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It Turned Out All Right: Part III

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This article was written for the Mount Sinai School of Medicine spinal cord injury newsletter. A PDF of the full article will appear on the website in the next few weeks.     


Part III: Starting Over When I returned to work at IBM in May 1982 -- 17 months after my surfing accident -- I really didn't know whether I could be a productive employee again. I don't believe my new management team knew either. But my former IBM manager, John Perissi, had encouraged me to come back to work -- and my new management team was willing to give me a chance.
My greatest concerns had to do not with whether I could do the job, but with whether I would fall out of my wheelchair or suffer some other embarrassment in my office. I'm still concerned about that. But I now can handle the fear psychologically because my confidence has improved.
Confidence. It was the key to my comeback. As my confidence in myself grew, my performance at work -- and my capacity for work -- improved. I made new friends. …

It Turned Out All Rright --Part II

This article was written for the Mount Sinai School of Medicine spinal cord injury newsletter. A PDF of the full article will appear on the website in the next few weeks. 

Part II: Road to Recovery    

The surgery eventually would let me hold my head up without a neck brace. The operations stabilized my condition, but I remained paralyzed. I was flown home, and spent the next seven months in the New YorkUniversityMedicalCenter's Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation. There I learned just how much my spinal cord injury would really change my life.  
I was paralyzed from my chest to my feet. I had limited use of my arms and wrists, but I could not use my fingers. I had lost sensation below my chest and I had no control over my bowel or bladder functions. I could not walk. I couldn't even roll over in bed.
In rehabilitation, physical and occupational therapists taught me how to care for my paralyzed body. I was taught to look for red marks on my skin that could lead to skin ulcers. I lear…

It Turned Out All Right

This article was written for the Mount Sinai School of Medicine spinal cord injury newsletter. A PDF of the full article will appear on the website in the next few weeks.     

"Jim!" I could hear my sister yelling at me. "Jim," she was saying, "are you fooling around?"  "No!" I said to her inside my head, unable to speak because I was underwater -- and unable to lift myself out. "Lift my head up, for God's sake!" I felt her hands on me. As she lifted my head out of the water, I gasped for air. Don't let me go," I told her. "I think I broke my back. Call for some help, and be careful when you move me."
We were just off the shore of Condado Beach in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was Dec. 31, 1980 -- New Year's Eve. I had gone to Puerto Rico with the City College of New York swimming team during winter recess. I was 25 years old, and was an assistant to head swimming coach Marcelino Rodriguez, a fellow RocklandCounty,…