Cody Ownes was your average 19-year-old. He had just completed his first year of college (studying to become a teacher) and was enjoying his summer break. On June 27th, 2017, a fun day at the beach with his friends turned into a tragedy that changed his life forever. Cody dove off a pier in Ocean City, Maryland. The water looked deep however it was less than 2 feet deep. As a result of his accident, Cody is now a quadriplegic.
This past week I had the opportunity to interview Cody about his accident and life now as a quadriplegic. Today, on the 2 year anniversary of Cody’s accident, he’s hoping to draw attention to the risks of diving in shallow water and share a little bit about life as a quadriplegic.
The Elephant in the Room
To be completely honest with you, I sometimes feel uncomfortable when I initially meet someone with a disability. It’s like the elephant in the room and I don’t know whether I should acknowledge their disability or not. And then if my children are with me, I’m always terrified they will say something innocent but hurtful and/or rude. Can you relate?
Cody was willing to answer any of my questions, so that was basically one of the first things I asked him. If you’ve ever felt this way too, I wanted to share what Cody said to me.
He said that he realizes his disability is like the elephant in the room when he meets someone new (and as he was saying that I thought, well yeah, that makes sense!). He also said it’s okay to do what YOU feel comfortable doing. You can acknowledge it and ask him questions and he’s perfectly fine answering them. He understands that some people naturally have questions. If you’re not comfortable asking him about it, that’s okay too. He understands. He’s just happy to enjoy a good conversation with you, like any other person.
Cody is Crippled, Not an Idiot
I’m crippled, not an idiot. This is what Cody said when I asked him about things he wishes people didn’t do. And his answer makes so much sense! Although Cody has a caregiver with him at all times, he wants to be treated with respect and like the adult man he is. Sometimes people in public address his mom (his primary caregiver) or another adult he’s with instead of him. Like if a waiter looked at his mom and asked her what he would like to eat, instead of asking him.
While you may personally never meet Cody, I thought this was a good message to pass along. It’s likely that you will come across someone with a disability numerous times in your life. Remember that a physical disability, like being a quadriplegic, does not affect someone’s cognitive abilities. They are just like you or me! He doesn’t want to be treated like a child any more than you or I want to.
A True Friend is Always There When You Need Them Most
Cody is very thankful for the good friends he has in his life. Well it’s good to have friends that support you and be there for you. Although things changed, they don’t act like he’s a different person! His friends always give him goals and hope to do more. Instead of them just wanting to sit around and talk and watch movies, they say things like we gotta go fishing, and we gonna go out and stuff like that. Cody said that even if it sounds impossible, it’s good to hear they want to do more with im and still do crazy stuff like his disability doesn’t even exist.
If you have a friend going through a trial in their life, make sure you are there for them. That’s what friends are for!
Find Humor in Life
Cody tries to find the humor in life. He likes to make jokes about his disabilities…and it’s okay to laugh with him!
Goals For the Future
Just because he is a quadriplegic, it doesn’t mean Cody has stopped making goals for his life. He hopes to continue his schooling to become a teacher or a counselor one day. He also enjoys speaking in public, both to raise awareness of the potential dangers of diving and also as a way to motivate others.
What Advice Would Cody Share for Someone in a Similiar Situation
I asked Cody what advice he’d give to someone else who was injured and became a quadriplegic or other similar diagnosis. He said, my biggest advice is, you have to give it time. It takes about 2 years for your body to fully recover, it’s gonna be rough but over time more function comes back, symptoms you have go away, and your body really adjusts to what just happened. Just hang in there and you’ll get stronger every day.
It Could Always Be Worse
Cody told me that it could always be worse. Even for him. He mentioned how there are people in this world who don’t have food or shelter, so he knows that life could be worse. Attitude in life is everything. Choose to live your life with the glass half full. Remember there is someone out there going through a harder time than you. Keep your chin up and make the most of your life!
It was great to have the opportunity to talk to Cody. He’s a real inspiration to me and our community.