Living & Thriving With A Spinal Cord Injury

Garrison Redd, Tedx Speaker, Team USA Para-Powerlifter, Model, and Founder of the Garrison Redd Project shares his extraordinary experience, strength, and hope living with a spinal cord injury. 

Garrison, how old were you when you were shot? I was seventeen years old when I was shot by a random shooter who came up to us and just started shooting.  I was the one struck with a bullet.


You were paralyzed from the shooting? Yes. My legs are paralyzed. 

What level paralysis? I am a t-2 paraplegic incomplete. 

Were you afraid to go to school after the shooting? I wouldn’t use the word afraid.  I was more anxious than anything. 

Have you ever been afraid? I’m only afraid of dogs.  That’s pretty much it, lol.  

Speaking of school, I understand you went on to graduate with a degree in finance.  That’s very different from what you’re doing now.  Was it not for you?  It’s very different from what I’m doing now.  It’s funny that when we start college as teenagers, typically between 17 and 19, we are asked to make a decision that will be imperative to us the rest of our lives.  Most of us don’t know what we want yet and they say pick a major.  I had no idea I’d be doing what I’m doing now.  I thought what I’m doing now only happens in books and movies

Many people would have become bitter and angry and yet you’re so positive.  How did it affect you as you grew into the man you are today? I’ve always thought positive so I wasn’t bitter or angry.  I feel that if something bad can happen to you for no reason, then something great can happen to you.  I also think everything is scripted and this was just one chapter of my story. 

Speaking of what you’re doing now?  How did it feel to star in a McDonald’s commercial?  It was an amazing experience to see myself on television. 

You are so inspiring and are known for saying, “no days off” when it comes to the gym.  As a power lifter with a spinal cord injury, how do you do it on a day when you’re just not feeling it?  I have to keep going because I think about all of the people I will inspire by my hardships when I win a Paralympic gold medal in the future. 

How about when able bodied people complain about it?  I just know I can’t complain or make excuses. 

You’re considered a wheelchair athlete and have competed in competitions.  How did that feel?  Well, the first time I actually competed in a sport with my new ability (disability) was wheelchair track racing.  It was more difficult and more competitive than able-body track which was stunning!

Garrison Redd

Do you have any muscle atrophy?  I do have muscle atrophy, however, it is difficult when you can’t actively engage your muscles on your own.

I imagine it takes more energy to complete the simplest of tasks?  Yes, it does, however, I’m used to it. It is what it is. 

Do you experience pain?  I experience spasticity discomfort mostly. 

Spasticity is abnormal muscle tightness/stiffness due to prolonged muscle contraction. It is associated with damage to the motor nerves in the spinal cord and brain.

What would you say is the biggest challenge living with a spinal cord injury?  My biggest challenge living with a spinal cord injury is accessibility.  It is sad that going into 2020 there are many places that are still inaccessible. 

Biggest triumph?  My biggest triumph was graduating from college since I was the first in my family to do so. 

What are you grateful for?  Just being able to breathe. 

Who is your biggest supporter?  My Mother is my biggest supporter and my cousin would be next. 

I understand you created a foundation for your advocacy work with spinal cord injuries?  Yes, The Garrison Redd Project (GarrisonReddProject)https://www.thegarrisonreddproject.org/blog is the name of my organization. 

You also have a YouTube channel where you share valuable content including tips on living with a spinal cord injury or disability. Where can we find it?  You can find me right here: Garrison Redd https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkegcbZU76J8zigCAz1WO4g

What else can we watch for?  I am looking forward to 2020.  Stay tuned for my talks, modeling, dancing,  and powerlifting engagements. 

Lastly, what would you say to a child with a disability?  You can be anything you want to be and do not let anybody tell you otherwise. 

Garrison Redd
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