Scott Fedor

Adversity: Paralyzed from the neck down after a diving accident

Advocacy: Founded Getting Back Up for others with spinal cord injuries

“I draw so much strength from seeing how helping someone improves their life. … In a weird way, had this not happened to me, I don’t know that my life would have been as fulfilled.”

Scott was 33, married, a vice president at a Berkshire Hathaway company and, as he says, pretty much living the life he had scripted when a diving accident changed his course. “On that fateful day I ended up doing something I had done at the same exact spot hundreds of times in the past – I wasn’t being reckless or careless. I was just going for an afternoon swim not realizing that the dry summer had significantly dried up the lakebed,” he says. Scott dove into the lake and felt his head slam into the bottom. He knew instantly that he had broken his neck. “The saddest and scariest thing was literally floating face down in 33 inches of water unable to move, unable to call for help, unable to breath … I realized this was it,” he says. Anticipating he was going to die, Scott prayed and intentionally swallowed water in an attempt to drown. But his former sister-in-law, an ICU nurse, ran over, performed CPR and he was airlifted to a hospital. Scott’s recovery, and the realization that he was a quadriplegic, filled him with anxiety, depression and loneliness. He spent six months in the hospital and was then transferred to a nursing facility for another 14 months. But eventually, his focus shifted back to his religious faith and a determination to overcome his adversity. “There’s always people beating the odds, there’s always, however rare they are, examples of how things work out. Who’s to say it’s not me?” he says. “I started doing everything I could to put myself in that situation.”

With his faith, and the help of adaptable products that allowed him independence, Scott left the nursing home with a changed attitude. And it was an attitude he wanted to share. So Scott formed Getting Back Up (www.gettingbackup.org), a nonprofit dedicated to providing people with spinal cord injuries support through tools and resources to improve their lives; education about spinal cord injuries; awareness of ideas and related events; and to support research by organizations and projects working toward a cure for paralysis. The organization is also working on a concept called The Quad, a housing option through which multiple people with spinal cord injuries live together in an accessible household. At the same time, Scott has shared his story often with others faced with adversity, through speaking engagements and a blog at www.scottwfedor.com. “It was brutally honest, open,” he says. “People started hearing about it and it became a therapeutic outlet. It was just another great way to do something that was helping me by releasing my thoughts, but in an unselfish way, was providing benefit to others. With all that together I found out how much it restored me and thought, man, I’m just scratching the surface. How can I take this and parlay it to more people.” Scott says it is rewarding and fulfilling when he can share his motivational story. “In all of our lives some type of adversity is going to affect us. We don’t have control over that, but we do have control over how we are going to respond to it. … How I choose to handle being paralyzed is up to me.”

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