On January 16th, 2009, three days before Derek’s 17th birthday, Derek took the ice for the last time and changed our lives forever. While racing after a puck, Derek lost an edge on his skate and propelled headfirst into the boards. As he lay there motionless on the ice, I (Derek’s mother) looked over the glass in horror and utter disbelief. As paramedics rapidly performed a full body assessment, I began to realize the extent of his injury. With each assessing touch and each response by Derek, our world quickly unraveled right before our eyes.
Derek had destroyed his 5th cervical vertebra, and we were told that he would never move anything below his neck again. Miraculously he regained mobility in his arms and wrists shorty after surgery, but never regained anything else. While in the hospital, Derek was donated a wheelchair van, which we were beyond grateful for, but quickly came to realize that Derek was too tall for the van. We then acquired a low-profile wheelchair, lacking neck and back support, but that could fit into the van. The chair had many safety issues and no matter how careful of a drive, Derek still frequently fell forward in his chair and strained his neck and back terribly. Because he is still paralyzed from the torso down, he has to constantly try to balance and maintain stability, which would be strenuous on anyone, especially for the regular 2-hour car ride that he endures from college to home and vice versa.
Derek has taken driver’s training and is currently graduating with his Masters in Sports Movement Sciences from Miami University. His main aspiration now is to receive his PhD and become a sports psychologist. We have never been able to afford a proper vehicle for Derek, which is very tough to admit. We are extremely proud of how he has overcome many obstacles on his own, while being away from home. He is very appreciative for what he has, but has mentioned how great it would be to have his own vehicle. One that he could actually fit into with the proper upper body supports and drive on his own. He wishes to become more independent for his future internships, career goals, and life in general. With your vote and help, this could be made a wonderful reality for my hero, Derek Michael Zike.