In some ways, Colin Sullivan’s life has changed very little in the past 16 years.
He still teaches the same subjects at the same school as he did before he fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed his car into a guardrail.
“I still travel when I can, play sports, socialize with friends and try to be active in the community,” said Colin, who was just 23 when his C-7 vertebrae was bruised, paralyzing him from the chest down. “It’s primarily in how I do those things that my life has changed so profoundly.”
After the accident, Colin was clear he wanted to gain back his independence and chose Mary Free Bed for his rehabilitation.
“I owe a lot to Mary Free Bed for its role in equipping me not only with the physical tools, but also the social temperament necessary to live independently in the ‘outside world,’” he said. “It’s an institution upon which I still depend due to the abundant resources it offers, including its adaptive sports programs and outpatient medical services. I played on its tennis team for over a decade and have spent the last 5 years as a member of its quad rugby team as well.”
Colin participated in the Dec. 3 grand opening of the new Mary Free Bed YMCA, which now serves as home base for the 650-plus athletes on most of Mary Free Bed’s Wheelchair and Adaptive Sports teams.
He is more appreciative of things he once took for granted and “more sensitive to issues regarding civil rights and equal access, particularly with regard to race, income and other matters beyond just those associated with having a physical disability.”
He’s vehement about living life to the fullest and finds strength in making a difference in the lives of students he teaches at Hudsonville High School. He’s also unsure what the future holds for him.
“It’s to Mary Free Bed’s credit that any uncertainty on my part regarding my future is due to the vast range of possibilities in front of me regardless of my disability, and not the lack thereof because of it.”
Colin’s passion lies in “living a life that pleases God and brings Him glory.”
“Beyond that, I’m passionate about living an active life — a life that toward the end of which I would be able to reflect back upon and revel in the richness of the experiences I was able to enjoy and the depth of relationships with others I was able to build,” he said. “That would be pretty cool.”