5 Inspirational Documentaries: Life After SCI


As much as friends and family may try to relate, the aftermath of a spinal cord injury is something that only those who are living through can truly understand. Yet, following the emergence of such a severe medical condition, you may find yourself craving some way of seeing your struggle reflected back to you. There’s a real sense of community among those who have grappled with spinal cord injuries, and thankfully, many patients who are currently facing the very same questions that you are now have opened their hearts and fired up their computers to document their journeys.

While you undergo treatment and seek a new way of life, you’re liable to find yourself more and more drawn to stories about spinal cord injury patients who have prevailed despite their condition or, perhaps, found a way to channel their new lifestyle into something positive. This kind of inspiring real-life storytelling may do wonders for your perspective as you piece together your own future. As such, here are some inspirational documentaries centering on spinal cord injuries that could provide you with some uplift on your own journey.

  • Murderball (2005): This Academy Award-nominated film centers on a group of physically disabled athletes who overcome their limitations to engage in the titular sport, also known as wheelchair rugby. The film follows the rivalry between the teams from the United States and Canada as they prepare for the 2004 Paralympic Games. A true charmer, this one garnered almost universally positive reviews from critics for its display of courage in the face of adversity. It very may well be the perfect story to help you realize that your spinal cord injury doesn’t have to mean your life comes to a screeching halt.   
  • Luckey (2008): Rather than focus on a group of disabled individuals, this film focuses in on Tom Luckey, a sculptor and designer famous for designing climbing children’s playgrounds known as Luckey Climbers. Following a fall from a second-story window, Luckey wound up paralyzed from the neck down, and Luckey follows him and his family as they adjust to his condition. The film -- which had a successful run at film festivals -- particularly chronicles how the incident affects his business and how the Luckey family persisted through it to emerge stronger and more tightly woven than ever before.
  • Unbeaten (2009): Like Murderball, this film centers on a group of disabled athletes who refuse to yield to their condition. It follows 31 paraplegics across several days as they travel by wheelchair and hand cycle through the world’s toughest road race, extending a full 267 miles. Taking on a broad array of individuals’ stories, the film provides an extensive look at what happens when dedication and sheer force of will overcomes the supposed limitations of the human body. Fair warning: you may be inspired to take on a similarly imposing task as those featured in the film by the time it’s all over.
  • Endless Abilities (2013): Whereas many other documentaries focus on specific examples of individuals overcoming their physical disabilities to accomplish remarkable feats, this one follows a group of friends as they travel the country in search of recreational activities designed or adapted for the disabled. The purpose here is clear: to prove that everyone -- even those who have been disabled for decades -- can find a fulfilling way to remain physically active and an entirely new community they can be a part of. This is one film that is sure to open your eyes to a brave new world of possibilities available to disabled individuals. A real revelation that must be seen to be believed.
  • When I Walk (2013): Although Jason DaSilva’s physical disability is not the result of a car crash or a fall as so many spinal cord injuries are, his diagnosis of primary progressive multiple sclerosis has led to a debilitating condition nonetheless. This film -- co-written and directed by DaSilva himself -- tracks his personal relationships as his condition progresses and is a true testament to the strength of the human spirit. Debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, DaSilva’s story proves how essential a role a strong family unit can play in keeping your resilience up following such a serious medical diagnosis.

After the Credits

Once the credits roll on the above films, we’re certain that the stories depicted therein will provide you with the inspiration you need to view your own situation with fresh eyes. Sometimes, it takes a respite from your own reality to put your journey into perspective and provide you with the will and resolve you need to push forward and make the necessary adjustments you can to move forward into a brighter tomorrow.

While your condition is unfortunate, spinal cord injury breakthroughs are happening all the time, and there’s every reason to abandon your perpetually bleak attitude in favor of something more positive. Sure, you could endlessly ruminate on the reality of your spinal cord injury, but such a stance will ultimately stifle your own happiness and prevent you from moving forward with the rest of your life. Seek inspiration wherever you can. You deserve to develop a happy life, especially after your incident.

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Topics: Injury Support & Groups, Survivor Stories & Inspiration, Recovery & Rehabilitation

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