Taylor Price: Comeback Kid

Written By: Maddie Donnelly

For Taylor Price, July 8, 2004 started like any other day. It was beautiful and sunny, without a single ominous cloud in the Westhampton Beach sky. He spent the morning working as a camp counselor and then headed down to the beach to babysit for family friends. At around 4pm, just before packing things in for the day, 18-year-old Taylor decided to take a dip in the ocean. He peeled his shirt off, ran down to the water, and—as he’d done a million times growing up—dove under a wave.

Unknowingly, Taylor was diving into disaster: Just below the surface hid a sandbar. One that would, upon impact, fracture his C 5/6 vertebrae and leave him a quadriplegic.

“I was fully conscious in the water,” Taylor says. “Face down, arms and legs extended out, not being able to move. The water was so clear, almost clear enough for snorkeling or scuba diving, but all I could do was move my eyes around. I thought I was going to lose my breath and probably drown in the ocean.”

Thankfully, he did not. Two lifeguards saw Taylor and pulled him ashore, packing him in the sand. His aunt and uncle, who happened to be on the beach, ran over.

“I remember everything,” he recalls. “Every sound and every word that was said. Within a minute of being pulled out of the ocean someone was holding a phone next to my ear and I was talking to my Dad.”

Unsure of the extent of Taylor’s accident—but aware it was severe—the lifeguards called 911. First responders rushed to the beach and placed Taylor on a backboard. He was carried to an ambulance and eventually a medevac, which airlifted him to Stony Brook Hospital in New York.

Taylor spent 11 days at Stony Brook with his parents, sister, and friends by his side. He had his initial surgery and, from there, spent four-and-a-half months at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta undergoing intense physical and occupational therapy. Once home in New Jersey, he started outpatient therapy.

A New Normal

Taylor was six weeks away from starting his freshman year at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. at the time of his accident, meaning that while he was in Atlanta at rehab, his contemporaries were moving into their freshman dorms. Not one to shy from a challenge, Taylor was determined to still have the college experience—albeit in his own way.

“I can go into so much detail about how common it is for anyone with adversity to say ‘why me?’” Taylor says. “It’s so easy. I just didn’t go there. I didn’t give that a chance. There was no reason…I was too busy and too focused on getting better.”

But despite the outpouring of support from his community (and even letters from public figures like Jessica Simpson, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and President George W. Bush), there were doctors, friends, and even family members that told him they weren’t sure college was still in his future.

“It wasn’t could I handle it in the classroom, it was all the other peripheral stuff,” Taylor says. “Not do I want to but can I actually do it. But I always envisioned my life as being active and doing great things. The fact that I’m living it from a wheelchair … I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that.”

Not only did Taylor graduate from Georgetown in 2010 with a double major in finance and marketing, he went back and got his masters in sports industry management in 2012.

“Until the day I got my diploma there were skeptics, and that was fine,” Taylor says. “I knew I wanted to do it, so not only did I do it once, I did it twice, and I did it really well twice. I’m proud of that.”

Making His Mark

Taylor has done extensive work with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which contacted him shortly after his accident. Additionally, he launched one of Georgetown’s largest scholarship funds, which has raised over $8 million dollars for students to date. He started what is now an annual conference at Georgetown on the employment of people with disabilities and, lastly, works closely with NextStep Fitness, an organization working to bring progressive therapy options to individuals recovering from spinal cord injuries. He is currently helping raise funds to bring a NextStep location to D.C.

“I didn’t necessarily ask to become a part of the disability community,” Taylor says. “But I want to contribute and I’m proud to be a part of it. This community needs strong voices and needs champions—I want to do everything I can for it.”

Taylor recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of his accident with a fundraiser in New York City. 

“I’ve done more for my life and for the lives of others than I probably would have done in that same amount of time had my accident not happened,” he says. “I’m really proud of everything that’s been accomplished … but I’m more excited for what’s to come in the next 10 years, God willing.”

To read the article online, visit: AmericaWithin.org