This afternoon, I went over to Craig to spend some time with Riley, and wanted to update everyone with how things are going. Riley’s attitude — despite being cooped up in a hospital for the last few months — continues to be an inspiration to myself, and everyone else who comes to visit. He speaks frankly about his predicament, and has clear goals laid out for the next hour, the next day, the next week, the next year, and beyond.
Right when I arrived, Riley was out in the hall outside his room talking to some of his therapists, and then we shot the shit with one of Ri’s in-house buddys and (I think it was) the guy’s brother. It was neat to see a glimpse of Riley’s community at Craig, and tune into some of the conversations that people are having there.
We migrated to Riley’s room next and he told me about a film that he watched this morning about Mike Utley, the Detroit Lions football player who was paralyzed in 1991. Riley was inspired deeply by the story of Utley’s rehab process, and it made him feel good about his position to know that Utley’s injury was more severe than his, and Utley has gone on to accomplish a great deal since.
During our conversation, Riley would periodically adjust his body weight in his manual chair from sitting upright to a hunched over position, and I finally asked him what he was doing. He explained that the shifting of his weight was important so that he wouldn’t get sores from being in the same position for too long, and then he got excited and showed me again, narrating his movements as he went: “This is a really positive thing that I can do,” he said as he hunched over, took a deep breath in, and raised himself back up to upright, without using his hands to push up, but with his core strength instead. “One of my buddies in here who was in the Murderball Movie (a quad-rugby player), who is super stong and can push all of his weight up with his arms, was jealous when he heard that I could raise myself up with my core muscles. It’s a really good sign that I can do that this soon after my injury.” In fact, Riley is discovering more and more of these ‘good signs’ everyday, and at this point, he has a good amount of sensation in his lower body and can feel is nerves firing in his legs.
Next, the nurse’s station came through on the intercom asking Riley if he would accept a phone call. He had me run across the room and grab the phone, which I held up to his ear for a good 15 minutes while he conducted business with Simon and a couple other guys who are in Sweden for the Jon Olsson Invitational this week (I know it’s hard for Ri to be missing that event this year, as he has fond memories from last year’s, but he didn’t show it). It was awesome to listen to Riley — a guy who is confined to a wheelchair, stuck in a hospital, battling for his own well-being — provide his guys with a wise sort of managerial advice about the biz, including their two year film project, Transitions.
Riley’s attitude and work ethic are strong as ever, and while his heart is still heavy from the recent news of Shane’s death, he remains focused and committed to a full recovery. I asked him today what his realistic expectations re: his recovery were and he told me: “I want to walk again.” It’s that sort of matter of fact, stubborn, and driven thinking that makes me think he might just get there.
Riley sends his best to you all, and is doing his best to look at all of the emails, facebook wall posts, and blog comments that you’ve been leaving. Keep sending the positive vibes his way, and don’t forget to donate through the NTAF!