Disability Does Not Discriminate

One of the greatest mistakes a person can make in life is the belief or perception they are invincible. The “it can’t happen to me” syndrome we can be guilty of.  It potentially leads to reckless behavior and can align circumstances in such a way that attracts catastrophe.

I read a story about an officer on Titanic who stated there was no fear of ‘God, man or devil,’ because Titanic was built so solidly it could easily withstand impact with other ships or contact with any other force;  including icebergs.

Titanic was three football fields in length, twelve stories high and built of the finest materials available.  A virtual fortress if there ever was one.  On the fateful night of April 14, 1912, as other ships warned of icebergs, Titanic steamed onward, increasing her speed through the frigid Atlantic waters.

By the time the lookouts spotted the massive iceberg in front of them, it was too late. Titanic could not turn out of harms way in time, and the rest of the story is history.  Titanic, the untouchable, unsinkable, invincible ship, sank to the bottom of the ocean in less than three hours.  Over 1,500 souls died.

The passengers of Titanic were of different race, class and religion.  Some were commoners from different parts of Europe, heading toward America in hopes of a better life for themselves and their families.  Other passengers came from some of the wealthiest families in the world.

It is said that John Jacob Astor, the richest man on the ship, had a fortune that would be worth 100 billion dollars today.  His fortune, however, made no difference in his circumstances on the night of April 14th, 1912.  Despite his social standing, wealth and power, his physical well being was as vulnerable as any class or race of passenger on Titanic.

If ever there was an image of an invincible human being, Christopher Reeve was it.  Physically, Reeve was tall, strong and handsome.  He was a wonderful family man with a loving, devoted wife who was a talented actress in her own right.

As an actor, one of his most defining roles was of Superman, the man of steel himself.  Superman could leap tall buildings in a single bound, effortlessly lift solid steel beams, capable of running faster than an express train and his skin could not be pierced.

Ladies loved him, men wanted to be him and crowds adored him.  Superman and Reeve’s, that is.  Yet, despite all of his fame, affluence and accomplishments, Christopher Reeve could not escape an injury from which he would never recover.

On May 27th, 1995, Christopher Reeve sustained a spinal cord injury in an equestrian accident and almost a decade later, complications from the injury would take his life.  While he was injured, he tirelessly worked to improve the lives of all disabled Americans. He lobbied for stem cell research and fought to improve government benefits by trying to convince Congress it needed to widen its Medicare guidelines.

Professionally, he continued to work both in front of and behind the camera of Hollywood.  He had access to every type of healing modality known to man, both conventional and otherwise.  Yet this incredibly strong, tenacious, viral man could neither escape nor cure the shattering physical injury that befell him.  Disabilities do not discriminate, even to Superman.

At the time I was injured, I was twenty-one years old, working as a recruiter for a Wall Street search firm and life was a blast. Although I had been on my own since I was seventeen, I was just beginning to feel as though my life was coming together and I found my professional niche.

A Wall Street job I accepted primarily for it’s commi$$ion potential and benefit package ended up being something I was not only good at, but loved doing.  It was a golden time for me.

I was making great money in a blossoming career I loved. I was meeting exciting people personally and professionally everyday.  The world was my oyster.  An enchanted spell settled over my life and I was under the ignorant assumption it was there to stay just because I was me.

That was  over twenty years ago. While my journey since has been amazing, I’ve eaten a few pieces of humble pie along the way.  My car accident made me come to terms with the realization my life was not untouchable.  I was actually human.

My ego still had some learning to do. I suffered some horrific, preventable life-threatening complications my doctors warned me about a thousand times since the very beginning of my injury. “Prevention is key. Prevention is key.”  That took a while to sink in for me.

As human beings, we all posses the same ability to experience joy, success, triumph and misfortune.  Regardless of the circumstances from which you are born, you have the opportunity for luck and love, scarcity and sickness as the person sitting next to you.  Neither the good nor the challenges in life discriminate. They can touch us all.


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