“My approach to recovery is motivation. There’s no way to get through something like this without being motivated, and I try to find anything to get me motivated!” - Tyler Rollins, 21
In May of 2015, Tyler Rollins, 21, and his fellow sniper team members participated as a team in the first-ever Oklahoma Tough Mudder. The competition included rigorous obstacles and challenges, in elements like fire, mud, and water.
“I could remember being down and under the water trying to do a pushup and it didn’t work and I tried to roll over and that didn’t work,” Tyler said.
At the time, Tyler was a full-time student at Arkansas Tech University, a scout sniper team leader for the Arkansas National Guard, and was recently appointed as Intern Director of the Men’s Ministry for the Wesley Foundation.
He had hoped for a fun and challenging day with his National Guard buddies, but it turned into a life altering experience.
While participating in the course’s “Swamp Stomp” Tyler came in contact with a cement block, causing him to shatter his C6 vertebrae. He was instantly paralyzed. Tyler was rushed to Saint Francis Hospital in Tulsa, OK. It was there that he and his mother, Judith, learned about Craig Hospital from a trauma nurse.
Tyler went through months of physical and occupational therapy at Craig. He became very involved in the therapeutic recreation activities and even found a new passion - wheelchair rugby.
Although Tyler maintains a positive attitude on the outside, he doesn’t completely reveal the internal struggle. He says his injury is not so much the “physical part” but rather the “mental, emotional, and physical aspects.”
One of the biggest struggles that Tyler has faced since his injury is coping with his loss of independence. “Even as an infant I wanted to do things by myself. At 21 that got stripped from me. I couldn’t feed myself, I couldn’t go to the bathroom, and even now that I can do those things myself it is still a struggle,” he said.
Even the financial aspect of his recovery has been a tough pill to swallow. Tyler’s mom, Judith, mentions that, “We’ve never owned anything new in our lives. The first new thing our family has ever owned is this new wheelchair.”
On a recent outing to the zoo Tyler faced a new challenge.
“I looked like one of the exhibits. Kids were turning their heads to see what that “thing” was. You start to get used to it but you never totally get used to it all,” he says.
Tyler understands he will continue to face obstacles in the future. But, he remains optimistic. “My approach to recovery is motivation. There’s no way to get through something like this without being motivated, and I try to find anything to get me motivated!”
Tyler has recently returned to Arkansas where he will finish school and his internship for the Wesley Foundation at Arkansas Tech. He hopes to revive the Arkansas Quad Rugby team and become an adaptive engineer for the Parks and Recreation Department.