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Firefighter Finds New Path to Helping Others After Spinal Cord Injury

Adam Bacon of Lexington, South Carolina, heads back to school to pursue a degree in psychology.

Adam Bacon, 35, was a real-life action hero – a former solider, a fireman and amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. So when he was paralyzed with a C-4-to-C-5 incomplete spinal cord injury in a Brazilian Jiu-jitsu training accident, the physical adjustments were a shock.

“I was a purely physical human being,” Adam says. “I was 250 pounds, 9 percent body fat. Being a fireman was my identity. So coming to grips with reality was a little difficult at first.”

But Adam realized that his primary identities – solider, firefighter, athletic competitor – also shared another major trait:  problem-solving. He applied that part of his nature to his rehabilitation in the Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation Program at Shepherd Center.

“At Shepherd Center, the level of expertise is bar none, of course,” Adam says. “But there’s also never a moment where they’re satisfied with your progress. There’s always a next level to reach. There’s always a next step to take.”

He credits much of his improvement to the peer support system at Shepherd Center, which he experienced from both sides. In the course of mentoring new patients, Adam found a new calling.

“I realized there are other paths to helping people,” he says.

Now, Adam wants to use his experience to assist those he knows best – first-responders, veterans and others with life-altering injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s why he’s now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology with an emphasis in behavioral science.

He stays on the move, too. Between pleasure trips and ongoing rehabilitation visits to Shepherd Center’s Beyond Therapy® Program, Adam and his family joke “they live everywhere else and visit home.” Adam says his wife, Maureen, has been his guiding light, and their 11-year-old son, Matthew, his most powerful wellness motivator.

Shepherd Center and his family have helped him see life beyond injury, Adam says.

“That helped me move forward and realize life’s not over,” he explains. “And that’s the key. You can have the greatest support in the world, but you have to have an inner drive of your own. You have to take an active role in reclaiming your life.”

By Phillip Jordan

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center, located in Atlanta, Georgia, is a private, not-for-profit hospital specializing in medical treatment, research and rehabilitation for people with spinal cord injury, brain injury, multiple sclerosis, spine and chronic pain, and other neurological conditions. Founded in 1975, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News & World Report among the top 10 rehabilitation hospitals in the nation. In its more than four decades, Shepherd Center has grown from a six-bed rehabilitation unit to a world-renowned, 152-bed hospital that treats more than 740 inpatients, nearly 280 day program patients and more than 7,100 outpatients each year in more than 46,000 visits.