At the beginning of his senior year of college, Jason Regier got into a car accident that broke his neck in two places. His severe spinal cord injury left him paralyzed – he would never walk again.
Regier told his story to students during his “Getting Back into the Game” presentation in Neumiller Lecture Hall Monday night.
Regier had to roll up a small ramp backward in his wheelchair to access the stage, which was a complicated process.
If a new Student Senate resolution passes, Neumiller will become more handicap-accessible, whereas now one small ramp is the only catering to the disabled.
“We’ve all got our unique story,” Regier said. “And part of what I love doing is sharing that story with you.”
Early in life, Regier’s goals were high. As a seventh grade student, he was already aiming to receive varsity letters all four years in high school, play Division 1 soccer in college and play professional soccer in Europe. Regier accomplished two of these goals, lettering four years in high school and playing Division 1 soccer at Oregon State University.
During the summer of 1996, Regier said he recalled feeling “like my whole life was in front of me.”
Then, on Sept. 22, 1996, as he was changing the radio station on his drive back to school from Denver, Regier lost control of his car when it drifted to the left side of the road. The car flipped three to five times and the roof collapsed around him.
Regier dislocated and fractured his spinal cord.
Not knowing the severity of his injuries, Regier asked his mother upon waking from surgery to unstrap him so he could move. His mother replied, “You’re not strapped down.”
Regier was paralyzed from the neck down.
“It was in that instant,” Regier said, “that I realized that life [as I’d known it] was almost over.”
Regier was transferred to Craig Hospital in Denver for rehabilitation. At one point, Regier said he felt ready to give up.
“I felt like I was down this valley and looking up at a mountain,” Regier said. “The problem was, the peak disappeared into the clouds and I didn’t know how high the top was.”
However, Regier persevered. One month after the accident, he was able to sit up on his own. After two months, he could move his arms.
Then, one year after the accident, Regier discovered wheelchair rugby.
Wheelchair rugby is a physical contact sport for quadriplegics that involves elements of basketball, handball, ice hockey and rugby. Regier was invited to attend the U.S. wheelchair rugby tryouts three years after his accident.
Regier said the opportunity to try out “opened up the doors.”
Regier hasn’t stopped playing since. Along with his teammates, he received the gold medal for wheelchair rugby in the 2008 Beijing Paralympic games.
Regier said one of the best lessons he learned from his experience was to “push forward.”
“It’s my philosophy that’s helped me through my life,” he said.
Regier said he had no idea he would have gotten so far with his disability.
“Sometimes it’s not the mistake, but what we learn from the mistake,” he said. “You do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”