This weekend I ran across an essay by Cole Sydnor, a young man from Virginia who is a quadriplegic. Cole entered a contest sponsored by WyzAnt Tutoring in hopes of winning a $10,000 scholarship. Cole’s essay grabbed my attention because he writes eloquently about how he became spinal cord injured.
I started digging around to find out more about Cole and was connected with his mom, Kelly. Cole currently gives speeches and makes community awareness presentations in the hopes of preventing another diving accident such as his. Cole’s imagery is clear and gut wrenching as you visualize how he felt immediately after his head hit the rock when he dove in the river. His mom sent me Cole’s original class essay as well as Cole featured on Shepherd Center’s Magazine Spinal Column, featuring injury prevention.
(Photo: Used with permission. Taken by Tom Stiles)
Here is a brief excerpt from Cole’s essay:
NO what UR Divin' N2!
The rock, obscured beneath the river’s murky water, taught a hard lesson as my neck snapped atop its unforgiving surface. Floating helplessly toward the raging rapids, I learned firsthand what it felt like to be instantly paralyzed, accept death; yet live.
My seemingly insignificant decision to dive headfirst into the James on August 11, 2011, began a 132 day education course I had no intention of taking. Initially, those days in the hospital were spent fighting for my life then painstakingly relearning everything I took for granted before my accident like feeding and clothing myself, brushing my teeth; the fundamentals of every day life. Obviously, I was not a happy 16 year old boy. I was now a quadriplegic.
Learning to cope emotionally and physically has expanded my knowledge in many aspects of life, particularly what it means to live with a spinal cord injury, to persevere and, most importantly, discovering the beauty and spirit of the human heart. I am passionate about protecting others from the catastrophic consequences of unsafe diving and have been sharing my story through injury prevention speeches entitled "NO what UR Divin’ N2!".
Making good choices in life is critical and their effect is often overshadowed by poor choices, made more obvious because of their negative repercussions. My simple decision to dive without knowing what I was diving into altered my entire future, ultimately leading to my desire to better understand the human psyche.
I decided to blog about Cole’s essay because I think it serves as a powerful Public Service Announcement (PSA). If Cole prevents one individual from diving head first and avoiding a spinal cord injury, he will spare many folks of the agony that accompanies an injury. SCI doesn’t impact just the person injured, it devastates families, friends and classmates.
Read Cole’s full essay.
While you are reading, consider casting a vote to help Cole win a scholarship. No matter the contest outcome, Cole is a winner in my book, raising awareness and preventing future injuries.