After Jan. 9, 2014, 24-year-old Aaron Price’s life would never be the same.
An automobile accident has left the Blue Springs man paralyzed, and Aaron’s family is looking for help from the community for a chance to win a wheelchair-accessible van so he can attend physical therapy.
Price was en route to Columbia, Missouri, on Interstate 70 after staying at his parents’ home in Blue Springs during winter break. According to him, it was a sunny day after a blizzard. Fifty miles outside of Columbia, the roads appeared to be cleared of ice and snow. He set his truck on cruise control, while staying in the passing lane. His seat belt was on, and no alcohol was in his system.
The next thing he knew was that his truck was going horizontal and then rolling into the median.
“I remember my left arm was up and hanging over me,” he recalled of when his truck finally came to a halt. As emergency crews were extricating him from the vehicle with the Jaws of Life, he had a terrifying revelation: He couldn’t move.
After being taken to the University of Missouri Hospital in Columbia, the Eagle Scout, who contemplated whether to study animal science at the university, learned that he was now paralyzed from the chest down.
Aaron suspects his truck went over a patch of black ice. Along with his “smashed and bruised” spinal cord at the C4 vertebrae, he also fractured both his C5 and C6 vertebrae, along with a scratch on his ankle and bruising near his temple.
“My airbags never deployed. Thank God no one else was involved (in the accident),” he said.
For the next two months, Aaron stayed at the Shepard Center, a spinal cord injury hospital in Atlanta, Ga., to build up his physical strength and relearn everyday tasks such as eating with custom silverware. The only bit of movement that he has left is in his arms.
“It is what it is,” replied Aaron when asked on how he is dealing with his injury, while leaning back in his wheelchair to prevent pressure sores from forming on his body. He said he has to do this every 30 minutes for the rest of his life, besides at night, where he is under five layers of pillows. His parents have to get up every night to shift his body every five hours while he is sleeping.
His mother, Donna Price, a teacher at Chapel Lakes Elementary, said he is handling his paralysis well despite the hardships. “He lights up whenever his friends come over and visit and passes the time playing board games involving strategy,” she said.
On March 18, Aaron returned home to Blue Springs. His parents are in the midst of remodeling their home to make it more accessible for him. They are merging two bedrooms to have space for a hospital-sized bed and to able to get around in his wheelchair. They hired a contractor to install a larger shower stall and railing for the bathroom.
“We had to take a second mortgage out,” said Donna. “Luckily we have a ranch-style home to accommodate Aaron’s needs. God must had some plan in store for us when we bought this house in 2002.”
But the Price Family is not undertaking these transitions by themselves. They say friends, neighbors and church members have also been helping out.
“An access ramp was installed at our front porch when we were at Shepard,” said Donna. “Plus a friend donated a conversion van in order to fit Aaron’s wheelchair.”
She also added that members of the Oakland United Methodist Church in Grain Valley have generously donated meals each night since their return from Atlanta.
Despite the kind gesture of a family friend donating their conversion van, however, Aaron is not able to fit inside it due to his size.
“The van sits too high and there is only about a five-inch clearance between Aaron’s head and the roof,” said his mother. “We need a van with a raised roof and drop floor.” She added these customized vans can run anywhere from $50,000 to $90,000.
The lack of transportation prevents Aaron from attending needed physical therapy sessions, the family says. Although the family has hired a caregiver for in-home therapy, Aaron needs to attend them at a facility to have access to certain equipment that can’t be taken to his home, according to the Prices.
Plus the lack of suitable transportation limits Aaron from leaving the house. He is usually confined to his home through the week. The only recent opportunity where he got to leave his house was when he attended a Missouri Mavericks playoff game. The team donated a hockey stick with all of the players’ signatures.
Candy Montgomery, a friend of the Price Family, has submitted Aaron into the National Mobility Awareness Local Hero contest, a chance to win a wheelchair accessible vehicle for the family.
According to Cheryl Parker of Evok Marketing Inc., the contest that coincides with National Mobility Awareness Month in May is giving away four wheelchair accessible vehicles for paraplegics across the country. Each contestant had to submit a story of 400 words or fewer, including a picture, or a video telling how they are overcoming challenges being a paraplegic. Once their story is posted online, visitors can vote on their favorite one. If the candidate’s votes are in the top 10 percent, they proceed to the next stage of being evaluated by a panel of independent judges to win the vehicle, said Parker.
“So far we have 1,240 contestants,” said Parker, “and they are only two weeks left to vote.” She added that visitors who visit his story’s website link can vote every day until the contest ends May 9.
The Price Family concedes that although the chance of winning an accessible vehicle is a long shot, it is still worth a try.
Even though Aaron is not able to walk, he is determined to regain his strength this year in order to finish his degree at MU.
“Aaron is a very kindhearted young man with a heart for God,” wrote Montgomery for Aaron’s story submission. “He is surrounded by family, friends and a very dedicated church family. We hope you will see that he is very deserving of your votes.”
To vote for Aaron Price in the Mobility Awareness Local Hero contest, visit www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com . Once you open the site, scroll down and click the orange “VOTE FOR YOUR HERO” button at the bottom of the page. Then proceed by typing Aaron’s first and last name in the search bar and click on his thumbnail picture to vote for his story. A log-in handle and e-mail registration are required.