spinal cord

118 : Setbacks Are Blessings In Disguise w/ former High School All-American & D1 Softball Player, Bella Picard

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Bella Picard is a former high school All-American and Division-1 softball player at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, PA.  In a game against Fordham University on April 18, 2015, Bella suffered a spinal cord injury while sliding head-first into second base on a hit-and-run play. The injury compromised the movement on the right side of her body. In this episode Bella takes us through her recovery and overcoming the odds as she works towards a return to the diamond.  Below is a short video of Bella's story produced by Bleacher Report.  You will also find a list of topics Bella and I discuss throughout the interview:

COURTESY OF SIDELINE PHOTOS, LLC/SJU ATHLETICS

COURTESY OF SIDELINE PHOTOS, LLC/SJU ATHLETICS

  • Takes us through the play that changed her life and her first thoughts after regaining consciousness.

  • Bella's initial thoughts after being told by doctors that she wouldn’t be able to play softball anymore.

  • The necessary surgeries she underwent.

  • Setbacks experienced due to circulation troubles after finally re-learning how to walk.

  • Why these setbacks were actually a blessing in disguise.

  • The incentive to make as much progress as possible within the first year after a spinal cord injury.

  • The evolution of Bella's rehab, which includes locomotor training.

“We can do any exercise, it just looks a little weird”

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“its something that you can’t stop thinking about every night, its like that good play you made in the game”

  • The importance of not comparing herself to what she did before her injury.

  • Learning from failure and how softball allows for that.

  • The importance of not taking yourself too seriously

“Why be miserable in a miserable situation, that is double miserable”

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  • How her fitness goals have changed since her injury.

  • Why athletes need to lose the go hard or go home mentality.

  • How she pulled her wrist out of socket.

  • The mental and emotional setbacks she makes for herself at times.

  • The power of her faith when she gets down on how her life is different than it was when she was an All-American athlete.

  • How she looks for God’s signs.

  • Where her interest in Space and NASA came from.

“How did I break my neck and still can’t do things how I used to, yet we can go to space?”

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  • Why the spinal cord is like the ocean.

  • How her approach to goal setting and expectation has changed.

  • The benefits of meditation for gray matter in the brain and spinal cord.

  • How the saying "work like horse, eat like horse" still applies and the nutritional changes Bella has made since her injury.

  • How she became friends with Eric LeGrand and the greatest lesson she has learned from him.

  • Thoughts on sliding headfirst.

  • Dealing with the loss of muscle after injury.

  • How her dog Benny Has helped her throughout her recovery.

  • Why its important for athletes to listen to their bodies.

Honestly I didn't even think to share this bc it just absolutely crushes me to see these pants literally hanging off of my body now. But I'll go ahead & push my ego aside bc I know I'm def not the only human being on this earth rn who gets that lil extra slap in the face of reality sometimes that makes ya feel that distinct sadness u probably try to avoid feeling everyday. All I can say is don't ever fear ur reality just bc of the things u can physically see right in front of u. What u can see in front of u does NOT dictate or even define ur future whatsoever. So I'd like to encourage anyone who needs it to find that strength, motivation, discipline, & hope that I KNOW everyone can choose to seek & find within themselves if the effort is there. All of those GOOD things that u can find within urself will help u get a clearer view of what u can't quite see yet physically in front of u. I call it faith, believing in what u cannot see. Let ur mind, heart & soul be ur vision, don't just think ur eyeballs are the only tools u have to view this life. I met a blind man sitting on a bench by the beach not too long ago who said "I've never been able to physically see something that scares me, yet I can still paint scary thoughts in my mind that come from negative thinking." The mind is powerful. Do ur best to think beautiful thoughts & create unbelievable dreams that are beyond human comprehension. With that u can build an indestructible tower of faith that will be MUCH bigger than any fear u have about ur reality #scirecovery #faithofamustardseed #iwillplayagain #bringbacktherightside

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WHERE CAN YOU CONNECT WITH BElla?

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Download Episode 118 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

110 : Getting Back On The Horse w/ Pro Barrel Racer, Amberley Snyder

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Amberley Snyder is a motivational speaker and the first and only barrel racer in the US that is paralyzed.  On January 10th, 2010 Amberley was on her way to the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo. As she was passing through Sinclair, WY she took a look down at her map. After only seconds she looked up and realized she had faded into the other lane, headed towards a metal beam. In an effort to get back in her lane, Amberley overcorrected. Her truck slid off the road and rolled and she was ejected from the vehicle. She was slammed into a fence post that broke her back and immediately she lost feeling in her legs. In episode 110 we dive deep into Amberley's journey back in the saddle and how she made it back to professional barrel racing.

Below are other topics of discussion we touch on in this interview:

  • The ultimatum Amberley gave her dad when they moved to Utah that lead to her barrel racing career.

  • Background on the sport of rodeo.

    • Events

    • Rules

    • Animal rights

    • etc.

 

  • Gender disparities in the sport of rodeo and why women only compete in barrel racing.

  • Events leading up to Amberley's car accident and her road to recovery.

  • How Amberley was able to get back on a horse in only 4 months after her accident.

  • The trial and error process Amberley went through that evolved her riding equipment (pictured below).

  • The role legs play in riding a horse.

"All of a sudden my happy place was not even comfortable anymore."

  • Why Amberley went 9 months without riding after initially getting back on the horse.

  • How Amberley addresses thoughts of what her rodeo career could have been like with use of her legs.

  • What it took to get her to a collegiate career and professional career.

  • Why rodeo is actually a team sport.

  • The culture of toughness in rodeo and the prize structure that encourages cowboys and cowgirls to sacrifice their health.

  • Amberley's most recent injury of a broken femur (x-ray below).

 

  • Health & safety precautions in the sport of rodeo for both cowboys and the animals

  • Amberley's story of riding through a fractured neck injury when she was 17

  • Sports medicine and recovery for the horses and it's transferability to human performance.

  • Lessons learned from her father who played major league baseball.

"Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard"

  • Advice to athletes who suffer life altering injuries.

Where can you buy Amberley's newly released children's book?

WHERE CAN YOU FIND Amberley?

websiteINSTAGRAM | TWITTER FACEBOOK | YOUTUBE

Download Episode 110 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud

91 : I Still Haven't Met A Kevin I Didn't Like w/ Kevin Ogar

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Kevin Ogar is the Owner and Head Coach of CrossFit WatchTower. Kevin is a Level-3 Certified CrossFit Trainer, and is a member of the CrossFit Level 1 Seminar Staff. Kevin has accomplished the incredible feat of qualifying for the CrossFit Regionals four times, finishing as high as 6th in 2012. Outside of CrossFit, Kevin serves as Vice President of the Reveille Project, which aims to ease veteran's transition to civilian life by instilling holistic lifestyles into their routines post-active duty.  In January of 2014, Kevin suffered a life changing spinal cord injury during a fitness competition and has overcome great odds to get to where he is today.

Kevin performing a snatch pre-injury.

Kevin performing a snatch pre-injury.

Kevin's accident occurred while performing a 3 rep max hang snatch during a fitness competition.  Being one of the better snatchers in the sport of CrossFit at the time, this was nothing new or out of the ordinary for Kevin. Kevin opened up the snatch event at 235 lbs, which was a weight that he could hit consistently under normal circumstances.  During this episode, Kevin takes us though the moments that led up to his injury. Specifically, he discusses how the slant in the lifting platform caused him to not stick the catching of the weight overhead. Upon trying to bail out from underneath the unstable weight, the bar hit Kevin's left shoulder, which caused the bar the hit the weights stacked behind him, ultimately causing the bar to then bounce off the weight stack like a rocket right back at him severing his spine between T-11 and T-12.

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Kevin describes the intense pain he felt immediately after the bar hit him in the back. He said it felt like every inch of his body felt like it was on fire.  After being transported to a near-by local hospital, doctors later told him that the injury caused him to be paralyzed from the waist down. Kev opens up about the wave of emotions that understandably ensued after this moment.  Although lucky to have survived the initial impact from the bar, Kevin wasn't completely in the clear once he got to the hospital.

Kevin's injury required an extremely risky surgery called a thoracotomy because any more trauma to the spine would have killed him due to the onset of shock. He was given a 15-18% chance of surviving this first surgery.  Most people die from lack of oxygen or blood loss in this surgery, but Kevin believes the only thing that kept him alive was his fitness level before the injury because his body was so efficient at processing oxygen.  After surviving the surgery, Kev then only had a 25-35% chance of surviving the complications from that surgery. Kevin obviously overcame these odds and described how a lot of things on the day of his injury actually worked in his favor rather than against him.  For example, the doctor who performed the surgery wasn’t even supposed to be working that today and he just happened to be the second best spinal surgeon in the US. In addition, Kevin grew up with the Vice President of Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado is a world-renowned rehabilitation hospital that exclusively specializes in the neuro-rehabilitation and research of patients with spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injury (Kevin Pearce from episode 57 also did his rehab at Craig).  

While at Craig, Kevin wasn't satisfied with just surviving because he wanted to be thriving. Kevin has never been someone who was okay with not being able to do something or excel at it.   The toughest thing to cope with at Craig was realizing how much he had lost after doctors performed the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) motor/sensory exam which aims to take stock of the extent of paralysis.  This was difficult for Kev because it pointed out everything that he had lost after the injury. Luckily, this injury wasn't the only adversity he had ever faced in his life.  During our conversation, Kevin talked about how despite getting kicked out of college twice, there was something positive that came out of each of those negative situations.  One of those positives were meeting his fiancé who he has been with for 10 years. Figuring his spinal cord injury was probably the worst thing that will ever happen to him, he is determined to generate the best outcome possible.

Below are some of the other topics we touch on throughout our conversation:

  • The importance of maintaining a sense of humor.

  • The similarities between athletes and veterans based on what he has seen with the Reveille Project.

    • Both groups are coming from a background of purpose, a situation of structure, a brotherhood/community.

      • All of which are usually lost in the transition to civilian life and can be forged through CrossFit.

  • Barbell Shrugged Interview from a few years back (6 months post injury)

  • Mark Bell's recent podcast interview with Kev:

  • How Kevin got kicked out of college twice and what/who turned him around.

  • The multiple sports Kevin played growing up.

    • Basketball (main sport)

    • Swimming

    • Baseball

    • Soccer

    • Football

    • Rugby (college)

  • Safe tackling tactics in Rugby.

  • What got Kevin into CrossFit.

    • “Man I really suck at this, maybe I should give it another shot."

  • Kevin's current aspirations of qualifying for the Paralympics in bench press.

    • 430-440 lbs (touch-and-go)

    • 395-405 lbs (competition)

  • How Kevin avoids overtraining.

    • Good at listening to his body.

    • Changing planes, intensities, etc.

  • The challenges Kevin faced on his quest to getting on the CrossFit level 1 seminar staff.

    • Difficulties in learning how to coach from a chair.

  • Why Kevin sometimes allows himself to have a bad day, but he doesn’t ever let is affect the next day.

WHERE CAN YOU FIND Kevin ogar?

WEBSITE | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM 

WHERE CAN YOU support the Reveille Project?

Website | INSTAGRAM | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | Donate 

download Kevin's new documentary

"ogar : will of steel" (Trailer below)

itunes | Amazon

Download Episode 91 : iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud