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Man Who Sustained Spinal Cord Injury 25 Years Ago Writes Book about Keeping Perspective

Professor Bob Bell faces life's challenges with optimism and humor.

A new book by former Shepherd Center patient Bob Bell, 44, of St. Cloud, Minn., explains the optimism that fed his perspective in answering "three questions that saved and defined a life," he says.

Bob, who sustained a C-5 to -6 spinal cord injury in 1989 while rough-housing in his freshman-year dorm at Minnesota’s Saint John’s University, spent two and a half months at Shepherd Center during his rehabilitation.

Bob's recently published book, “Un Moving Four Ward: Tales and Tips For Keeping Perspective Despite Life’s Challenges,” is available at

He recalls that at home in Pensacola, Fla., he had supportive friends and family by his side during his acute-care stay. At Shepherd Center, however, Bob had time alone for the first time since his injury. Following physical therapy each day, he would wheel himself into a small garden on campus.

“I don’t think I was truly suicidal,” Bob says. “But I really did make myself consider the question, ‘Do I want to live my life as a quadriplegic?’"

As his time at Shepherd Center progressed, he saw more and more reasons to answer “yes.” “They taught me I still had the freedom to make my own choices,” Bob says. “That was the most important thing I needed to hear.”

By the time he left Shepherd Center, he had replaced his initial question with three new ones: “Who do I want to be? How do I want my family and friends to see me? And what kind of difference do I want to make with my life?” In Bob’s  book, he reveals how he chose to answer those questions.

After Shepherd Center, Bob returned to get his bachelor’s degree at Saint John’s, then worked in public accounting and earned a law degree from the University of Minnesota. He’s visited 38 countries. He’s worked in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and as a securities lawyer on Wall Street. Bob has also served as a peer counselor, and once took six months off to volunteer at orphanages in Guatemala and Costa Rica.

Today, he’s an assistant professor of accounting and finance at his alma mater. “It’s like coming home,” Bob says. “After everything I’ve done, I’ve realized this is where I want to make my difference.”

Written by Phillip Jordan
Photos Courtesy of Bob Bell

About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.