My name is Adam Hancock. Although we don’t know each other, I’m going to ask a favor of you. Are you ready? Close your eyes…With your eyes closed, use your imagination. Imagine that you can’t move your legs. You try. You try as hard as you can, but there is no response. Try as you may, they simply don’t obey. Next, imagine that you can’t move your arms either. Same thing, you can feel them, you can see them, but when you try to move them there is no response, not even a twitch.
Okay, you can open your eyes. What you’ve just imagined is just a small taste of the paralysis that follows a high-level spinal cord injury. I say a small taste for a couple reasons. One, you just conceived of it for a few seconds. Two, lacking the ability to move is just the tip of the iceberg. How do you eat? How do you drink? How do you scratch your nose? Not to mention dressing, bathing, doing laundry, driving, shopping for groceries, going to the bank, making money to go to the bank with. And that’s not even things like holding hands, kissing, caressing, hugging, dancing, playing your favorite sport, riding a bike or a motorcycle, going on a walk or a hike, climbing a tree.
I think you get the point. Well, add to the things above breathing. Because the paralysis from a high level spinal cord injury includes your diaphragm, so you need a machine to help you do that. I’m not asking you to imagine these things to make you feel bad or to make you feel sorry for me. I’m asking you to imagine these things because in order to understand the value, the magnitude, even just a little bit, of what it is like to regain some of the things in life that you need and that you love, you must first imagine what it is like to be without them.
At first, like all spinal cord injured (SCI) people I’ve met, I was overwhelmed with my newfound condition. I was so overwhelmed, I questioned whether life was worth living in such a state. That question is a personal struggle and question that only the individual in such a situation can resolve. No one can answer that question for you. I will tell you, that for me, I grappled with it, I examined it, inspected everything I could about, I reflected, I did serious soul searching, I tore it apart and with bare, brutal honesty with myself, put it back together again. After some time and constant thought, I reached the conclusion that there were too many people I liked and loved to say goodbye. There are too many things about life that, deep down in my core, I love too much to give up. So, I decided to stay. To create a life. To LIVE.
With that decision came all the challenges, all the questions and unknowns and mostly an introduction to the limits my own ideas and mindset placed before me. It has been said, “If you think you will win or you think will lose – If you think you can or you think you can’t… you are right.” So, the challenges were many and progress was slow. But each new endeavor was built on hard-won accomplishments of the past. I eventually came to the place where moving out of a facility and managing my own physical care (with the help of others, of course) was the next obvious logical step. The catch-22 swirled in front of me – financially, you need X-amount to move toward self-support, but currently the living environment (rules, restrictions, nursing resources to help, cost of rent, etc.) block you from taking those next steps that will teach you what you need to know and allow you to earn the self-support you desire.
Freedom To Live provided me the opportunity to bridge the gap between institutional living and independent living. I moved to FTL’s San Jose Freedom house January 20th 2013. While living at the Freedom house I learned the skill-set to genuinely manage my care. I learned to order my own medical supplies, to work with a home-health nursing agency and Medi-Cal, Medicare and In-Home-Supportive-Services to organize my staffing (scheduling my nurses so I could remain safe, healthy and productive). I learned how, with the help of my care-givers, to get my laundry done, go grocery shopping, attend classes for business – to pursue a life and not just use all my time to try and cope with my body and just stay “alive”. By sharing resources and accepting rent subsidy, I began to create
more and more personal freedom through new skills and abilities and take living life to the next level. FTL gave me that. The training for my business has allowed me to envision actual realistic self-support in the not too distant future rather than it being just a pipe-dream that maybe somehow, some way, someday I might figure out how to pay my own way.
I moved to an apartment, with my fiancée, near enough to my business to be productive in July 2014. This is only possible with the rent subsidy from FTL. This will allow me to eventually generate the income from my business necessary to no-longer need the subsidy. Freedom To Live has provided me with the things necessary to envision a future, to be productive toward that future, to create my life, to live rather than just cope hand-to mouth.
I am eternally grateful. For me, these things are priceless beyond words. I hope my words above give you a glimpse, a small glimmer of the invaluable work Freedom To Live has done and continues to do for me and others like me.
Adam Hancock, Freedom To Live recipient.