James Perdue Figures Out A Plan For His Life After SCI

James Perdue was convinced that he would be able to walk again.

James Perdue was convinced that he would be able to walk again.

Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: 19 year old James Perdue lay in the end zone after just scoring a touchdown for his team and getting hit late by an opposing player. In a few short seconds, Perdue realized he was paralyzed from the waist down and that his dreams of becoming a professional baseball player had ended. Part 4 of a 5 part series.

After James Perdue’s operation, he wouldn’t accept the fact that he was paralyzed from the neck down. According to Perdue, “After all I was Mr. Invincible. I was young and strong and had accomplished and endured everything that had come at me to get what I wanted out of life. During the first 5 years after my accident, I went to 18 different rehab facilities to try to find a magical cure for my paralysis. In every facility I went to, I eventually would leave depressed, because there was nothing they could do to change my condition. I wasn’t going to rehab to learn how life would be in a wheelchair or how to adjust to a wheelchair. I was going to rehab to learn how to get out of the wheelchair. I never accepted the idea that I wouldn’t walk again.

“About a year after my accident, I started being an assistant baseball coach for a city recreational team. On Halloween night when I was in Saint Thomas Hospital, I had a little movement in my leg. When I got home, my family and I created our own rehab program for me. We worked hard enough to get me to the point that I could stand up. Then, I thought surely a professional physical therapist could help me walk. When the baseball team I was helping to coach had their team picture made, I stood up for the picture. I asked someone to move my wheelchair out of the picture. I didn’t want to be identified with that wheelchair, and I didn’t want to have a picture to remind me that at one time I was in a wheelchair. I always assumed that that wheelchair was a temporary form of mobility, which was why I was so depressed each time I went to a different rehabilitation center, and no one could make my body move past the ability to stand.”

It was difficult for James Perdue to hear that he would never be able to walk again.

It was difficult for James Perdue to hear that he would never be able to walk again.

“During those 5 years, I coached baseball and went to rehab. I also returned to college. I’d never really cared much about academics when I was in high school and college, because I believed that my talent for sports, especially baseball, would bring me fame and fortune.”

“After my accident, I decided, ‘If I’m going to be successful in life, then I’d better get a college degree.’ I started taking college seriously. The last rehab hospital I went to was the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, Georgia. The event that finally convinced me to go to the Shepherd Center and learn how to live with my new situation was after my brother, me and a friend of ours made a trip to Pennsylvania. We went to see a doctor who had developed a technique to put electrodes into the back to help regenerate the spinal cord. Since my grandfather lived in Pennsylvania, we drove from our home in Tennessee to talk with this doctor and visit my grandfather. When we finally arrived, he spent about 15 minutes with me and told me, ‘I don’t believe the procedure I’ve developed will be able to help you.’

We had spent a couple days with my grandfather waiting to get in to see this doctor, and when the doctor told me he couldn’t help me, I got so mad I made my brother and his friend drive me all the way back home without stopping. That’s when I decided to finish my degree and live with my disability.

Perdue realized that continuing his education would benefit him.

Perdue realized that continuing his education would benefit him.

“I got an associate’s degree from Volunteer State Community College in education. Then I went to Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) and got my bachelor’s degree in education with a minor in physical education. Next, I applied for jobs for 3 years at different schools, but no one would hire me. I drove over 2000 miles a month, trying to find a job as a teacher and applying in 35 different counties, but I still couldn’t get hired. During that time was when I decided to return to MTSU and get my master’s degree. I was substitute teaching at the high school I’d attended and the high school that I graduated from, Gallatin High School. Once I earned my master’s of education degree, I was hired within a week at TW Hunter Middle School where I taught and coached for 12 years. In 10 out of those 12 years, the girls’ basketball team I coached was in the county championship, and we won one state championship. When our county built a new high school, I thought this would be a chance for me to move up and become a high school coach. I applied and was turned down for the position of high school basketball coach. They hired a young lady who helped me that year when we’d gone undefeated. Now I really got upset, because the school board had hired her, and I was the one with 12 years of experience. She only had her bachelor’s degree, and I had a master’s degree. However, she’d played college basketball, and I hadn’t. But I believed that my years of coaching experience and coaching success made me a stronger candidate for the position than her. I felt like when I didn’t get the high school coaching job that I was being discriminated against, because I was in a wheelchair.

By then, I’d been turned down four or five times for a high school coaching position. I decided to go back to college, get a PhD in education and plan to teach at a college or a university. I went to Tennessee State Universityfor 3 1/2 years, while teaching and coaching at the junior high during the day and attending classes at night. I took three classes each semester, and during the summer months, I took four classes, attending college full time then. I graduated with an EdD, a doctorate of education degree.”

To learn more about Dr. James Perdue’s motivational speaking, go to www.onemoreplay.net, or email him at james.perdue@comcast.net.

Next: Life Catches Up With James Perdue

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

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