Terry vs. Moose

College was to Terry’s ticket to freedom. It was also expected from his parents that both of their children would go to college and graduate. Unfortunately, Terry’s SAT scores were very low. He tried numerous colleges that seemed appropriate for him, but it seemed that he wasn’t “appropriate” for them. Finally, a small school in central North Carolina gave Terry that letter of acceptance that he had so anxiously awaited.
Terry’s parents, like all anxious parents, waved goodbye to him for it was time to start school – his freedom. Terry turned up the stereo and was “free at last”.  This new experience of being on his own was extremely overwhelming. The social activities of dorm life and fraternity parties didn’t leave much time for scholastics. After a semester and a half, Terry’s father became tired of sending him to “fun 101”. Terry didn’t keep up his end of the deal by passing classes. Tears came down his face as they pulled out of the college driveway. Terry started to wonder what he would do now.
Terry decided to give college another try, but closer to home. He picked up some classes at West Virginia University in pursuit of a degree in psychology. Due to Terry’s “proud” performance of academia the first time, his GPA was less than a 2.0, he was only allowed to take a few classes. He guessed he had to prove that he had the “old college try” in perspective.
The next two years at WVU Terry was putting at least a half a foot forward into the academics. He had cracked the 2.0 barrier and managed to have a fairly good social life. He enjoyed school and became involved in his psychology degree by helping other graduate students with their research, grunt work. It really provided him with a firm sense that he wanted to help others via his degree. About halfway into his junior year, Terry’s credits were all out of order so he took the summer looking for a job. His father had just acquired some property up in northern Canada; Terry’s childhood dream were about to come true.
Terry’s dad wanted to build a cottage, nestled in the trees, and looking out upon the lake, kind of an “On Golden Pond” feature. Terry’s friend Sean and his cousin Todd were also jobless, so Terry proposed to his father that they help build the cottage. They loaded Terry’s vehicle with hammers, nails, paints and other building materials. When Terry met the foreman he was told that “black muck” was found where the cottage was to be built. The best way to describe it was like black Jell-O. The land had to be cleared out before they could proceed with building the cottage.
Well, that gave Terry about a week to do nothing but fish, how relaxing. As May was coming to an end, the weather began to warm and presenting a far greater problem than he could ever realize… black flies. These things can eat you alive and practically drive you crazy. The Canadians were used to them, but to Terry it was pure hell. They were told not to wear anything fragrant because it would attract flies. After about two weeks of stinking, they decided it was time to clean up and do laundry. While driving back from their laundry excursion from a remote Indian town, Terry told his friends to be on the lookout for wildlife. Turning a corner, Terry’s headlights fell upon some unexpected wildlife; a bull moose was standing in the middle of the road. Terry locked his brakes and told his friends that they were going to hit it. As the car came to a stop, Terry called out to see if they were alright. They said they were, but how was Terry?  Terry could not move. His head was bent down to his chest because the roof of the car on it.
After the moose was off the car, Terry’s friends tried pulling the roof off him. He told them that would be futile plus he did not need to be moved. A passing car was flagged down and took Terry’s cousin back to town for help. The nearest ambulance was 60 miles away and would end up taking an hour and a half to get to Terry. As he was sitting in the car, a lot of thoughts went through his mind. How badly hurt was he?  Did he have any cuts on head?  Was he going to live?  Terry felt a peace of mind come over him; he was ready to accept what was to be.
Terry found that he had a spinal cord injury and was a quadriplegic. He couldn’t move from his neck down and required 24 hours a day help 7 days a week. After two months in intensive care at a Toronto hospital, he went back to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for rehabilitation. Terry’s family and friends were very supportive, expecting nothing more than the same old Terry. As he began his rehabilitation, Terry began to think about his future. He had completed over half of his college credits. He contacted his college advisor and told him what happened. They were able to work out an independent study project. Terry didn’t want to waste any more time, he want to continue to pursue his college degree. He was even more determined to work in a field of helping others.
The campus at WVU was too hilly to navigate so he was able to work out a program with WVU and the University of Pittsburgh to take classes at Pitt. The credits would be transferred to WVU. That summer he began classes at Pitt. He spent the next couple of years completing his education and graduated in 1980. Terry was very proud and glad that he had completed his undergraduate degree in psychology. He was now ready to hit the job market and he thought that surely somebody would hire a college graduate.
For two years Terry worked at a county run nursing facility, but it just wasn’t what he wanted. He completed an application to attend Pitt’s School of Counselor Education and the School of Social Work so he could receive his masters degree. He was accepted to the social work program with an emphasis on counseling. Keep in mind that during his bachelors program Terry was basically a “C” student. He was now forced to a higher level of learning which means that he needed to become an “A – B” student. After 18 months of intense education, Terry had done it. He earned a Masters in Social Work.
Terry was able to work in such settings as rehabilitation hospitals, community mental health, advocacy programs, and at the present, the State Department of Health of Tennessee. Terry was able to look back at what was a traumatic event that has impacted his life greatly in a very positive sense. Terry knew that he could accomplish what he set out to do regardless of his “disability,” which at many times is very much an “ability”. Tragedy can strike when you least expect it and in the most unexpected fashion. It is how one uses this experience and turns it into a positive that makes them a “winner”. Terry overcame adversity which he thought would be impossible; Terry was a “winner”.
Terry was a good friend to my brother and me. He passed away on June 28, 2009. Now he can inspire and encourage a large number of souls. Good work Terry and we’ll see you soon.
I am now a motivational/Inspirational Speaker. If you need a speaker for your next event contact me by E-mail: James@professorofperseverance.com and visit my Website at:  http://www.JamesPerdueSpeaks.com
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