By Matt Thomas
11-years ago I was lying in a hospital bed in the ICU living out my worst nightmare and hearing the words “you’ll be lucky to feed yourself again”. You see, I just learned that I sustained a C5 complete spinal cord injury from a crash on my mountain bike. Those were hard days and no amount of positive thinking helped. However, what did help was making a mental list of things I was thankful for. Albeit that list was awfully short at first, but a funny thing happened. From gratitude came positive thinking and optimism and then that list began to get a little longer. Not to say life is all rosy and if you ask me today, am I glad I broke my neck, you will get a loudly stated “hell no!!” in response. What I will say is with the right attitude and a determination to move forward, great things can still happen no matter where your life is at and when I say great, I mean GREAT!! The greatest thing to happen over these last 11-years is that my wife and I adopted a baby girl.
I first met our girl when she was just a few minutes old and I was immediately smitten. I thought it would take longer to warm up, but it was immediate. She is three now and a little pistol and she has me wrapped around her little finger and she knows it. Being a dad is hands down the greatest joy and adventure of my life. However, it has had its fair share of challenges. Prior to my injury, I was an active outdoorsman, and some might even describe it as being fanatical. I had this image in my head that as a dad I would teach my kids how to ski, guide a raft down the river, and I would take them to secret swimming holes way off the beaten path. Dealing with the grief of not being able to do those things to the extent that I want to has been surprisingly difficult. I know, I know, there are plenty of things I can still share with her, and believe me I will, but it does not change the way I feel. For me, it’s important to acknowledge the grief, but not dwell on it or let it keep me from moving forward. So, I acknowledge it and make my list of things I’m thankful for and enjoy each moment with my wife and daughter because each moment is a gift.