Salem man living with paraplegia spreads hope worldwide

Randy  S.

Randy S., of Salem, freely admits he’s a dreamer.

“A person can’t stay alive without hope,” he said.

His life dramatically changed 30 years ago after a serious car crash left him with a broken back and ribs. Doctors performed surgery for 30 hours to put his spinal cord back into place.

Randy spent ten days in Salem Hospital’s intensive care unit before he knew he was going to survive.

A long road ahead

“I went in an instant from a normal able-bodied person to a paraplegic,” he said. “I had a whole bunch of stuff to learn.”

He went through weeks of physical and occupational therapy.

“The highlight of my experience with Salem Hospital was the physical therapists,” Randy said. “These people have focused their whole life and career on helping you get through situations in life that you couldn’t do without them. They don’t carry the title of doctor, but I believe they’re just as important.”

Therapists taught him how to use leg braces and how to move a wheelchair over curbs. Most important, Randy says they encouraged him constantly to have a good attitude.

“It’s traumatic to go from being a walking person to losing your abilities,” Randy said. “You need people around you that are supportive.”

Over the years, Randy has regularly worked with the rehabilitation services team whenever he needed a new wheelchair. They helped him find the right one.

Sharing his message

Randy makes an active lifestyle a priority now. A few years ago, he created a YouTube channel that features videos from his travels around the world.

He also shares clips of his daily four-mile excursions in his wheelchair over the steep hills of Bush Park through downtown Salem.

“I’ve always gone long distances every day and believe that’s the reason I’m still healthy,” he said.

Most recently, Randy has dealt with pain issues. Therapists discovered he was unintentionally hurting himself and showed him how to prevent that from happening again.

“When you’re using your upper body to power your whole body around, you’re kind of abusing certain parts of your muscles,” said Randy. “You need advice to keep from damaging yourself.”

“In order for me to stay in good condition I have to be at my peak performance,” he said. “But it’s also easy to hurt yourself if you’re pushing yourself too hard.”

Randy says his car accident three decades ago became a catalyst for making positive changes in his life.

“A disability can be an advantage in a twisted sort of way,” he said. “It will help you appreciate and go after the rest of your life.”

Interested in physical therapy, wheelchair fitting or other specialized services? Ask your doctor for a referral to the Salem Health Rehabilitation Center. Services are available in Salem, Dallas and Monmouth.