"In the spring of 2006, I was thrown the biggest curve ball in my life."
Nick Rick, 18
Spring Garden Township, PA
I was doing gymnastics in the park when the pain in my neck began. I started to lose control over the limbs on the right side of my body, and two hours after I arrived at the local hospital, I was paralyzed down my right side. After a few blurry days in my hometown hospital I was told I was going to be sent to " a hospital in Philadelphia."
Philadelphia? Can't I just go home? Confused and filled with fear, I was loaded into an ambulance and driven away from my life.
My first memory of Magee was lying on a stretcher as the elevator doors opened onto the fifth floor. I was told that this floor was entirely for patients with spinal cord injuries.
An entire floor of people...like me?
It was all too much and, as soon as I was transferred into my new bed, I fell fast asleep.
Since the first night of my injury, every time I woke up I expected to be back in my house, perfectly fine, ready to go run around outside. Each time, though, I received a sting of realization. When I woke up that first evening in Magee, I experienced the familiar sinking feeling that everything happening to me was real.
However, I was not alone.
Next to my bed was a nurse's aide who immediately handed me a small, foam basketball. "Throw it!" he said. "I'm really tired," I replied, "Can I just go ba-" "Throw it!" I stared at the guy. "Throw it!" I gripped the ball with my left hand, my good hand, and flung the ball at him. He caught it.
"Nice!" he said, even though my throw had gone way off target. "We'll work on that other side soon enough." And so, my stay at Magee began.
The next morning I was transferred to a wheelchair and taken to the gym on my floor. There, I was set up with a physical therapist (for my leg and lower body) an occupational therapist (for my upper body, arm and hand) and a recreational therapist (to get me involved in "normal" things like ping pong, video games, and cooking). The first time I entered the gym I felt a wave of disbelief. All around me were people in wheelchairs. Men, women, and even few kids around my age. To my surprise, though, after I got over the initial shock, I actually began to relax.
We're all here together, I thought. Let's do this.
I met with my therapists and they were so kind. They helped me relax and we began to joke around. I returned to my room later to rest and, when I woke up again, I felt...okay. Yeah, I was paralyzed and, yes, I might never be able to do some of the things I once loved, but every person around me was there for me.
Then, three and a half weeks after entering Magee, I stood up and walked out. I know I was one of the few lucky ones, but I also know that it was the care and attention from every single person in Magee that gave me the strength to push through.