Atlanta, GA,
09:30 AM

Former Shepherd Center Patient has a Heart for Adventure

From camping to kayaking, you can usually find John Simpson outdoors.

If the weather’s favorable, you might have some trouble finding John Simpson, 22, of Jackson, Tenn. A suggestion, though:  Try the shores of the Tennessee River. Look for a tent along the sandbars or a kayak out on the water. Not there? Maybe he’s out riding his all-terrain vehicle in the woods, or racing his wheelchair for miles around town.

“I love getting outdoors,” John says. “A lot of times, I like just going out by myself, camping or fishing. I spend a lot of time along the river. I love being able to stay active.”

Three years ago, he was in an automobile accident and sustained a T-8 spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed below the waist. John spent four months at Shepherd Center during his recovery, working toward his independence.

“The staff taught me so much,” John says. “And they encouraged me to do all this stuff that I’m interested in. I feel like they’re family now. I’ve stayed in touch with a lot of people from Shepherd Center on Facebook.

It’s surprising he has time for Facebook. In addition to his outdoor activities, he’s worked multiple jobs. For one, with a landscaping company, John mows grass on a riding lawnmower. He’s also pursuing a business degree through an online program for working adults at Union University. John is thinking about a career in aircraft electronics. He’s already taught himself how to build aerial drones.

John also has a more personal dream:  To use his athleticism as a way to raise awareness, he’s thought about pushing long-distance in his chair. His family and friends could be his support team, just as they were during his time at Shepherd Center. Of course, there would be camping along the way – and fundraising for a good cause. Recently, in Jackson, he made it 13 miles around town in a single afternoon.

“That’s something I can do,” John says. “I love it. I can start pushing and I just don’t stop. I’d love to do something along the lines of that kind of adventure. That would be incredible.”

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.