Spinal Cord Injury Community

Meeting Someone with a SCI for the First Time

Arash Bayatmakou
Spinal Cord Injury Survivor and Author
07/13/18  2:26 PM PST
Meeting Someone with a SCI

Meeting someone with a SCI, or anyone a little different from you for the first time, can be a little intimidating. What do you say to them? Should you ask about their injury? Are some topics off limits?

Justin’s wife has been my best friend since we were nine and now he’s become one of my closest friends too. When we first met, he was a little nervous, not only because of my longstanding friendship with his wife, but because he’d never met anyone with a spinal cord injury before. Here’s Justin’s perspective on that first meeting.

Before you met Arash, did you have any prior experience with someone in a wheelchair/with a disability/with a spinal cord injury?

Justin: I actually didn’t have much prior experience with someone with a spinal cord injury or who is in a wheelchair. I was more nervous to meet Arash because he is the best friend and, essentially, a brother from another mother to my wife. So when I first met him I wanted to make a good impression.

When you met Arash, what aspect of him stayed with you the most after meeting him?

Justin: I vividly remember the first time I met Arash. It was at his parents house (who on another note are amazing, generous and just wonderful people and I could immediately tell where Arash got many of his attributes). Besides Arash’s undeniable determination towards recovery, even more memorable to me was his larger-than-life personality and cool demeanor, which made me feel so welcome and comfortable to be meeting him for the first time.

What questions did you have for Arash after meeting him? Did you have any questions in your mind that you decided not to ask him (at least at first) and why did you hesitate?

Justin: In regards to his recovery efforts, soon after meeting him I would ask him the more usual questions, like how his recovery efforts were going in the physical respect. But some questions I avoided, at first, were more his mental health recovery efforts. After we got close we got more into his ups and downs and what I realized is just being a listener for him was super important. To be someone he can turn to, to vent out some of the darker moments he may have.

When you talked to your friends who hadn’t met Arash, and spoke about him, what questions did they have for you? Did you have answers for those questions?

Justin: Arash and I have a lot in common in the fact that we are both very active and athletic people. Many of my friends are the same. The reality is, what happened to Arash could have happened to any of us in the right circumstance. Often when talking about Arash, though we will never be able to relate to what Arash is going through, many of my friends want to know how he has made the adjustment from being outdoorsy and athletic to having a spinal cord injury. The answer is Arash is still outdoorsy and athletic (this is because of his amazing attitude and determination for recovery). He called me just the other day to ask me to do a triathlon with him. So those types of scratching-the-surface type questions are easy to answer. Like, how does Arash swim? How does Arash swim five miles?!

Describe the first time Arash asked you to “help” him (like, getting into his car, helping carry something, grabbing something for him) and your thought process around his request.

Justin: From the first time he asked me to help him, to the present day when he asks me to help him, he is always apologizing and shamefully asking for my help (“Like bro…can you do me a favor… you can say no if you want…”) Actually that is how he asked me to answer these questions for him. It’s because of his feeling that he doesn’t want to depend on people or put someone out for his injury. If I could relay one message to my dear friend Arash it would be: just ask me for help, anytime anywhere, as you will never ever be a burden.


spinal cord injury

Arash Bayatmakou is a Spinal Cord Injury Survivor, Author, Motivational Speaker and Entrepreneur.

Follow his blog, Arash Recovery.

Discover his book, Little Big Steps.

Watch his TEDx video.

Check out his nonprofit, No Limits Collaborative.


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