2021: The Year to Keep Pushing

New Year’s Day 2021 started with a phone call from Nick Springer while I was laying on the bathroom floor painting the wall a new fresh color of seafoam green. 

Like most times when he called, Nick was on the move. This time he was driving and he promised me he had both hands on the wheel while talking. Yes, this pun by our lovable quad amputee was fully intended, and we laughed at his ever-present twisted humor.

What superpowers do you possess? I have the ability to look at any situation and come out of it with a smile. ~Interview with Nick Springer, 2015

Our chats were usually like a game of tag with me chasing Nick around with questions and then both of us freezing for a moment. We covered topics ranging from the latest movies to sports news, disability rights, and the importance of family. We would laugh a lot, sometimes cry, and then discuss how we would change the world with a children’s book- his book.

I’m not sure how it came up, but as I sat on the floor trying to paint the edges around the bathroom sink, Nick talked about the phantom pains in his limbs that he had been experiencing since his amputations. He explained how he could feel the intense pain in a toe on his left foot as it cramped. I stopped painting as his voice shifted to a more somber tone. He shared how his skin itched and how he felt like he was trapped in an ill-fitting wetsuit due to all of the skin grafts covering his body. It was a hard conversation about the chronic pain he dealt with, but it was these intimate and raw conversations that I came to cherish as we worked on his book together. 

After many conversations like the one above and years of writing, in June 2021, Nick Springer on the Move was finally published by Mouth and Foot Painting Artist USA. It became the first picture book biography featuring the rugged sport of wheelchair rugby and was illustrated by the talented mouth painter, Chris Kuster. It was a dream come true for all three of us. 

But… earlier in April 2021, Nick had suddenly passed away. He had seen the final digital copy but never got to hold the book. 

During the summer of 2021, I wanted to be like Nick. I tried to be strong and push hard, but my whole body ached and I felt too fragile. Instead, I hid and tended to my broken heart. 

What’s the mantra that keeps you going during tough workouts or bad days? Keep pushing! ~Interview with Nick Springer, 2015

Slowly with the encouragement of my children and the kindness of Chris Kuster, I began to share Nick’s book in the ways that we had intended. Ian, Cait, and I read the book aloud via Zoom for the National Paralympic Heritage Trust in the UK. Also, via Zoom, Chris and I did a book talk for Bay Path University Hatch Library and were interviewed for Zenger News. I did author visits at two local schools including my son, Ian’s classroom. Finally, I did a tv interview for Access Abilities, a local cable show focused on disabilities awareness and advocacy. 

Dr. Dee & Marquee from Access Abilities Photo Credit: Wilmington Cable Staff

On December 16, 2021, Nick Springer on the Move was handed to newly pinned Bay Path University’s OT graduate student and the Andrew Prince Book Award winner, Sarah Mathews. Tears streamed down her face as she clutched the book and humbly received the award for her perseverance and determination. At that moment, my heart was filled with joy and hope.

Andrew Prince Book Award Winner, Sarah Mathews & Bay Path University President Sandra Doran Photo Credit: Bay Path Student

This was never the journey that Nick, Chris, and I imagined, but this is the one that we are on. We appreciate every reader and every individual that has given Nick Springer on the Move to a child or donated a copy to a library. We hope that we inspire you to keep pushing and to believe in the possible!

What advice do you have for other athletes? It’s not about the impact on the game itself, but the impact you have on the lives of the people you play with and the people you inspire. Success is about the impact you have on others. ~Interview with Nick Springer, 2015

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