It was the 5,000th day in a row it was over 103 degrees in Oklahoma when I went there last summer. I knew then that sometime this winter I’d be wishing for those days back.
I was in Oklahoma City for three days making a video about Todd Brown. Todd is the CEO of 180 Medical. His company specializes is catheters and catheter-related products. The Reeve Foundation was focused on him because he is an exceptional success story. We wanted to talk to him, his co-workers, his friends, and his family about his life. I shot hours of footage and made it fit into about 10 minutes. I wanted to take a few paragraphs and talk about all the minutes that didn’t make it into the video.
Todd was paralyzed from the chest down in 1994 in a motocross accident. His dad got him and his brother hooked on the sport. After the accident his brother, Randy, gave it up for a while, but I interviewed him at the dirt track where my heart almost exploded as I watched him take a spill. After, Randy talked to me about how he hears stories all the time – a guy putting a golf ball in his living room, another guy fishing, and then of course professional motocross racers who get injured. His feeling is that you can’t just sit still, you have to enjoy life. Todd is still a thrill seeker, Randy says, riding his four-wheeler up incredibly steep hills. "That’s just the way he is, full boar," he told me.
I met Danny, Todd’s dad, at a garage that father and son use to restore old cars. Danny is a sweetheart. After almost 20 years, Danny still carries the sadness of, and some guilt for, what happened just under the surface. He is so proud of his son, telling me how he snow skis, and water skis, and what a good businessman, husband, and father he is. He is especially proud of the work his son does that we weren’t able to shoot. Todd spends countless hours with the newly injured and their families.
I got to meet Todd’s wife, Annette and their four kids; three were adopted after he was injured. Turns out she is not as crazy, as you might think. I could make a whole half-hour special out of her advice for wives who are caregivers.
Everyone one I talked to made two points, one was how much Todd reaches out. Brian Warner, 180’s COO, talked about Todd being on the phone with a customer he was patiently talking through the cathing process, who at some point said to Todd, “What do you know about my problems!” at which point Todd let the customer in on who he was.
The second observation people made was, “I don’t see his wheelchair.” That was what everyone says about Todd, including his wife and kids. I must say, it happened to me too. We stopped to get food at one point, and I watched in amazement as Todd got out of the biggest pick-up truck I’d ever seen, whipped out his chair, and got himself in it and into the restaurant. (Of course, I made him get in and out one more time while we were rolling our cameras.)
Thinking about it now, I laugh at myself. It turns out people who use wheelchairs are just people. You think after four years of working here, I’d have gotten that.
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