Day by Day
Health is a gift that should be appreciated
By Liz Thompson
Wednesday July 16, 2014
Accidents happen. Life can change in the blink of an eye.
“Health and where you live is important because you need to know what you can control. Because pretty much everything else is out of (your) control,” said Brad Eldridge.
“I just want to be an average guy. Be a taxpayer.”
He said his aspirations are to serve people.
As a lay counselor for the Vineyard Church, he does just that. He knows firsthand about challenges.
“As a counselor, I see fighting about differences. Everyone has a human history that has far more similarities than differences,” Eldridge said.
In the early 1990s during a fraternity initiation at Otterbein College, the pledges were told to dive across the mud. Eldridge was a competitive diver and did a traditional tuck of his head and dove.
His life changed in a moment. He became quadriplegic.
Now 42, he has learned to adapt to a world that’s not built for him. Years ago, he moved to Creative Living near Ohio State University in a space that is built for him.
Eldridge considers himself a minimalist.
When he thinks of the beautiful buildings on the Otterbein and Ohio State campuses, he cringes to think of changing that architecture for a ramp.
“I never had the ‘take me through the front door’ mentality; it never made sense to me. I don’t care if I go in the back door (if the access ramp is there), just get me in the door.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act was signed in July, 24 years ago. Among other things, the act required buildings to be more accessible for people using wheelchairs.
“People tend to be insecure and get angry. I don’t get angry. Frustrated, yes — but I don’t waste energy on anger,” Eldridge said.
The last 18 months, he has seen life from his bed instead of his wheelchair while dealing with cancer treatments and pressure sores. Pain is a constant companion.
“I have to rise above the pain. I don’t want it to regulate my life,” Eldridge said. “I ran cross country and that’s about keeping pain at bay. So I was prepared long ago for this. I’m not real sure how I’m able to deal with this, but I just am.”
His faith challenges and sustains him. He doesn’t want to sit on the bench while other lives go on.
“I decided I’m done with this (focusing on pain) and have to move on. Get busy however I can.”
Science offers hope for people with paralysis.
Neurobridge inventor and project lead Chad Bouton of Battelle says, “Indeed, there is hope with science. I’ve spent my career at Battelle specifically because our organization was created with the charter of using science to benefit humanity. It’s something we still take seriously today and it’s something that is personally important to me.
“When I started working almost 10 years ago in the area of neurotechnology, I knew the possibilities could change the world. Today, with my team, we are still working as hard as we can to bring that to reality. We have a long way to go, but certainly we’ve made a lot of progress and hope one day our Neurobridge technology can help people living with paralysis every day.”
Ian Burkhart, 23, of Dublin, was the first to receive the Neurobridge, and with the intricate technology was able to move his fingers for the first time since he dove into a sandbar four years ago and became quadriplegic. Even though there is no personal benefit to him at this point, being part of this groundbreaking procedure was an honor.
The doctors and researchers kept Burkhart completely in the loop throughout the process. He said he knew that technology would come along, but he couldn’t sit around and wait for it. Eldridge was grateful someone took on the challenge — both Battelle researchers and Burkhart.
“This is how it is right now and I make the best of it,” Burkhart said. “Having the right attitude affects everyone.”
A former lacrosse player at Dublin Jerome High School, Burkhart now coaches boys lacrosse at his alma mater.
“It is often said that you don’t appreciate what you have until it is gone. Many people forget that their health is the most precious gift they have,” said chiropractor Peter Feldkamp.
At the end of the day, Burkhart and Eldridge agree that who you are as an individual is not just the body, it’s so much more. They are living proof.