It’s easy to feel comfortable around JJ. He’s easy to talk to—and has a great sense of humor.
In 2007, JJ suffered a complete spinal cord injury when he fell from a roof while working as a carpenter. JJ’s C3-level injury left him paralyzed and dependent on mechanical ventilation and a diaphragmatic pacer. Read more about JJ’s spinal cord injury and rehabilitation at Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC).
Today, JJ lives independently at home with 24/7 skilled hourly nursing. JJ’s team of nurses keep him healthy at home—and help facilitate his unwavering determination to live life with passion.
Mike, RN, and JJ have a special bond that goes deeper than JJ’s care or mutual love for the outdoors.
Working as a nurse for the last 23 years, Mike spent most of his nursing career in hospitals. Three years ago, he received a postcard in the mail about working at Independence Plus.
“I think it was fate that I came to Independence Plus and started working with JJ,” Mike explains.
It is surprising Mike and JJ didn’t meet earlier. Like JJ, Mike is a carpenter by trade. After almost a decade in carpentry, Mike went back to school for nursing. (Mike and JJ laugh about how he was teased relentlessly by his carpentry buddies!)
They interact like old friends, and tease each other often.
Mike and JJ also grew up around water. “We both love being outside—it’s very important to us,” Mike explains.
Day Trips to the Beach
“I get out as often as I can,” JJ says. He takes day trips when the weather is nice. In the summer, that means almost every day.
During their walk to the beach, JJ controls his motorized wheelchair by tapping his head on a mechanism that controls his speed and sucking into a straw to steer. Mike is with him every step of the way.
“We walk often,” Mike explains. “Over the years, many of JJ’s neighbors have gotten to know him very well.” JJ and Mike take a few shortcuts and admire beautiful houses as they go.
“We love watching the construction process,” Mike explains as he points out two of JJ’s favorites houses.
When they arrive at the beach, Mike and JJ stop at a bench. Mike works with JJ on his daily exercises—stretching and massage—as they take in the expansive view of the water.
JJ is living proof that life doesn’t have to stop with a spinal cord injury.