My name is Tyler Wesley, I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado and grew up to be a pretty active and outgoing young boy. I have an older sister named Asia and the loveliest and sweetest mom anyone could possibly meet. I truly am very lucky and fortunate to call this woman my mother. Growing up I was a big soccer player and dedicated everything I had to that sport because I loved it that much. Making the varsity soccer team as a freshman at my high school was such a huge accomplishment for myself and my future. I always wanted, and knew, that I would become a professional soccer player ever since I was 4 years old.
Unfortunately, the unexpected happened
I was involved in a rollover accident on May 20th, 2012 at the age of 15 the end of my sophomore year in high school that lead me with a broken neck and breaking my C-4 vertebrae and being paralyzed from the shoulders down resulting with me having a spinal cord injury and being a quadriplegic. My life would forever change in a matter of seconds.
When I got into my accident I was first admitted to Denver Health because they were a level one trauma ICU, that is where they started to do my surgery immediately on the back of my neck. On the second day, they did another surgery on the front of my neck. I stayed there for five days and was debating on either going to Children’s Hospital because I was only 15 years old at the time or Craig Hospital to do my therapy’s because they specialize in spinal cord injuries and brain injuries. Luckily, my mom and I picked Craig Hospital because they’re one of the top rehabilitation hospitals for spinal cord injuries in the world. It was such an amazing place to be at and it felt just like home….almost. All of the nurses, techs, doctors, and therapists were so nice and caring to me and my family. They provided so much information to me and with the hands-on care from the occupational and physical therapists, I was able to regain movement and build strength back while I was there.
Having a spinal cord injury
A spinal cord injury is damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal which often causes permanent changes in strength, sensation, and other body functions below the level of the injury. For myself, my cervical level in my neck was broken at C-4. I am classified as a quadriplegic because I was initially paralyzed from the shoulders down. This is a huge misconception though. Yes, a quadriplegic is someone with impairment in all four limbs. But through intensive therapies and integrative therapies, body function and sensation can certainly change throughout an individual’s recovery.
If you’ve recently suffered from a spinal cord injury or have experienced a major injury from a sport or an accident, it might seem like every aspect of your life has been affected. I’ve endured all sorts of pain and took many medications every day in my life. Such as nerve pain and uncontrollable muscle spasms. You might feel the effects of your injury mentally, emotionally, and socially.
I’ve learned that you just have to work hard and do it. You have to force yourself to get up. You have to force yourself to put one foot before the other and you refuse to let the pain get to you. You fight. You cry. Then you go on about your day of living. That’s how I’ve done it. There’s no other way.
For me, I have a central spinal cord injury which causes more motor skill weakness in my upper extremities than my lower extremities. I feel like people often think you are either paralyzed from the waist down or the neck down. But the body is so much more complex than that. Personally, I feel like it’d be pretty awesome if my arms and dexterity in my hands/fingers would get with the program and start working again! It’s been six years since I was involved in the car accident and I’ve just been working hard every single day and still am to become stronger and stronger mentally and physically. My next goal is to get my arms just as strong as my legs.
Now I’m able to walk with a walker and I’m working on my arms to get stronger
An achievement of mine that I have succeeded on doing these past years is going from a sip and puff wheelchair (which you drive with your mouth), to a foot drive wheelchair, to a mini hand control joystick power wheelchair, to a two-wheel walker, and finally to a four-wheel walker which took me many years to do. Also, I was able to get off from the ventilator, my neck collar, my g-tube, and my halo to hold my neck in place. My next goal is to be able to walk with a cane or even by myself with nothing one day! My next achievements and goals I am still working on are to feed myself, do my hair, blowing my nose, brushing my teeth, or simply just scratching my face.
Keep Pushing Forward
Years ago I thought my life was over knowing that I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. But now, I am not ashamed of being in a wheelchair. I love the spinal cord injury/disability community. I’ve heard all kinds of injuries and life stories from inspirational human beings from across the world. Many of them have taught me to never give up and that it can always be worse so just keep pushing on no matter how bad things may get in life. Going from an athlete to being in a wheelchair since I was 15 years old hasn’t shaken my confidence and who I am as a person. I’m still that same person I was mentally, just a lot more knowledgeable, and with a higher level of gratitude and appreciation for life. I don’t want people to think that I’m not happy being in my wheelchair and that’s the reason I fight so hard to walk again, it’s actually the opposite, I’m happy but I want more in life as anyone else would. I’m incredibly grateful for all the support from my family and friends and for the random acts of kindness and motivation I receive on a daily basis to walk again.
The most important reason I do what I can do is to share my story with thousands of people is to spread awareness of this life-changing injury – The Spinal Cord Injury. As many as 500,000 people across the world suffer a spinal cord injury each year. One day a cure to heal paralysis will come. Until then, I will continue to fight to show the millions living with this injury that we choose to keep going and live life to the fullest.
5 years ago I was involved in a roll over car accident that left me paralyzed from the shoulders down. This is my progress today.. ♿️🚶🏾 pic.twitter.com/gMY131Lrik
— Tyler Wesley (@T_Wes44) May 21, 2017
On my five year anniversary, I posted a video on twitter of me walking without using my walker. I was so proud of this accomplishment and just wanted to share it online with my friends. After I posted it, I started to receive a couple notifications of likes and retweets but in just a matter of minutes, the notifications on my phone were going absolutely crazy. I eventually had to turn the phone off because it was freezeing up and I couldn’t do anything else. After a couple of hours, I turned my phone on and went back onto twitter. I was blown away to see all of the millions of views this video received and my direct messages were filled with thousands of positve messages of support from strangers all over the world.
A couple days later, Adidas direct messaged me on Twitter and asked if I wanted some free gear, which of course I said yes! That year of 2017, however, I had no idea they would be from Kanye West who sent me over a pair of customized “Cream White” Yeezy Boost 350 V2s (Kanye’s adidas shoe brand) to me along with a handwritten note praising me for my strength. He wrote “You are an inspiration, you show the world anything is possible. Thank you for sharing your story.” I then posted the pair of Yeezy’s on my Instagram with the personalized note where news broke out once again of Kanye West reaching out to me and gifting me with a pair of sneakers due to my tragic, yet inspirational story where thousands of people are following me now and supporting me with such encouraging and motivating words to never give up and keep fighting throughout this endless journey of mine.
PASCO and the Community
My mom and I heard about PASCO from Chanda, who has a foundation called the Chanda Plan Foundation. Her foundation provides access to primary care and integrative therapies such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic care, and adaptive yoga. This helps to improve health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs for individuals with physical disabilities. PASCO has really been such a huge help for me these past couple years and all of my CNA’s are super nice to me and caring. Chanda had also helped my family and I find a foundation to help with home modifications. Our house was not accessible at all and my bedroom was upstairs on the second level and there was no way that I could get up there. She told us about the Home Builders Foundation which helps people with physical disabilities by making quality home modifications, so we can live independently in our homes. The work is performed by a community of caring building professionals, suppliers, and helpful volunteers.
Home Builders Foundation has been such a huge help for me and my family because my quality of life has improved so much from the modifications they did to my house. One thing they did was build a ramp at my front door, so I can easily stroll my power wheelchair to get inside my house. Another thing that they did was make a new bedroom for me since mine was on the second floor and there was no way that I could get up there because of how many stairs there were to get up there. Before they built my new bedroom, I had to sleep in my living room for a couple months on my hospital bed which was not practical for me at all and it also made me feel embarrassed since I was so young back then as a young teenage boy who needed his privacy just like any other teenager would want. The thing that they did on the main floor was convert half of my garage into my bedroom and put an accessible bathroom and a shower right next to it. Once it was all finished, I was so happy and grateful that I could take a shower whenever I wanted to because I had to take a sponge bath almost every day in my bed because there was no way that I could take a shower in my house at the time. The other thing that my mom and I would have to do if I wanted a really good shower, so I can feel clean and good about myself was to go to our friend’s office building almost every other night to take a shower over there because they had an accessible bathroom/shower inside. It started to turn more into a hassle for me and especially my mom because she would have to take my heavy commode chair and put it in the back of our trunk and then transfer me with a sliding board every time. It also took a fair amount of time to get there from my house which took a lot of time and made us even more tired, but we stayed motivated, positive, and stayed strong because we knew things would eventually get better with time. Now when I think about it to this day, all of the struggles and hard times we’ve endured back then has made me such a stronger person physically and mentally today.
These past years I stayed motivated and kept pushing myself in therapy and in school. Graduating on time in high school with my classmates in 2014 was such a huge accomplishment for me because I had no idea that I even wanted to go back to school in the beginning. I thought that all my friends and other students would look at me differently or make fun of me because I would be going back in a power wheelchair. It was the exact opposite though, everybody in the school showed me so much love and they were so caring and kind to me. Back then, everybody at my high school knew me as an athlete and the kid who is really good at soccer and always got along with other people. I’m so glad that my caring and loving mom pushed me to go back to school to finish the other half of my junior year and my senior year. I had a goal to not only finish high school and graduate with my classmates on time but also to work hard in my therapies so I would be able to walk with a walker to receive my diploma. In 2014, I am proud to say that I did reach those goals which took a lot of hard work for me physically and mentally. I also graduated from Front Range Community College in 2018 where I received my associates degree which was another huge accomplishment for me and my future!
Live life to the fullest
Having such a bad injury like mine and still trying to maintain a beautiful outlook on life took me so long to adjust to. Just being grateful every day for how blessed I am to still be here and still trying to live life to the fullest. Of course, I still have my up and down days just as everyone else does, but those days make me a better person and even stronger the next day. I strive to see the beauty this life has to offer, and I truly do appreciate all the love and support I’ve been getting these past years from my family, friends, and from random people I encounter with every day. I may not be where I want to be yet, but I will one day.