Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation President Peter Wilderotter’s London marathon blog

Mile 22: Taylor Price

Taylor Price will change the world. Mark that down and take it to the bank.

On July 8, 2004, he was enjoying a family vacation in Westhampton Beach, NY. Life was great - he’d be entering Georgetown University in the Fall and in Taylorspeak: “life was a blast.” At the beach that day, he dove under a wave and his neck hit a sandbar, breaking C5/6.

Many people either don’t remember what comes afterwards, or everything is a blur, but Taylor recalls it all. He describes the moment of impact as a “dead man’s float” and recalls how quickly and professionally the lifeguards responded.  He remembers feeling the sensation that his legs were over his neck and he kept asking them over and over to straighten out his legs. But they kept responding that they already were.

Taylor describes the moment he was told he was quadriplegic as the time he “went from being fully independent to completely dependent. He spent the next two weeks in Stony Brook Hospital, followed by several months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta before returning home to Ridgewood, NJ - all the while pursuing the best rehab and searching for answers.  He told his doctor, his family and friends that he was still going to Georgetown, and they were all skeptics. But dreams deferred often taste sweeter, and a year later, Taylor entered his beloved Georgetown.  And next month, he will be receiving his second degree from Georgetown, a Master’s degree in sports industry management!

When I talked to Taylor about this blog, I was surprised by his statement about dependence, as he’s always seemed to be one of the most independent people I know. When Taylor articulates a point, he does so in such simple and profound terms, equating it to today’s political discourse suggesting people make it on their own. He has an attendant, and has learned to accept help from others, while at the same time knows he has to do more by himself.

Taylor feels too many people close themselves off from that reality, and he wants to demonstrate that although the way he gets around may be different, he will reach and surpass all the goals he sets for himself. His injury has enabled him (Taylor’s words) to become more self aware and to prove that he can and will contribute more to society.  “My assets have been reallocated,” he explains, “and it may take me a little longer, but I’m going to make changes.”

Just look at the record. At Georgetown, he participated in the student government.  He’s testified on the Hill, and he served as a White House intern. His Master’s thesis is about disability access in sports stadiums, putting forth a premise that those teams that go above what the ADA requires see an increase in team loyalty, productivity and spending. Boy, do we need those arguments.

Taylor would like others to know how financially challenging spinal cord injury is. And how hard it is for family members, especially parents like his, who hope and wish they  could fix everything. His heart aches at being unable to play golf with his Dad, but when you see the two of them together, you witness a bond and camaraderie far deeper than can be achieved on the links.  I asked him how he feels today, as opposed to those early days, and his response was: “I accept my injury for today and probably tomorrow and maybe even for the foreseeable future. But I will never accept it forever.”

Need I say more?

Mile 22 - bring it on.  Any fear that it might cause me will be cast aside because Taylor would tell me to simply stay in the race, you’ve got work to do. Taylor’s motto—he borrowed it from someone pretty familiar to our crowd:  “nothing is impossible!”