Walk 930 Feet in My Shoes

I was in a car accident in 2005, which, along with many other injuries, broke three vertebrae and damaged my spinal cord. I had an incomplete spinal cord injury (SCI) at T-11. Ever since the wreck, I've had some movement and feeling in my legs (much more in my left leg than the right). It's always been very painful to try to walk because I have two titanium rods in my back. I've been walking short distances over the years, but have had many setbacks due to various things, mostly related to the trauma I experienced in 2005. It's always been one step forward, two steps back. I felt like my progress in terms of movement had reached a plateau.

Brandon in the hospital

12 years later, around May of 2017, I went through a break-up. To help get my mind off of it, one of my best friends, Shyanne Clapp, started dragging me to the gym with her. That was probably the beginning of when I started to slowly get physically healthier and stronger. Also, I had just had a shoulder replacement not too long before that (another one of those aforementioned two steps back). Shyanne was always working out, and was very into being fit and eating healthy, so she was a great workout buddy. However, soon after we started going to the gym, I moved away to Virginia for three months, and without my workout buddy, pretty much put all physical activities on hold.

Brandon and Shyann at the gym

I returned to Oklahoma in September 2017. I would still occasionally go up to my dad's church where he would help me walk, but I wasn't very consistent about it. A month ago, I went to talk to the head coach of the men's soccer team at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma: Derek Larkin. My dad has volunteered as a mentor there for several years, so I knew the coaching staff very well. I went to ask Coach Larkin for some feedback on a little project I was working on that focused on the mental side of soccer. After I was done showing him everything, he liked it so much he invited me to work with the team this season!

One of the things I was going to do was give a talk to the men's team (the women's team joined us, too) about my personal journey, including how I've never given up despite many setbacks and obstacles. Over the years, I've had to adapt, to learn how to do certain things differently. One of those things (actually my favorite thing in the whole world) was soccer. I could no longer play on the field, but I wanted to show the players that they can still have an impact on the team even if they don't get much playing time during an actual match.

At the end of my talk, I announced that I was going to break my walking record of 850 feet. So all 65 people in the audience followed me out to the soccer field and walked with me the entire distance (up, down, and back) for a total of 930 feet. They were applauding me and encouraging me the entire way; it was truly an amazing moment. If I were to imagine walking that entire distance, the thought would have been so overwhelming I wouldn't have even made the attempt. My brain couldn't process such a huge feat. I could, however, walk 10 yards. Then just walk 10 more yards. Eventually I reached the end. I had to mentally block out the thought of the huge task and just focus on getting those next 10 yards. And that's something I do again and again.

The next day, the men's team won their first game of the season, and they dedicated their win to me. It was one of the best moments of my life and I will never forget it. If all the pain and suffering I had to go through, including the pain of not getting to do what I loved the most, could be transformed into something good; if the challenges I faced and lessons I learned can help these guys on the soccer team with their challenges on the field and in life, then it's all worth it. That's what keeps me around this game, that's what drives me.

Brandon with the soccer teams

So when you have a daunting task ahead of you, break it down into chunks and just focus on the next chunk at hand. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help from your friends. Remember the things you have and be grateful, for it can always be worse. And last but not least, if there is something you have no control over, whether it be an event (like my car accident) or a situation, don't dwell on it. You can't change the past. You can't change what happened. You can, however, control what you are going to do about it, and how you are going to react to it, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

About the Author

Brandon Stone

Brandon Stone is 35 years old and lives in Oklahoma. He likes rock music and anything soccer-related. Stone suffered an incomplete spinal cord injury in 2005 and has been a wheelchair user ever since. He enjoys going to concerts and spending time with friends. He's always eager to help others in need.

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Date: 10/2/2018 12:00:00 AM


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