On May 2, 1987, Don Bridges’ life changed in an instant. One minute he was playing rugby with his teammates; the next he was lying flat on the ground. While competing in a scrum, the 24-year-old dislocated his neck. From that moment on, Don could no longer move from the neck down.
In 2021, the life expectancy for a ventilator-dependent quadriplegic was 17.1 years when the injury occurred at age 20, and the person survived the first year. By age 40, the life expectancy drops to 13.1 years. Don has survived for 35 years and is one of the longest living, ventilator-dependent quadriplegics in the country.
This is the story of how he overcame incredible odds. As Don shares in A Different Kind of Courage, a devastating injury tests everything about a person: his will, his faith, and his place in the world. What role can he still play?
That’s where Don’s journey begins. Initially, he is depressed over the loss of his physical mobility. Slowly, he moves to acceptance of his paralysis, which opens the door to reimagining his future.
Don finishes a graduate degree, works, marries, and serves as a stepfather to three children before the marriage ends in divorce. Meanwhile, he faces the constant challenge of finding and paying for 24-7 home health care.
A colorful parade of caregivers moves through his life. Some stay a day; others stay for years, becoming part of a supportive and compassionate community that helps Don live independently.
The book also looks at the changing field of spinal cord injury. Breakthroughs in science, research and technology have turned this once staid area of neuroscience on its head. While doctors are yet to find a cure, new therapies are improving the quality of life for paralyzed people.
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