The Day Mike Savicki’s Life Changed Due to Spinal Cord Injury

Editor’s Note: Mike Savicki, of Cornelius, North Carolina, decided that he wanted to be a Navy fighter pilot. He felt he was strong, smart and brave enough to be among the Navy’s top jet fighter pilots, and he almost made it. Part 2 of a 5 part series.

Mike was injured in Pensacola, Florida, and it took him twenty years to visit the beach and see a little Navy memorabilia at the same time.

Mike was injured in Pensacola, Florida, and it took him twenty years to visit the beach and see a little Navy memorabilia at the same time.

Even though it was over two decades ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. The day began quite normally. We had been out on the beach, and I dove into the water right on Pensacola Beach. A wave broke over me as I dove into the water and the force of the wave pushed my head down to the bottom, causing me to hit it squarely, the rest of my body collapsing on top. I had a compression fracture of the C6 and C7 vertebrae. The rest of the guys who were with me kept swimming because they didn’t know anything was wrong with me. I was alone in the water only 3 or 4 feet from the shoreline. But with my injury – the paralysis was instant – I couldn’t move any part of my body below my arms and my shoulders. While I was conscious, floating face down, I thought, “I’ll just wait for this feeling to go away, and then I’ll be able to continue the swim.”I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know what had happened. My body felt that same pins and needles feeling you get when your arm falls asleep or you bump your funny bone. After what seemed like an eternity, I realized I couldn’t stand up or move very well.

My next thought was one of survival. How was I going to take some breaths, survive and not drown just a few feet from the shore?  I was able to raise my head high enough to get a few breaths of air, as the waves pushed my limp body back to the shore. When I finally washed up on the shore, someone saw me and asked me if I was okay. I answered, “No, I’m not okay. Something is wrong with me because I can’t move.” The next thing I remember, someone called 911 and the EMT’s came. I was taken away in a helicopter.

I was flown to a hospital in Pensacola where my neck was stabilized with tongs, and I had multiple x-rays and MRIs taken. A doctor confirmed that I had broken my neck. My only experience with broken necks was what I saw in Bruce Lee movies so, initially, I thought I would die. But the doctors told me I wouldn’t, and that I’d be able to live a full and complete life on my own, although I’d just have to live that life somewhat differently than what I’d planned.

Mike is pictured here in an A-4 jet. After his injury, he struggled to come to the realization that his life was going to go in a different direction than he had originally planned.

Mike is pictured here in an A-4 jet. After his injury, he struggled to come to the realization that his life was going to go in a different direction than he had originally planned.

I was now in a wheelchair. To say this news was very emotional and life changing would be an understatement. I went through sadness and anger, frustration and all the stages of grief with the death of a dream. I realized that my life would be different from what I had planned; however, I also wanted to live a full, active, successful life. I knew I had to figure out how to live on my own in a wheelchair.

Once my condition was stable enough, I was transported from Pensacola to West Roxbury, Massachusetts, to a great VA spinal rehab center. This way I could be close to my family and friends. I was very fortunate, because my family was so supportive. I had a good network of people helping me and giving me hope and encouragement. Both my parents told me I could be the man I was before my accident, although I’d have to do things a little differently and my friends were there to push me and not allow me to feel sorry for myself.

I was in rehab for 7 months and as I went through rehabilitation, I had some of the best times and some of the worst times of my life. I had to relearn things I already knew – challenges that were difficult both physically and emotionally. Something I learned was that the physical therapists, the occupational therapist and all the nurses who worked with patients who had spinal cord injuries, at least in the hospital where I was, were very encouraging, supportive and patient people. They showed me what I needed to know then left me alone to practice on my own. I had to learn how to dress myself, transfer from my wheelchair, get in and out of a car and learn to drive using my hands. It was bizarre.

Rehab was really a difficult time for me, because I’d always been able to set goals and achieve them. Since my goal had been to be a Navy fighter pilot, and everything I’d done physically, academically and emotionally to reach that goal was now gone, I didn’t know what I’d become or even what I wanted to try to become. Slowly, I began to realize that I’d learned the most about myself when I was in school and I needed to get that same self-confidence back again. I made the decision to go back to graduate school and receive an MBA.

Mike decided to be positive and accept his new life.

Mike made a positive choice and decided to embrace his new way of life.

Visit http://www.nmeda.com/ for details.

Visit http://www.nmeda.com for details.

About NMEDA
Mike Savicki is the national spokesperson for the first-ever, National Mobility Awareness Month in May. The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (NMEDA) is sponsoring the awareness month.

Founded in 1989 as a non-profit trade association, NMEDA supports more than 600 mobility equipment dealers, manufacturers and driver rehabilitation specialists in the U.S. and Canada dedicated to expanding opportunities for people with disabilities.

For information on NMEDA, please visit www.nmeda.com, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Visit MobilityAwarenessMonth.com for the national awareness month. For more information about Mike, please visit www.mikesavicki.com

Next: Mike Savicki Goes After An MBA And Discovers Wheelchair Racing

About the Author: For the last 12 years, John E. Phillips of Vestavia, Alabama, has been a professional blogger for major companies, corporations and tourism associations throughout the nation. During his 24 years as Outdoor Editor for “The Birmingham Post-Herald” newspaper, he published more than 7,000 newspaper columns and sold more than 100,000 of his photos to newspapers, magazines and internet sites. He also hosted a radio show that was syndicated at 27 radio stations; created, wrote and sold a syndicated newspaper column that ran in 38 newspapers for more than a decade; and wrote and sold more than 30 books. Learn more at http://www.nighthawkpublications.com

About UroMed Catheters
Headquartered in Suwanee, GA [a suburb of Atlanta], UroMed is one of the nation’s leading providers of single-use catheters, urological and disposable medical supplies, including intermittent catheters, closed system catheters, condom catheters, pediatric catheters and continence care products. UroMed is nationally accredited for Medicare reimbursement and most state Medicaid plans, and partners with private health insurance providers and health plans to provide patients with single-use catheters, catheter kits and incontinence products. UroMed also has seven staffed regional offices located in Boston, MA; Columbia, SC; Jacksonville, FL; Dallas, TX; Carlsbad, CA; Knoxville, TN; Richmond, VA; and Baton Rouge, LA; enabling next-day delivery after a customer’s initial medical supply order. For more information, please visit http://www.uromed.com or call 1-800-841-1233.

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