This is a part of the Hot Topic podcast series from the Model Systems Knowledge Translation Center on Exercise and Fitness After Spinal Cord Injury. Katie Smith, SCI Survivor, discusses Meeting Other People with SCI Through Sports.

Getting involved in adaptive sports is really a great way to meet people and connect with people. And sports in general is a great way to get connected to people. But this gets me connected to my peers. When I started playing rugby, one of the things that really got me coming back is that it was a peer support group, but it wasn’t held in the hospital. It was a peer support group in a gym where you’re crashing into each other as hard as you can. But I learned how to live in a wheelchair from these guys because they’re all my peers. They all have very similar disabilities to me and barriers and challenges. But they’re all driving cars, married, have kids, have jobs, travel. They had all the things that, ideally, I thought I wanted before my accident. And then once I had my accident, I thought I’ll never have those things. I’ll never have that life. I’ll never live as meaningfully as I want to.

I started playing rugby, and I realized, “Oh, it’s not that hard.” I came in with this wheelchair and all these extra gadgets, and they’re like, “What are you doing in that? How are you going to get that in the car?” And one of them lent me a smaller wheelchair, a lightweight wheelchair to get into the car myself when I started driving because mine was so big and bulky that it never would have happened. So that being involved with peers really aided me in becoming independent as much as I can be.

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