Perception | Will Cotter | TEDxYouth@PalmHarbor

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In this talk, Will Cotter shares background information on his life prior to his spinal injury: his hobbies, academics, personal relationships, and passions. Will Cotter highlights new experiences that he has come to love and how he has adapted to new methods for doing things that he used to be capable of doing. Cotter discusses the psychological and emotional struggles that are associated with spinal cord injury, and how he has learned to use changing perception to overcome these challenges. Will Cotter, 19 years old, is currently studying neuroscience at Florida State University. He plans to attend medical school in hopes of one day aiding spinal cord injury research. He endured an injury to his cervical vertebrae 6 and 7 shortly after graduating from high school and has been recovering ever since. His goal is to recover completely to demonstrate that even the implications of chronic injuries can be overcome. He owes a great deal of appreciation to the community that supported him throughout the entire process and his family, who never saw anything but the best in him. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx <br> <h3>Auto Generated Captions</h3>

the title of my talk tonight is
perception but before I can get into
that I would like to give you all some
perspective on Who I am and why I’m
giving this talk two years ago today I
very well could have been sitting in one
of the seats you all are sitting in now
I graduated from Palm Harbor University
High School in May of 2018 my high
school experience was similar to most
others I was a member of the National
Honor Society and completed the
international baccalaureate program here
I played on the varsity soccer team for
three years I had a lot of great
memories in that number one Jersey I won
three consecutive district titles and
earned a position as a nationally ranked
team I consider that team to be my
second family and I will always have a
place in my heart for hurricane soccer
in the off time for my studies I played
club soccer traveling all over the state
of Florida and sometimes out of state I
put in 14 years of hard work and
dedication
fighting through knee surgeries broken
ankles and exhausted muscles all for my
love of the game a big part of who I am
today can be attributed to everything I
learned on that field I learned what
hard work really is how important it is
to be a part of a team and what
commitment to a team is and how it’s
bigger than something than yourself
while soccer was always a huge part of
my life it wasn’t all that I did growing
up in Florida the ocean was my backyard
I could have spent hours on the boat if
I had the opportunity to do so I was an
avid fisherman and I still AM there was
always something special about having a
big fish on the end of my line that gave
me such joy if I wasn’t on the boat I
was most likely in the water
or better yet underwater spearfishing
was another hobby of mine there was
always something special about that time
spent underwater immersed in a
completely different world that was so
peaceful to me
if you’ve ever doped before you can
understand how sound is perceived
differently underwater and how the
background noise that we are constantly
consumed by simply fades away it’s crazy
to me how something that brought me such
peace morphed into one of the scariest
moments of my entire life
on June 23rd 2018 I just returned from
what I consider to be the vacation of a
lifetime traveling to France Spain and
Ibiza with my girlfriend and her family
I was invited to go to the
end-of-the-year
Club soccer party I one of my teammates
house on a lake that day was full of
great memories I had a lot of fun
playing soccer in the yard tubing and
wakeboarding behind the boat a couple of
my close friends decided to take the jet
skis out for a ride around the lake and
I chose to wait on the dock I decided to
climb up on a roof while I waited I
wanted to dive in the water something I
had done thousands of times flawlessly
I didn’t climb up on that roof covering
the boat lift to impress anybody or to
showboat I simply thought it would be
fun I drove off the dock without a
thought and in the next moment I changed
the course of the rest of my life I hit
the bottom hard and I can still remember
that distinctive thud and the ringing in
my ears on initial impact after that it
became a fight for my life when I hit
the bottom I fractured cervical
vertebrae 1 3 6 & 7 I was instantly
paralyzed from the chest down meaning I
had no movement of my legs or on my core
to help me swim I swam as hard as
physically capable pumping my arms as
hard as possible trying to get to the
surface but my body was in shock and it
wasn’t enough
I never had a thought that I could
potentially die from this but instead
the only thing that raced through my
mind was air I remember looking towards
the surface looking at the sunlight come
through wondering if I was going to make
it up I was struggling and I was scared
I was drowning but that’s not how my
story ends I remember seeing my my
friend swim right above me and I
remember reaching out trying to grab in
any way I possibly could he couldn’t see
me because the water was so murky but in
that instant I was able to make contact
and he pulled me to the surface my
friend
undoubtedly saved my life that day
everyone who was there
played a role in saving my life and I am
forever grateful I was immediately
transported to Tampa General Hospital
where they rushed me into surgery as
soon as possible it was a seven-hour
surgery where they fused vertebrae see
4:31 we waited patiently to speak with a
neurosurgeon after I got out it was then
that my family and I received the news
that inspired this entire talk I was
told that I would probably never walk
again I would never play the sport I
loved and they didn’t know if I were to
recover at all I think I witnessed my
parents hearts break right in front of
me I am a strong person but there is
something about witnessing the people
who love you so unconditionally utterly
break down right before your eyes that
affects you like nothing else
I would say I was devastated but I think
at that point I didn’t fully comprehend
the meaning of that word I was
transported one week later to Shepherd
Center in Atlanta Georgia and this is
where my story really began this is
where I had to learn how to live my life
again with a spinal cord injury I was
diagnosed with a c6 7 spinal cord injury
meaning that wall I fractured vertebrae
c1 and c3 the cord wasn’t damaged at
that point if the court had been damaged
at c1 I probably we probably wouldn’t be
here giving you this talk today I
probably would have died on impact
I am extremely grateful that that didn’t
happen the first week at Shepherd Center
is where I learned what I consider to be
the most important life lesson I spent
four excruciating ly long months doing
physical and occupational therapy from 9
a.m. to 4 p.m. every day of the week
I worked harder than I ever had like I
said I had to learn relearn how to live
my life completely so where do you go
from here what do you do when there are
no answers to your problems how do you
move on for me it was obviously physical
at first I had to put in a lot of
physical work into my therapy but there
came a time where my mind and my body
were exhausted I missed the simplest of
things walking on the beach with my
girlfriend hugging my parents helping
others but I couldn’t dwell on these
things this is where I learned how
powerful our minds truly are everyone
has their struggles
everyone has their problems but it is
how we move on from these and how we
respond that makes us who we are
I decided that I could not focus on the
things that happened to me before
I couldn’t control what happened to me
but I can control how I move forward I
could let my injury break me down and
destroy me but what good would that do
nothing
what makes people who they really are is
how they move forward with their life my
story is not over I refuse to let it be
I can control where I move on and I can
control my destiny thank you
[Applause]

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