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Adrianne Haslet, a professional ballroom dancer injured by one of the bombs that exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line, lifts her bandaged left leg in her bed at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Haslet, who lost her left foot and part of her lower leg, vows that she will dance again. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP)

Even as a new post-Marathon normalcy settles in for the residents of Boston, it will still be quite some time before those who suffered the more catastrophic injuries find any semblance of “normal.” When I was paralyzed in a freak hockey accident in the fall of 1995 at Boston University, I could only imagine what my life would become.

In 1995, Travis Roy was a promising 20-year-old hockey star. In this photo he lines up for a face-off, right before the accident that would change his life. Eleven seconds into the game, he cracked his fourth vertebra and was paralyzed from the neck down. (Courtesy)

In 1995, Travis Roy was a promising 20-year-old hockey star. In this photo he lines up for a face-off, right before the accident that would change his life. Eleven seconds into the game, he cracked his fourth vertebra and was paralyzed from the neck down. (Courtesy)

I assumed that my future would be full of limitations and that I would most likely spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, living in an addition to my parents’ home. I know, for those that are still lying in hospital beds or are beginning their physical therapy, that they’re filled with far more questions than answers.

And I know that all their friends and family want to do is help relieve the pain and mental anguish and restore their loved one’s physical abilities. But it’s when the flowers and cards from friends and complete strangers stop pouring in, and the celebrity hospital visits from athletes and politicians come to an end, that those who were injured will see glimpses of their new reality.

I remember lying in my hospital bed when I received my first visit from a peer counselor with quadriplegia. He told me how everything was going to be OK, and that there were still so many things I’d be able to do, and that my life could get to a point where it was better than it was before my injury. I couldn’t get this guy out of my hospital room fast enough!

The fact was, I wasn’t ready to hear that everything would be ”OK.” I was still grieving for the loss of my physical abilities and independence, not to mention my passion and lifelong dream of a hockey career. I’m no psychologist, but the fact of the matter is, there must be a period of grieving and a time to feel the sadness and anger and to deal with the losses. Eventually, though, in time, there comes a moment when you stop looking back and start creating a new life.

Throughout my rehab process, I kept thinking that certain moments had to have been the “hardest part” of my recovery. For instance, when I got off the ventilator after two months of not being able to breathe, talk or eat on my own, I thought that had to be the “hardest part.” When my inpatient rehab was delayed by a pressure ulcer on my tailbone, and I spent nearly two months in bed trying to get it healed, I thought that must be the “hardest part.” In the end, though, the “hardest part” by far was when I left the safety net of the hospital and returned home.

There must be a period of grieving and a time to feel the sadness and anger and to deal with the losses. Eventually, though, in time, there comes a moment when you stop looking back and start creating a new life.

Rolling through the front door of my family’s home for the first time since my injury was when reality hit like no other moment. I had walked through the front door of my house thousands of times, but never had I rolled through it in a wheelchair. When I found myself in my bedroom and saw the hospital bed, medical supplies, and the special lift to get me in and out of my wheelchair, I couldn’t help but cry. These things belonged in a hospital — what were they doing in my home?

I have an idea of what it will be like for many of the amputees to lie in bed and see their prosthesis leaning against their bedside table. The question is, how many mornings will it take before their prosthesis becomes a part of them? I know, for me, there are still days when I look at my wheelchair from bed, and I still can’t believe it’s mine.

It will take months before a new routine is formed. Learning how to get out of bed, to bathe, to dress, to maneuver stairs, will all take practice and patience — lots of patience. Finding balance in life takes time, not only for the injured, but also for their surrounding family and friends. My advice to those who are injured is to cling to those things that still put a smile on your face, and build from there.

Aaron Hern, 11, of Martinez, Calif. visits the place where he was injured during the second bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Elise Amendola/AP)

Aaron Hern, 11, of Martinez, Calif. visits the place where he was injured during the second bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Elise Amendola/AP)

I also believe it’s critical not to give up after a bad experience. The first time I left the hospital, after nearly five months, I went to a restaurant. Before my injury, I loved going out to eat. But when I got to the restaurant that night and rolled up to the table, my wheelchair’s armrest kept me from getting close enough to the table so that my mother could help feed me. Every time she gave me a bite, she had to stand up. Each time she stood up, everyone in the restaurant looked at me. Once again, I couldn’t help but cry, as this wasn’t how my life was supposed to be.

But the next time I went out to eat, I figured out how to get closer to the table so my mother didn’t have to stand to feed me. The third time I went to a restaurant, I knew what to expect, and things went a little more smoothly. Now going out to eat is once again one of my favorite things to do.

For those injured in the Marathon bombings, I believe they have a huge advantage over other people that have become disabled. I know firsthand what it means to have an entire city, all of New England, and the whole country rooting for you. The money raised through The One Fund will not only help alleviate some of the financial burdens, but it will also provide a unique sense of pressure that can be used to the injured person’s advantage.

For those injured in the Marathon bombings, I believe they have a huge advantage over other people that have become disabled. I know firsthand what it means to have an entire city, all of New England, and the whole country rooting for you.

For me, knowing that little youth hockey players broke open their piggy banks and donated their savings to the Travis Roy Foundation, or remembering the couple that canceled their honeymoon and donated the money to me, made me realize that people were making sacrifices so that my life could be just a little bit better. It made me want to make those people proud, and strive to become a productive part of society again.

People ask me if I “accept” my injury, and I must admit I’ve spent time thinking about it. My response is I’m not sure I’ll ever accept it, but I will make the best of it.

The truth is, my life is far better than I ever imagined it would become. No, I can’t do the physical things that I used to, and for those who were injured there will be many challenges ahead. But we can still laugh, we can still cry, we can still enjoy the people around us. And you tell me: What’s more important than that?

photo
A memorial stone has the words of Travis Roy inscribed at Little Fenway, a scaled-down version of the major league field in Essex, Vt. (Toby Talbot/AP)(BU)In 1995, Travis Roy was a promising 20-year-old hockey star. In this photo he lines up for a face-off, right before the accident that would change his life. Eleven seconds into the game, he cracked his fourth vertebra and was paralyzed from the neck down. (Courtesy)Travis Roy and Physical Therapist Stacey Hudjera share a lighter moment as Hudjera helps Roy out of his wheelchair and onto a therapy mat at Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta Tuesday, March 12, 1996. (Ric Feld/AP)Travis Roy cries and has his tears wiped away by his then girlfriend, Maija Langeland, as he speaks at his first public appearance Thursday, March 14, 1996 at the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta. Roy broke down while describing how he broke his neck 11 seconds into his first college hockey game with Boston University. (Tannen Maury/AP)Paralyzed Boston University hockey player Travis Roy, center, makes his way down Boston's Commonweatlh Ave. carrying the Olympic Torch on his wheelchair while his father, Lee Roy, left, escorts Travis Saturday, June 15, 1996. The father and son carried the flame along a portion of the route of The Boston Marathon. (Steven Senne/AP)In 1997, with sportswriter (and fellow Cognoscenti contributor) E.M. Swift,  Travis Roy wrote his autobiography. "Eleven Seconds" chronicles his accident, rehabilitation, and perseverance through personal tragedy.Travis Roy's number, 24, was retired and raised to the rafters of BU's Walter Brown Arena on October 30, 1999. At left is his father, Lee. (Albert L'Etoile/BU)Travis speaks to elementary school students on Oct. 27, 2012. Kids' "questions are always unfiltered, which is great," Travis says. "Of course I got the 'how do you go to the bathroom' question, but there were other good ones too. Like, can I feel my stomach to know that I am hungry or full? How do I sleep? Would I trade not being paralyzed, for never having played hockey? Do I still have all my teeth? (Never got that question before)." (Facebook)Jeff Bauman, pictured here in the wheelchair, was captured in this now-iconic photo from the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Bauman lost both legs. (Charles Krupa/AP, File)Boston Marathon bombing victim Jeff Bauman gives a thumbs-up to the crowd as he is honored as the official flag-bearer prior to Game 2 of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series between the Boston Bruins and the Toronto Maple Leafs in Boston, Saturday, May 4, 2013. (Elise Amendola/AP)Adrianne Haslet, a professional ballroom dancer injured by one of the bombs that exploded near the Boston Marathon finish line, lifts her bandaged left leg in her bed at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Haslet, who lost her left foot and part of her lower leg, vows that she will dance again.  (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/AP)Aaron Hern, 11, of Martinez, Calif. visits the place where he was injured during the second bombing at the Boston Marathon finish line, Thursday, April 25, 2013. (Elise Amendola/AP)Heather Abbott, of Newport, R.I., smiles while taking questions from reporters during a news conference at Brigham and Women's Hospital, in Boston, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Abbott underwent a below the knee amputation during surgery on her left leg following injuries she sustained at the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15. (Steven Senne/AP)From left Alfred Colonese, Mick Henn, Dale Abbott, first lady Michelle Obama, Heather Abbott, Jason Geremia, and Michelle Dalrymple at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, April 18, 2013. Heather Abbott was scrambling to get off the sidewalk when the force of the second blast blew her through the restaurant doorway. The day of the bombings, Abbott and a half-dozen friends took in the traditional Patriots' Day Red Sox game at Fenway Park. They left the match early and headed to Forum, where former New England Patriots were gathered to raise money for offensive guard Joe Andruzzi's cancer foundation, and where another friend was tending bar. (Courtesy of Alfred Colonese)Travis Roy, the namesake of the Travis Roy Foundation, sits by third base at "Little Fenway", which is modeled after Boston's Fenway Park, before a charity Wiffle Ball tournament to benefit the Foundation in Essex, Vt., on Friday, August 12, 2011. (Andy Duback/AP)

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Tags: Boston, Boston Marathon Bombings

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  • Mysticeti

    Well said Travis. Humans have an amazing ability to adapt, overcome, and be happy. Combined with today’s technology and medical advances the future is brighter than ever even if it doesn’t always seem that way in the immediate aftermath of tragedy.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=638964648 Julia Gulia

    Travis, I was a freshman at BU when this happened and I will never forget it. Your strength and courage should serve as an inspiration for others. Thank you for sharing your story and your emotions.

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