Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on September 24, 2021
First published in the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Blog…
My husband, Geoff’s life work, is really bridging the gap between adaptive and able-bodied worlds. He helps people to find their passion for life again through sport while at the same time focusing on the normalcy of family and recreation. For years he has helped others find, borrow, and purchase adaptive equipment, sometimes through grants, by writing personal statements attesting to how and why this particular piece of adaptive equipment is the right fit for this person at this point in time in their life. For years, families of those in our state who have suffered spinal cord injuries have called or emailed Geoff to speak with their loved one, maybe still healing in a hospital or rehabilitation facility, about looking ahead at all that remains. For years, he has helped people assemble their own new adaptive equipment, sometimes in their living room, sometimes in our driveway, because he knows or has the mind to figure it out.
So therefore, I was unprepared last week when a grant he applied for himself was rejected immediately. I had watched him write paragraphs answering all of the questions they asked of him about his injury, the piece of equipment he was requesting funding for— an adaptive mountain with an e-assist now that he has children he wishes to keep up within the woods. This technology did not exist 25 years ago, but now it does. Now, this foundation likely doesn’t know the impact he has had on others for the last 25 years post-injury. How could they? I would not expect them to, but I also would not expect a grant to be denied based on how many years out someone’s recovery has been.
I’m not going to shame this foundation publicly as they likely do a lot of good in the world, and for many others with spinal cord injuries, improving their quality of life through sport. But to suggest that Geoff is too many years out from his injury is simply unacceptable. I wanted to write a letter to them asking them to reconsider based on my well-composed argument. But don’t they realize… Don’t they understand how he has gone above and beyond… Blah blah blah and Geoff said no. They must have their reasons, and he would respect that and just pursue other grant opportunities. But did that mean that I had to?
So, this September I’m thinking about awareness in all the ways which matter to me as a writer- wife- teacher-mom. Geoff writes about his recovery goals: “From day one of my injuries, my recovery goals were to regain as much of my independence in life as possible. In essence, it has been to live the life and have the experiences that I always envisioned for myself and my family. Now that I’m 26 years post-injury, that quest continues every day. I have made a career and life in helping others with disabilities find the same successes and pathways through the never-ending recovery process. With that in mind, I have to be ever vigilant in my own goals in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As a husband and father to two children, my goals have shifted to be able to be involved in and experience everything I can possibly do with them and not be sidelined by any of these opportunities. We live and breathe the outdoor lifestyle, from my work as a professional in the ski industry to cycling, fishing, etc. However, I am missing one piece in unlocking a very important aspect of our lives: access to the woods and many trails that are a part of living and working within a national forest. In short, my goal for myself and my family is the use of a mountain bike, not just for the physical and recreational benefits, but to explore these things together. With better access comes greater opportunity and greater successes from which to continue building an amazing life and story. Not just for me, but for my loved ones and friends alike. For me, the best part of my recovery and adventure is using it to bring others along in finding their own successes.”
Like Geoff says, the recovery process is never-ending, yet the BEST part for him is to use his recovery in bringing others along in theirs. So, I didn’t get to send my letter response off like I had wanted to, but maybe this way, more people will have a chance to better understand the word awareness regarding spinal cord injuries.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 11 and 10, respectively. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.