by Linda Truong
“Once something like this happens to you, you don’t know what to do or what’s going to happen to you,” said Pat Besta, referring to the spinal cord injury he sustained in a car accident.
Twenty years ago, after his vehicle landed in a ditch, Pat suffered artery damage resulting in severe blood loss. He was in intensive care for a month and in a drug-induced coma. Once he was medically stable, Pat transferred to Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to begin his rehabilitation to learn how to move again.
Pat stayed at Mary Free Bed for 3 months. He believes the therapies offered at the hospital were exceptional. He was pleased with the progress and development he made during his stay.
Pat has always loved sports, and he wasn’t about to let his wheelchair get in the way of playing. He is involved with various adaptive sports, playing on wheelchair basketball and tennis teams. Pat also coaches a junior basketball team and a junior wheelchair sports camp held every summer at Grand Valley State University.
Pat met his wife, Maria (read more about the couple’s story), when he was playing basketball. Maria is a recreational therapist at Mary Free Bed where she heads up the pediatric community recreation program. She works with children who have neurological injuries. Maria is also the president of the Grand Rapids Wheelchair Association.
Traveling is a big part of Pat’s life, too. He travels all over the U.S. for different adaptive sports events and for leisure. Most recently, Pat went to Cabo, Mexico.
“Don’t assume you can’t do something because of your disability,” said Pat. “Most places are accessible, and if they aren’t, I figure out a way to make it work.”
Two decades later, Pat continues to stay connected with Mary Free Bed. His involvement includes participating in an adaptive scuba diving clinic, a brace and walk clinic with Mary Free Bed Orthotics & Prosthetics and peer support. Pat engages with Mary Free Bed patients at support group meetings where he shares his story and advice for those going through similar challenges.
A piece of advice from Pat: “Everything gets easier the more you do it. It might take 20 minutes the first time, but after 20 times of doing it, it may take you just 5 minutes. The more things you do yourself, the easier it gets.”