay positive and do your best, people will come into your life and you’ll build up your own list. This is of course based on what I like to do, if you hate flying, then that’s fine and your list will be bespoke to you.
- I started working out again, going to the gym and finding new ways to do workouts.
- I got a car and learned how to drive with hand controls.
- I continued school the very next semester. My classes started while I was in rehab and my friends had to mail me my calculator. (I also got A’s in the classes I took)
- One month after I got injured, I flew back home for a surprise appearance at a fundraiser held for me.
- I made a lot of new friends, a lot of people on at school knew me from Instagram.
- As I began meeting new people, I was introduced to some highly successful people and even inspiring them while they inspire (mentor) me to continue growing and succeeding.
- For spring break, I went to Germany and I didn’t even have my wheelchair yet (I was using a loaned one while mine was being built).
- After the semester ended, I moved to Wisconsin to work at a Fortune 500 company as an electrical engineer. (More posts on that later)
- I was on a discussion panel for “Disabilities in the workplace.”
- At work, I met a lot of people who I learned a lot from – you might even say mentors.
- I learned how to swim again.
- I went to EAA, learned about airplanes, met a lot more people (some pilots) and flew in a helicopter!
- I flew in an airplane for my EAA Eagle Flight and even got to fly the plane myself for a while once we were in the air.
- I went to some concerts at Mile of Music in Appleton, WI
- I went to a theater and saw Hamilton and Phantom of the Opera.
- I learned a lot about professional massage therapy – receiving and giving – even traveling to attend conferences, meeting more people to learn from.
- I did an interview for an article.
- Visited my high school and spoke to 3 classes about overcoming obstacles and being successful.
- One year after rehab, I went to Australia for a study abroad. (still here while I’m writing this)
- More to come
A lot of people won’t even want to do half of these things. That’s totally fine, everyone likes doing different things and they have their own list of achievements that they’re proud of. This is just to show you that being in a wheelchair is NOT going to limit your happiness or ability to do what you want. It might be harder, and yes, some things actually aren’t possible, at least at the moment. Don’t get hung up on that though, accept it and once you do, you’ll be able to move past it and on to even greater things.
The Injury Details
Disclaimer: I’m obviously not a doctor, so this may evolve over time as I learn more and people correct me.
I got injured in December of 2018 (I don’t keep track of the day, but it was mid/late December), I was in rehab for the first month of 2019 and then back in black ever since.
There are a lot of ways that a vertebra can break, and I think I did all of them.
I don’t actually remember all the details of how my vertebra broke, and I should have it written down somewhere, though it’s not something that’s crucial for me to know, I guess that’s why I don’t.
My T11 vertebra is the level of my injury. My spinal cord is bruised and not severed. I’m pretty sure that my T11 vertebra was taken out because it was hopelessly destroyed. I believe it was a burst fracture and fracture-dislocation, maybe a compression fracture. I’m not entirely sure, but it was more than just one thing that happened to it.
When I woke up after the injury, my face had some marks on it, they healed up in about 10 days, so nothing major. I was actually hoping to get a cool face scar, but that didn’t happen and probably for the best. Everyone is convinced that I must have gotten a concussion, I wasn’t wearing a helmet while skiing and fell from heaven, but I don’t think I got one. None of the doctors or nurses told me I had one. Maybe they just didn’t check for one or knew I had one and I forgot that they told me. Either way, I’m fine now.
Towards the end of rehab, I was classified as ASIA B, which means that I have feeling but no movement, and its true. I have no muscle control from the hips down. I do have full abs and lower back, though. So, when I go to do a sit-up, I can only go as far as my abs will take me and the other half would be assisted by the hips and legs, which doesn’t assist me.
Picture at the bottom showing what I can feel and where
When I say that I have feeling in my legs, I mean touch. I can feel temperature on my hips a little bit and nowhere else on my legs.
If I lean down in my chair, putting my chest to my knees, I can lift myself back up. Sometimes I’ll have a weight in hand and do it as a workout.
For medical supplies, I only use an intermittent catheter, and my days normally look like this:
(note: the formal word is catheterize but saying cath is the short version of that)
- Wake up – cath
- At intervals of about 4 hours throughout the day – cath
- Before I go to bed – cath
So, if I wake up at 6am, as I like to do, it will look something like this:
- 6am – cath
- 10am – cath
- 2pm – cath
- 6pm – cath
- 10pm – cath
Because I have full torso control and then feeling slowly dissipates, I can feel when I need to go to the bathroom. If I need to cath, I can feel that my bladder if it’s full and tighten my abs a little to speed up the process if I’m in a hurry (not much though). Same for the other.
The catheter I use is shown in this YouTube video, I also talk about what you should consider when you’re choosing a catheter. Typically, they’re purchased in bulk, so you want to get it right the first time.
My wheelchair and the cushion I use is shown in this halfway decent video below
- Chair: Motion composite, apex carbon fiber
- Cushion: Roho