“Unstoppable” 7 Powerful Heroes Who Did Not Let Paralysis Or An Amputation Stop Them

Do you feel stuck? Are you facing an obstacle that you just cant seem to circumvent? I had the opportunity to be in touch with 7 incredible people who faced some of the greatest possible obstacles — paralysis. Yet, with sheer grit, will power, and the love of their family, they were able to accomplish what others thought impossible. Enjoy these profiles, and be inspired!

Kellan Tilton

My Backstory

Five-year-old Kellan Tilton, began fighting cancer the day he was born. Although he’s now cancer-free, cancer left Kellan paralyzed from the waist down. This is Kellan’s second year skiing as part of the Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation program — Kellan’s dream is to win a medal for his skiing and, as soon as he can ski independently, he plans to race.

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

Kellen thrives on the ability to adapt. Especially during his training. Kellan skis greens and blues on a tether, allowing him to be more independent, using his outriggers to control his speed and direction. However, Kellan loves to go fast and Dick often holds Kellan’s mono-ski chair bar and hits double-black diamonds.

The Lesson I Think That Others Can Learn From My Story

Defying the odds from his first breath, Kellan constantly turns his “can’ts” into “cans.” Kellen’s embraces his life and uses obstacles that were put in his way as stepping stones — be it on the mountain or hill (Capitol Hill) to voice the need for childhood cancer research funding as a 2018 Ambassador for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.


Susanne Whited, Owner, My Business Tweets

My Backstory

“Oh my God, I have really messed myself up this time.” Those were the first words out of my mouth when I woke up upside down in my pickup with my head in a position God never intended it to be. Up until this point I was the typical 90’s woman. I traveled a lot for my job, had lots of friends, was a fitness fanatic and balanced that with being a wife and a mother to two small children. That all came to a screeching halt (literally) one day when I fell asleep at the wheel and my life was also turned upside down. I went from being a stronger-than-average woman to lying flat on a bed barely able to lift my arm an inch in a matter of seconds.

The kick-you-when-you-are-down gods were not finished with me however, and three months after completing rehabilitation and coming home I was hospitalized with the flesh-eating disease and told I would die. The next 13 months included more surgeries than I can count and more antibiotics than any one person should ever take. The first six of those months came with the knowledge that I would die, and the surgeries were simply keeping me alive, so I could have a little more time with my children before I died.

I then developed a super power and started growing new, healthy skin faster than the flesh-eating disease was killing it and, for the final seven months, the death sentence was lifted, and I was able to return home for good once the surgeries were able to be stopped.

When my seven-year-old son came to visit me in the hospital the evening of my accident I said to him, “You know I am not going to walk again, right?” He replied, “That is okay. We are going to build you a ramp.” That has been my philosophy going forward from that point. If you want to keeping moving forward, you need to be willing to adapt.

Adapt is what I have done for the past 20-plus years. From coaching children’s soccer from a wheelchair and starting my own business after losing a job I loved to giving birth to my third child at 43 and writing children’s books; I find a way (or super power) to make my dreams come to life.”

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

“Not walking again after my accident never bothered me. It was the loss of hand function that was what I most wished I still had. I realized I could spend hours a day staring at my fingers, trying to will them to move or I could go have an incredible life. I chose an incredible life.

I had two small children at the time of my accident and I got it in my head that my children might grow up thinking they missed out on a “normal” childhood because I used a wheelchair. I went into complete overcompensation mode. Every day off school generally involved a trip to the movies, an arcade or some other kid’s activity. There were camps during the summer and sports all year.

When I was asked to coach my daughter’s soccer team, I said no, then I realized recreational soccer involves kids running up and down a field trying to kick a ball. I use a power wheel chair. I push a lever for it to move. Why not me? I coached my daughter’s soccer team for the next several years.

I was unable to work at all for approximately five years after my accident due to a very long recovery period from the flesh-eating disease. When I did return to work, I eventually was hired by a company that I worked for 11 ½ years before a new CEO fired everybody. I was devastated, however two days later I started my own business. Four years later my business revenue has increased year after year.

Because I ask questions such as Why not me, am willing to roll out on a limb daring it to break and have a predisposition to overcompensation, I have a fulfilling family life and a business that is continually growing.

Because I refuse to be “disabled” 22 years after my accident, I can accomplish any task I decide I want to do and achieve any dream I pursue.

Because I ask for help when I need it, I become stronger and strengthen those around me.

Because I choose to have a great day, each and every day, I do.

My wheelchair is an extension of me that enables me to enjoy my life, it is not an anchor chaining me to fantasy of what used to be.”

The Lesson I Think That Others Can Learn From My Story

”Appreciate what you have and accept what you lose may never come back. When I was in the rehabilitation hospital, I was jealous of the paraplegics because when they went home they would still be self-reliant. Then I realized the high-level quadriplegics were just as jealous of me. Perhaps more so because their thoughts were likely, “Look at her; she can breathe on her own and does not have to be concerned that a power outage could kill her.” I may not be able to sit up without assistance, but I can breathe without a machine.

Focus on what is important and let the rest go. Ask your children what they want most from you, commit to those tasks you can reasonably do and do not dwell on the tasks you cannot. I volunteer in my five-year-old daughter’s classroom to read because the other tasks require fine motor skills. Instead of feeling inadequate because I “only” volunteer to read, I focus on the fact I am helping kids learn to read. I cannot think of a better gift of my time than that.

When a roadblock falls into your path take a step back and look for other routes. Detours can lead you to discover an amazing path that you may otherwise have missed. I cannot image I would have ever coached my older daughter’s soccer team if I had not been paralyzed. My business would not keep growing if I quit looking for ways I can accomplish tasks more efficiently. Experimentation gives you power and flexibility strengthens you to keep going when you would rather stop.

You have an amazing life already, you simply need to accept it.”


April Holmes, Paralympian & Learning Experience & Athlete Engagement Consultant at Ernst & Young

My Backstory

April is a paralympian with an incredible story. April Holmes has redefined what it means to be disabled. After a tragic train accident in 2001 resulted in the amputation of her left leg below the knee, this track & field star and former collegiate athlete discovered the Paralympic Movement after her surgeon gave her a pamphlet with the hope that sport will help her be active again and achieve the career she always wanted.

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

Three months later, Holmes received her first walking prosthetic and one year after her accident, she participated in her first track race. From that moment onward, three goals were firmly implanted in her mind: to wear the Team USA uniform, break world records and win gold medals.

Since her career in Paralympic track & field began in 2002, Holmes has broken IPC World Records 14 times and American Records 18 times in the 100, 200, 400 meters and the long jump. Over her astonishing track & field career, April has put together several undefeated seasons, with her first Paralympic gold medal in the 100 meters at the 2008 Beijing Games. April put on the USA uniform again at the 2012 Paralympics in London and after a photo finish was awarded bronze in the 100 meters.

After the Rio games, EY (Ernst & Young) hired Holmes as part of the Big Four firm’s diverse recruitment efforts and its Women Athletes Business Network which seeks to harness the leadership potential of elite athletes and support them in their transition from careers in sports to careers in business. (http://www.ey.com/gl/en/newsroom/news-releases/news-ey-expands-its-support-of-elite-athletes-in-their-transition-from-sport-to-business-careers).

Holmes also runs the April Holmes Foundation, Inc. a non-profit organization assisting people with physical and learning disabilities with scholarships and medical equipment. April was recently named by the International Paralympic Committee’s “Top 10 Women in Paralympic Sport, a US Anti-Doping Ambassador, and has assisted First Lady Michelle Obama on “Let’s Move” Campaign.

Holmes recently co-authored her first book entitled, “The Winning Way” with Brian Tracy which hit Amazon’s Best-Sellers List. Her second book, “Stop Limping Thru Life, Start Running” will be on bookshelves in the fall.”


Travis Roy, Founder, Travis Roy Foundation

My Backstory

Travis Roy, a young hopeful in the world of hockey, finally realized his lifelong dream — only to see it turn, in an instant, into an unexpected nightmare. Yet for Travis another, even more unanticipated, saga was about to begin. That story, a drama of courage, determination, and the power of love, would open up an astonishing new life for one extraordinary young man — and touch the hearts of millions. Eleven seconds was all it took. Eleven seconds to stop cold a shining career scarcely before it had taken off on the ice. Travis Roy was a promising 20-year-old hockey star. Then moments into his first collegiate game as a Boston University freshman, a freak accident drove Travis into the boards. A cracked fourth vertebra left him paralyzed from the neck down. That fateful October night in 1995 signaled the death of one dream — but also the eventual rebirth of a special kind of hope. For, though imprisoned for months in a hospital bed, then confined to a wheelchair, Travis gradually found the grit and the will to reclaim for himself a fulfilling and productive life.

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

From the very start of his ordeal, Travis enjoyed the support of a close-knit family; a legion of friends; his coach, Jack Parker; and his girlfriend Maija, who, despite the crippling effects of his injury never wavered in her devotion to his recovery and well-being. Ultimately, as his struggle became national news, an entire country became his fan club — cheering him on as he adjusted to daily life and rooting for him when he established the Travis Roy Foundation, which is dedicated to research and one-on-one assistance for spinal injury cases. Travis Roy’s story is a story about America’s love affair with sports and the people who embrace its never-die spirit. Most of all, it is the story of one young man who surrendered to no limits and defied all odds, both before and after the tragedy that ended his game. The Travis Roy Foundation has raised over hundreds of thousands of dollars for people with spinal cord injuries, helping them get the right treatments and also donating to spinal cord research. It was Travis’s undying love for the sport and to never give up on himself that has led him to doing so much good for other and the community.

The Lesson I Think That Others Can Learn From My Story

”The lesson to be learned from this story is that life is fleeting. Never take anything for granted, enjoy everything that you have because in a split second, everything you’ve ever known can completely change. There is also a silver lining. Things happen to us and we must change and adapt around our situations to continue living our lives the best way that we can. Travis is a living example of how to make the best out of your situation and to truly make a difference in people’s life. His dedication to funding research and still incorporating his love for hockey is something that is truly inspiring.


Tim Alexander, University of Alabama at Birmingham

Steve Wood Uab Photo / Steve Wood UAB Photo

My Backstory

I was paralyzed in an auto accident in 2006 while I was a student and football player at Birmingham’s Erwin High School. Though I’ve slowly improved over the years and can now stand on my own, I must rely on a wheelchair. Paralyzed from the neck down, I also suffered from traumatic brain injury and lost the ability to communicate orally and in written form. While I eventually gained those functions back, it seemed that all hope of having what I thought was a normal life was lost. After the accident I struggled with depression and even had suicidal thoughts. I was just ready to give up.I had gone from being a good athlete to being cared for like a baby. That just wasn’t for me.

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

A year after I enrolled at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), I convinced then-head coach Garrick McGee to make me an honorary player. For the next three years, including after Bill Clark became head coach in 2014, I followed the same schedule as the other players, working out with them in the weight room and taking “mental reps” on the practice field. I even got a locker and a jersey. Being part of UAB football gave me a sense of belonging and purpose. Over the course of the last six months, my trainer and I have been working behind the scenes to prepare my body for UAB football’s return and my own. I made a promise to myself and Coach Clark that I would deliver the game ball at the first game of the 2017 season by walking on to midfield. That’s just what I did.

The Lesson I Think That Others Can Learn From My Story

One of my trainers told me, “If you believe something can happen, then ‘no’ is not an option.” That’s always stuck with me. So, I never doubted. I knew, if we did what we had to do, then football would be back and so would I. I don’t need things to be easy. I just needs them to be possible, and that’s my mentality in my ultimate goal to walk again on his own.


Paul Kelly

My Backstory

“Paul Kelly had his whole life ahead of him. Fresh off graduating from North Carolina State University in 1978, Kelly had his heart set on working as an engineer with Boeing in Seattle. He spent the summer after graduating lifeguarding at a local swimming pool. One day he was teaching swimming lessons when he fell into the pool and broke his neck. In an instant his life changed.

Paul’s accident had left him a quadriplegic. The doctor treating him told him quadriplegics with injuries similar to Paul’s had a life expectancy of about five years post injury. That was 40 years ago. On April 16, 2018, Paul will celebrate his 40th year of living as a quadriplegic by taking on one of the most coveted races for a marathoner — the Boston Marathon.”

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

“Life as a quadriplegic couldn’t keep Paul on the sidelines. After his accident, Kelly was determined to find fitness activities to maintain an active lifestyle. He discovered handcycles while watching his niece compete in the 2006 Marine Corps Marathon and was inspired to start his own marathon career to stay fit.

For Paul, it is more than just racing. Feeling a connection with his own disability to those who have been injured while defending our country, Paul raises money to help combat wounded service members. In nine years, Kelly has completed 50 full and 57 half marathons and raised more than $85,000 as a member of Team Hope For The Warriors. The Team unites the wounded community with athletes and their supporters in the combined goal of competing at endurance events worldwide. For the wounded, the Team engages their competitive spirit so they are once again defined by their achievements rather than their injuries. For athletes like Kelly, the Team provides an opportunity to take personal goals to the next level by fundraising in honor of America’s heroes.

What motivates Paul to push through training? He says, “”One wounded warrior told him ‘any day is a good day when no one is shooting at me.’ This is America. We can go out and ride on a freezing morning if we want to. Or stay indoors where it is warm. Only because we have brave men and women who are willing to go stand in harm’s way to protect our liberty. And for that I am grateful. And a little cold seems like a minor inconvenience.”””

The Lesson I Think That Others Can Learn From My Story

Runners often ask each other, “What’s next?” It’s an acknowledgement that you can’t quit. For Paul, the answer is simple. Another marathon. At 62 years of age, he may be a little slower. He may not train as hard as he used to, but he is still out there achieving his goals and raising money for a cause he passionately believes in. For Paul, the lesson is about never giving up. Never let your situation limit what you are able to accomplish. Your purpose in life may be bigger than you think.


Nicholas Shortridge, Operator, Shortridge Landscaping and Excavation LLC

My Backstory

“I am a third-generation tree trimmer in my family. I started as a grounds man at 9 years old. Helping after school and on weekends to clean up brush from trees, until the age of 12 when I was introduced to my first saddle, climbing spurs and rope. Throughout the years I’ve learned many techniques from seasoned climbers. On March 16, 2009 I had to cut down a 90-foot Silver Maple. I remember climbing up and setting my rope 75 foot in the tree and then repelling down and tying off midway in the tree around 50 feet. I started my chainsaw, made my notch in the tree, went to go make my back cut and when I went to do so my climbing equipment failed. The top of the tree fell to the ground and so did I.

When I hit the ground, I landed in the back of my neck and shoulders coming to a complete stop laying over a log. I knew right there and then that something serious was wrong as I was still conscious. Injuries sustained were a punctured right lung, seven broken ribs, burst fracture from T-7 to T-12. I was very lucky that Life Flight was able to land directly across the street in a practice football field. “

How I Was able to Overcome This Hurdle and Accomplish Great Things

When Life Flight landed in Toledo (Ohio) I remember them pulling me out and getting me inside and nothing more. I was in an induced coma for four days. They had me in Neuro Intensive Care for a month and a half. While I was in the hospital I had the choice to give up or fight and I fought like no other! My stomach shut down and I was still so incredibly positive! I wasn’t going to give up. I have two beautiful children and I will never give up on them! My stomach started back up on Easter day after the doctors gave me a miracle medication. Then it was on to rehabilitation! Let’s just say being a tree trimmer has its plus sides, my upper strength was in good shape and that was one thing I had good going for me. I had to and wanted to learn to be independent. To be able to work, enjoy family and life to the fullest. Finally, I was released from rehabilitation and went back to work three weeks after but changed my profession. I spent a total of three and a half months in the hospital. Currently, my wife and I own an excavation business. I mostly operate all the equipment (excavators, skid steers, bulldozers, etc.) and drive dump truck.

The Lesson I Think That Others Can Learn From My Story

My job is so incredibly dangerous, make sure you always check over your gear before you climb! Taking fifteen minutes is better than losing your life! Always go onto a job with a clear mind. If you are upset or distracted: DO NOT CLIMB OR OPERATE! It isn’t worth risking your life. There is a reason why this industry is one of the most dangerous in the world. I have spent so many times in the hospital over UTI’s (urinary tract infections), that is probably the one thing I can say to other Para’s and Quad’s, just be careful and as sterile as possible. We all know the drill, but it is a very tricky process! Being a paraplegic should never stop anyone from fulfilling their dreams my work is my dream! Keep your body and mind active and you will be a stronger and happier person. Let my situation be your inspiration! That is my quote, and I live by it every day!


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