On the 15th of May 2018, in Boulder Colorado, avid road cyclist and mountain-biker Samantha Summers began her day like every other. She had finished a long day at work and had decided to go for a carefree cycle on the roads near her home - something she had done several times a week.
That was until a careless driver suddenly, and without any warning took a left turn directly in front of her. She was hit by the car and thrown to the road. When she tried to stand, she realised that she was no longer able to move half of her body. Her life had changed in an instant. She was rushed to Craig Hospital where she began her rehabilitation.
Photo Courtesy of Sam Summers Instagram
Her spinal cord had suffered extensive damage and she was diagnosed as a T7 (complete) paraplegic. Sam underwent daily physical therapy in the care of the fantastic physiotherapists, doctors and nurses. But the trauma of the injury and the loss of her mobility weighed heavily. It was her strength of character and determination, as well as the love and support from her family and fiancee that got her through the darkest of times.
Sam had never known anyone in her age group that was disabled. Nor had she seen anyone in a wheelchair living the outgoing, sporty lifestyle she had lived before her accident. She believed that she would never be able to enjoy the outdoor life again. Even with this belief, and just a matter of days after her injury Sam set herself a goal - she would once again find a way to get back on the mountainside. “All I wanted when I woke up in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) was to be able to mountain bike again..” she said.
The hospital staff introduced Sam to the High Fives Foundation, a non-profit organisation that helps disabled athletes return to sport through funding and a network of support. Through the foundation, Sam began to explore new sports like surfing, snowboarding, skiing, swimming, yoga - even indoor wall climbing and ice hockey!
Samantha on her Ski in Winter Park - Photo courtesy of Sam Summers
Incredibly and just a few short months after her accident Sam took part in a 30 kilometre road cycling race which was raising money for spinal injury and brain trauma survivors. Even though she had some trepidation and anxiety about cycling on the road once more, she powered through her fear and completed the race. A testament to her strength of mind and sheer determination.
One fateful day in March 2019, Sam was introduced to off-road hand cycling. Using an adapted mountain bike suitable for wheelchair users, she was back on the mountain trails and speeding down the mountainside once more! “Off road hand cycling is by far the most liberating sport i have tried before” she said. With the support of the Craig Hospital, High 5 Foundation and Kelly Brush Foundation, Sam has been going from strength to strength with her adapted hand mountain bike.
Samantha after receiving her first off road hand cycle - Instagram
Sam is now a sponsored crew member for Pearl iZumi and inspires other disabled athletes, young and old alike, as an athlete with the High Five Foundation. She graduated with Ph.D. in Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Colorado Boulder and now works as a scientist researching protein therapeutic discovery.
“Life can be just as interesting and fulfilling [despite your injury], if you let it” said Sam, “I’m still in the pursuit of happiness...Thanks to everyone who is helping me get there, one day at at a time. And thanks to the helmet for saving my life.”
You can follow Samantha's Adventures on her Instagram page HERE
Craig Hospital is a specialty rehab hospital for people who have suffered spinal cord and brain injury. You can read more about their pioneering work at their website HERE
High Fives Foundation is a non-profit organisation that focuses on preventing life-changing injuries and provides resources if they happen. High Fives helps injured athletes and veterans getting back to doing what they love. The foundation aims to be the leader of education and recovery of life-altering injuries in outdoor action sports. You can read more about their work on their website HERE
The Kelly Brush Foundation aims to inspire and empower people with spinal cord injuries to lead active and engaged lives. The Foundation offers the inspiration to believe and the grants to enable anyone to buy the equipment they need to get You can read more about the Foundation and their work on their website HERE
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