“Your limitations can only limit you if you let them.”
I was born and raised on a farm in Iowa. My parents grew corn, soybeans and raised various animals while my two brothers and I helped as much as we could. As soon as I was old enough to walk, I wanted to be out there helping my Dad. From a young age, I was involved in the daily operations of our farm.
Three weeks after my 16th birthday, I was unloading a trailer full of lumber with my younger brother, David. 10 sheets of plywood fell on top of me and instantly paralyzed me. Fortunately, David was outside the trailer and called for help. I spent three weeks in ICU and completed four months of rehab at Craig Hospital in Denver, Colorado. My experience at Craig changed my life. Therapists taught me how to drive a sip and puff wheelchair. I learned how to use a computer with voice recognition software. The employees kept me and the other patients in good spirits by joking around and making lemonade out of lemons. I was taught how to care for myself. I was peer counseled by other individuals with similar injuries that had adapted to their new lives extremely well. The top-notch rehabilitation practices at Craig set the stage for me to excel in life.
After my rehab, I finished my last two years of high school. This was a tremendous struggle as I was adapting to my new reality as a C3 ventilator dependent quadriplegic. I was not able to drive. I was not able to play sports. I was not able to work on the farm. However, my brain was not injured and worked perfectly fine. Although the rest of my body could not move, the most important part still worked just fine. After battling depression for several months, I decided I would use my mind and take advantage of every opportunity given to me.
Upon graduating high school, I attended Iowa State University and majored in computer engineering. I also decided to live in a dorm with a friend. This was a tremendous adjustment and without my friends and my family, it would not have been possible. In 2001, I had lived through enough Midwestern winters, so I transferred to Arizona State University and switched my major to Political Science. ASU was extremely accommodating and during my last year at ASU, I realized that I wanted to pursue a career in law and applied to several law schools.
In August 2005, I started law school at UCLA. Law school was a struggle much of the time. However, my family, girlfriend and friends were always there to support me and helped me through each struggle. In May 2008, I graduated from the UCLA School of Law while my girlfriend graduated from Pepperdine University one week later. At our joint graduation party, she got down on one knee and proposed to me. We were married in November 2008 at our home in Woodland Hills.
The main reason I have accomplished so much in my life is my support system has always been there for me. My family, especially my two brothers Aaron and David, have been unwavering every time I’ve attempted something. Whether it was traveling across Europe with Aaron or attempting to skydive with David or skiing in Colorado, my family and friends were there to make it happen. Through RALPH’S RIDERS, we hope to make to make the same impact on the lives of others