From the Highway to the Pool Hall: How this C5 Quadriplegic Stays Active

At At Home Medical, we see ourselves as more than just a medical supplier. We’re proud to be a part of a larger community of people with with spinal cord injuries and other wheelchair users. That’s why we sponsor the iPush Foundation, a virtual community of thousands of wheelchair users from around the world. Today, we talked with Clint Cook, a “rocker turned yuppie” who’s a member of the iPush family.

Injured since 1988, Clint’s led an active, competitive life, playing tennis, rugby and pool, all while traveling the country as a salesman. Read Clint’s story below.

Q. So, what’s your story?
A.
I was injured in a car accident when I was in 20. I was in the hospital for three months, at the Shepherd Center for four months, and in outpatient rehab for another 12 months.

Because of my injury, I was able to get some grants, so I went to the Art Institute of Atlanta and studied Music Business. After that, I got a job at 96 Rock, a big station here in Atlanta. I had a lot of fun, met rock stars and went to lots of concerts. I had long hair and everything.

Then I was introduced to sales. When the guy interviewing me showed me my salary, I decided it was worth it to cut off my hair. So I went from rocker to yuppie!

Q. Why did you become a member of iPush?
A.
I’ve always been active and that’s what iPush is geared towards – people who want to live active lives in their wheelchairs.

Q. How do you stay active?
A. Since my injury, I’ve been skydiving three times, hang-gliding, whitewater rafting and bungee jumping.

When I was younger, I did quad rugby. The team I was on was one of the first ones on the East Coast.

While I was at Shepherd Spinal Center doing my rehab they had a pool table in the rec room and I would try to play. But I really couldn’t because I couldn’t hold the pool cue. Well, as most of you quads know velcro is our friend! With the help of the rec therapist and my OT, they made a strap that I could use so that I could hold the cue. That old Velcro strap lasted a few years until one day, in the middle of pool tournament, it snapped. I used electrical tape the rest of the day to finish the tournament.

Electrical tape was not such a great solution so I just had to learn to hold the pool cue the best I could on my own. Almost 28 years later I still play pool and have played in tournaments all around the country. Last year I finished in 9th place in the Wheelchair Challenge held in Las Vegas each year in conjunction with the APA world championships.

Q. What other interests do you have?
A.
I’ve always been really into cars. I can remember after the doctor told me I would never walk again, my first question was “Will I be able to drive a car?” They said that there were vans with lifts and I could drive one of those. But the whole idea of driving a van didn’t really excite me. Not that there’s any thing wrong with vans! It’s just not my style.

My first car after my injury was a two-door Chevy Cavalier. It was a chore to get my folding chair in and out of the car, but driving meant freedom for me so that made it worth it. I guess it was about two years after my injury that I got my first sports chair and that made things a lot easier.

Today, my “van with a lift” is a Corvette.

Q. Who helped keep you going in the early days after your injury?
A.
There was this guy named Bill Furbish, a Shepherd Center employee, who really helped me out. He was training for the Paralympics. That showed me I could still be active and do stuff in my wheelchair.

Q. You’ve been in a wheelchair for 28 years. What changes have had the biggest impact on you?
A.
The size of the chair. It’s smaller and so much lighter. Imagine the difference from what used to be 60-70 lbs, to now about 18. It makes it so much easier to be active.

Another thing that’s been a big change is the internet. When I was injured in 1988 you couldn’t Google “What can I do if I have a spinal cord injury?” You kinda just had to do it. There were no resources like iPush. Sometimes things worked out and sometimes they didn’t, but I had to at least try.

Q. What’s your main goal, with iPush or just in general?
A.
I want to continue to mentor folks who are newly injured. I work with a lot of other men, but I like to work with anyone – kids and adults.

Q. Do you have any parting wisdom for anyone who’s newly injured or trying to find a way to add more activity to their lives?

A. My pearl of wisdom for anyone who’s newly injured is this: don’t wait until you’re walking again to live life. Yeah, it’s great if you do walk again, but right now, get on with living life in a wheelchair. Whatever you were doing before – school, sports, etc., – do it now in your chair.

Thank you, Clint! Are you interested in knowing more about the iPush Foundation? Like it on Facebook and check out the iPush website.

We always love hearing from our readers. If you’d like to share your story like Clint, leave a comment below!

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