Back to the Great Outdoors: Chris’s Story

As a speech-language pathologist (SLP) working at Magee, I am truly blessed to get to work alongside so many amazing individuals each day. Our staff is constantly striving to achieve REACH values (respect, excellence, attitude, collaboration, and hospitality) to ensure our patients achieve their therapy goals in a warm, comforting, and motivating environment. Patients who come through our doors often leave with a new sense of independence and drive, despite having to adjust to a new way of life following an injury. With the help and support of family, friends, and their therapy team, Magee patients learn to overcome obstacles and to believe in a way back. One person that knows all about overcoming obstacles and adjusting to life’s curveballs is Chris Scaff. Chris was a patient at Magee back in 2013 after he sustained a T-1 spinal cord injury (SCI) in an ATV accident. Recently, I got to check in with Chris by phone. I loved hearing about his journey – what an inspiring guy!

Ashley Owens: Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

Chris Scaff: I’m 54 years old, although I feel like I’m 25! I currently live in Loganton, Pennsylvania where I’ve been recovering from my accident for 2 ½ years. Before my accident, I owned my own motorcycle dealership, and I’m currently working on opening up another shop. In my spare time, I teach fire and EMS classes for the fire departments in my area, and I am currently in line to dispatch for my local 911 call center. Some of my interests include hunting, fishing, and just about anything else outdoors! I’m currently working on building a “track chair” from an old Bobcat skid steer in hopes it will give me more mobility in the woods and outside.

AO: What brought you into Magee?

CS: I came to Magee back in 2013 following an ATV accident which resulted in a T-1 spinal cord injury. I have absolutely NO doubt that if it wasn’t for the Magee staff and the direction of Dr. Fried, I would be a dead man.

AO: What was the beginning of your rehab stay like?

CS: The beginning of my stay at Magee was scary due to being around new people and being uncertain of what the future would bring. That fear went away quickly, as the 5th floor staff made me feel so comfortable (so comfortable I didn’t want to ever leave.) For the first time since my accident, I felt safe, secure, and cared about. It was a very scary time for me, and my medical problems were mounting fast, but the staff at Magee made me feel secure. TOGETHER we had the ability to overcome all problems, and I’m glad to say we did!

AO: What goals did you achieve as a patient at Magee?

CS: The biggest goal I achieved at Magee is building up my confidence and determination. The staff at Magee taught me that even though life would be different following my injury, I could still do whatever I wanted in a different way. I’ve been very motivated to do all the things I want and I  don’t accept “You can’t do that” as an answer. Every time someone says that to me, I intentionally prove them wrong!

AO: What advice would you give to a new patient coming to Magee?

CS: I would tell any new patient to not be ashamed of feeling scared and to ask the questions you need to. No question is a dumb one! Try to think as positively as you can. Life is what you make of it. It might be different following an injury, but you can still achieve goals if you set your mind to them. Achieving goals requires effort, but if I can do it, anyone can! If you want it, go get it!

AO: What are you up to now? Tell us about your life after Magee.

CS: Since I left Magee, I bought a house and completely rebuilt and modified it with help from friends. I have a wheelchair accessible van which I can drive myself. I am constantly keeping busy, and my mind is constantly thinking of things to make, build, convert, or adapt to make life easier and to increase my independence. Once again, the idea of “You can’t do that” comes into play in that I will never settle for failure. Each day, I have to face the fact that I’m physically different, but mentally I’m still me. The mental part is the hardest to overcome sometimes, but you must stay positive! When I was a firefighter and paramedic, I learned one important message that I take with me: You can never, ever change the past. Don’t waste energy worrying about it or trying to fix what is. Take that mental energy and use it to look forward to all the things you can do and to making your future the best it can be.

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