Twelve Authors with a Spinal Cord Injury

Aaron Baker
Spinal Cord Injury Lifestyle Specialist | Shield HealthCare
09/12/22  9:00 AM PST

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, and to highlight all of the different stories out there, I wanted to share some great books written by people who have spinal cord injuries.

I have not read all of these books, but what I can attest to (since writing about my own injury and recovery process) is that it is far more impactful to read from someone else’s first hand experience than try to read “how to” guides and resource pamphlets.

Below are twelve authors I hope inspire you.

  1. Still Me by Christopher Reeve

“This is the determined, passionate story of one man, a gifted actor and star, and how he and his family came to grips with the kind of devastating, unexplainable shock that fate can bring to any of us.  Chris and Dana Reeve have gathered the will and the spirit to create a new life, one responsive and engaged and focused on the future.”


  1. Lucky by Ed Jackson

“From tragedy to triumph, one step at a time – an inspirational story of triumph over adversity against the odds

At just 28 years old, Ed Jackson was told he would never walk again. After a miscalculated dive into a pool, he suffered multiple cardiac arrests, a broken neck and a partially severed spinal cord. Lying paralyzed in intensive care, the former rugby player knew his life would never be the same. But he wasnt ready to give up hope.

Driven by relentless determination, Ed embarked on an incredible journey to independence. Millimeter by millimeter, he began to regain movement in his fingers and toes. Defying the expectations of even the most optimistic doctors, step by step, Ed began to walk again.

Fueled by a renewed appreciation for life and a determination to help others suffering similar injuries to his own, Ed set his sights on a new challenge: mountaineering. Embarking on a grueling climb to raise funds for a spinal unit in Kathmandu, Ed realizes that, once again, the odds are stacked against him. Will he be able to overcome his own life-changing injury and transform otherslives for the better?

Lucky is the story of how Ed faced the impossible when it seemed all hope was lost, and shows how you, too, can overcome the biggest challenges that life sends your way.”


  1. The Rebellious Recovery by Aaron Baker

“Life can change in an instant. For twenty-year-old Aaron Baker, not only did a neck injury leave him paralyzed from the chin down—it also nearly killed him. The doctors told him hed never feed himself again.

Until he did.

Instead of giving up, Aaron went all in and rebelliously achieved things he was told would never be possible.

The Rebellious Recovery follows Aaron on a mind-expanding, odds-defying journey from quadriplegic to inspirational figure riding a bicycle across the country—twice—training for the Paralympics, starting a business and a family, and more.

The emotional story of failure, success, heartbreak and accomplishment has something for every reader.

From Aarons story, we see an optimistic truth: even on the darkest days, we hold the power in our minds to overcome anything.

What will you do when life happens to you? Follow Aaron in this memoir and see how opportunities rise from ashes.

Are you ready for the ride of your life?”


  1. Undefeated by Marc Buoniconti

“Marc Buoniconti, son of an NFL Hall of Fame legend Nick Buoniconti, enjoyed an admittedly reckless lifestyle until a paralyzing football injury changed his outlook and pushed him to dedicate himself to helping others.

Hurtling into a tackle, Marc Buoniconti made contact, and then—he felt nothing. He saw an arm flop to the ground and as he struggled to breathe, he became aware whose arm it was: his.

That third-and-one play for The Citadel linebacker began as a game-changing moment but quickly turned life-changing for the son of NFL Hall of Fame legend Nick Buoniconti. On October 26, 1985, Marc was paralyzed for life from the shoulders down, injured in the same fashion as he had lived up to then: recklessly. But the same drive to push the limit in everything hed encountered, from drugs to skipping school to never backing down from a dare, was the catalyst for Marcs resolve to get off a ventilator, beat the odds, and turn catastrophe into a life of purpose.

His family knew he was the only one of them who could have handled such a challenge. Marcs battle to live a full life was the genesis for nonprofit The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis and The Buoniconti Fund, which to date has raised more than $450 million for research into the treatment of spinal cord and brain injuries. With renewed spirit and commitment refueled, Marc has become the face of The Miami Project. Working with Dr. Barth Green and many others, Marc has led the charge to change the lives of thousands of people who previously had no hope after suffering a similar catastrophic injury.

This is his story.”


  1. A Cycle of Hope by Tricia Downing

“At thirty-one, Tricia Downing was in the best shape of her life. In the summer of 2000, Tricia, an avid cyclist, drove across the country for what amounted to eighteen races in twenty-three days. She returned from her adventure to a fresh start: a new job awaited her, and determined to make the next summer the year she would make her mark on the world of cycling, she began a rigorous training strategy.

But on September 17, 2000, Tricia Downing’s life took a detour. While training on a her bicycle one sunny Colorado afternoon, Tricia collides with a car that turns directly in her path, and instantly becomes paralyzed from the chest down. As a competitive road and track cyclist and lifelong athlete, losing the use of her legs is devastating on all accounts. As she re-learns to do everything from sitting straight up to navigating through her house in a wheelchair to returning to work and operating a handcycle, her grueling recovery takes her to the very core of her athletic mettle. This inner strength helps her to not only learn how to live life as a paraplegic–a label that takes time to grow accustomed to–but to have the courage to return to the competitive sport she loves and almost lost. Determined to live life on her terms, Tricia turns her misfortune into opportunity, and is now a wheelchair racer, competing regularly in triathlons around the globe.

Cycle of Hope chronicles Tricia’s journey from the first terrifying moments of impact with the car through rehab and her emergence as a world-class athlete.”


  1. The Last Tackle by James G. Wallgren

Jimbo Wallgren grew up in a Texas town under the glow of Friday night football with dreams of playing at the college ranks. Stable home life, gifted athlete, a very blessed and what seemed like ordinary teenager life. All those dreams would vanish in a heartbeat when Jim made his last tackle on the gridiron that forever changed his life.

Instantly paralyzed from the chest down from a Spinal Cord Injury. Confidence is suddenly replaced by fear and entrapment in a motionless body. The future that once seemed promising now seemed unimaginable and frightening. Beginning with his childhood, then vividly chronicling his tragic accident at fifteen. It becomes a fight for survival and finding relevancy in a world that seems foreign to him. Can he find the life he envisioned and had taken for granted?”


  1. Head Strong by Scott W. Fedor

“Do you want to live? Thats the question Scott Fedor was forced to confront after he suffered a catastrophic injury while diving into a lake. His life forever changed in seconds.

An accomplished businessman who embraced life with a passion that took him on adventure across the globe, from the board room to the bull riding circuit, and ultimately to the altar to marry his best friend, Fedor had his life all planned out. He never expected that one day hed be forced to redefine what living with passion would look like after being told he would never walk again as the result of a broken neck. Facing the darkest and most debilitating days that nearly cost him his life on several occasions, Scott was determined to rekindle his spirit, ultimately discovering that the boldest of pursuits come in all shapes and sizes.

Head Strong is an inspirational tale of determination, perseverance, incredible faith, and human triumph that proves we are stronger than we realize. It is the inspiring story of how one man came to terms with the fact that we cannot control what happens to us, but that we can control how we choose to respond.

Do you want to live, is the first question we should all ask ourselves when we set out to create a life full of purpose and passion. Living your best life all starts with the right attitude; even when you’re told you’ll never walk again.”


  1. Owning It by Brad Smeele

“Brad Smeeles thrill-seeking, fast-paced life as a professional wakeboarder came to an abrupt halt when an accident caused him to become a quadriplegic. Wakeboarding is like waterskiing, but on a single board with aerial tricks added in. Its a freestyle sport for super-athletic adrenalin junkies. Brad was at the peak of his career, pushing the sport to new heights and perfecting tricks that no one else could achieve. He was also a sought-after model and relished his free-wheeling lifestyle. But in July 2014, while practicing his latest trick, he landed badly. Catastrophically, in fact. He landed on his neck, completely crushing his spinal cord and becoming a quadriplegic immediately. For someone whose whole life was built around his physical prowess, this was completely and utterly devastating. Brad has had to work through a great deal, from being an incredibly physical person in all senses of the word to being someone with very limited use of his body. The struggle has been monumental, but hes come to a place of acceptance. In this book he shares his epic story and the lessons he has learnt from an unexpected teacher. He now brings the same focus and determination he brought to his wakeboarding career to inspiring others.”


  1. Limitless by Mallory Weggemann

“On January 21, 2008, a routine medical procedure left Mallory paralyzed from her waist down. Less than two years later, Mallory had broken eight world records, and by the 2012 Paralympic Games, she held fifteen world records and thirty-four American records. Two years after that, a devastating fall severely damaged her left arm. But despite all of the hardships that Mallory faced, she was sure about one thing: she refused to give up.

After two reconstructive surgeries and extended rehab, she won two gold medals and a silver medal at the 2019 World Para Swimming Championships. And even better, she found confidence, independence, and persevering love. She even walked down the aisle on her wedding day against all odds.

Mallory’s extraordinary resilience and uncompromising commitment to excellence are rooted in her resolve, her faith, and her sheer grit. In Limitless, Mallory shares the lessons she learned by pushing past every obstacle and expectation that stood in her way, teaching you how to: 

  • redefine your limits
  • remember that healing is not chronological
  • be willing to fail
  • lean on your community
  • embrace your comeback
  • write your own ending

Mallory’s story reminds us that we can handle whatever challenges, labels, or difficulties we face in life, and we can do it on our own terms. Because when we refuse to accept every boundary that hems us in–physical, emotional, or societal–we become limitless.”


  1. Little Big Steps by Arash Bayatmakou

“After 30 years of a healthy, rewarding, and exciting life, I wake up in a hospital bed unable to move. The neurosurgeon leans down and breaks the news: You won’t regain any function in your body and you will never walk again. My medical insurance sends me home, discontinues my care, and tells me to “adapt to my new life”.

Little Big Steps is the story of the pivotal moments, interactions, and breakthroughs following the injury that turned my life upside down. Each chapter explores the experiences, challenges, and discoveries that have inspired me to work towards those accomplishments I was told were impossible.

There are moments of immense frustration and grief, and moments of surreal hilariousness and unparalleled joy as I remain on the path to get back on my feet. The story culminates with proof that motivation, determination, and unwavering commitment can lead to incredible achievements.”


  1. Never Part of the Plan by Mike Shaw

“At age 26, when Mike Shaw, freestyle skiing coach, stepped into the sunshine on a crisp Colorado morning, it never entered his mind by three-thirty that afternoon his life—as he knew it—would be over. Working with his team at the 2013 World Cup Competition at Copper Mountain, a catastrophic injury derailed his life’s trajectory forever. “You’ll never walk again,” one doctor told him, knowing the prognosis wasn’t good. Yet, with a mindset of courage, resilience, and gratitude, Mike proved his doctor wrong and, within three months, he took his first steps. Within the year? Skiing.

Now an international speaker, mentor, and coach armed with an ‘attitude of gratitude, ‘Never Part of the Plan’ chronicles the author’s journey as he conquers a debilitating spinal cord injury, making the most out of life’s unexpected curveball. Dedicating his book to all readers, his experience is proof all of us can overcome and thrive when faced with adversity. All it takes is courage, resilience, and . . . gratitude.”


  1. Climbing Back by Mark Wellman

“There is almost no limit to what we can accomplish except perhaps in our own minds. That is the message delivered to us by Mark Wellman. Crippled by a mountain-climbing accident, and perhaps further injured by his own impatient action, Mark was faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. But, finding strength and hope in his family and friends, he has in turn become an inspiration to millions of people. Mark has designed equipment and developed programs to inspire and motivate others. Climbing Back is the story of Mark’s struggle to survive a disabling accident, to become a park ranger and an accomplished wheelchair athlete, and ultimately to climb the sheer granite faces of El Capitan and Half Dome. These ascents regularly challenge the world’s best rock climbers. With his glorious dreams, his strong will and determination, and his bold approach to life, Mark Wellman challenges all of us to continue to strive toward loftier goals.”


I hope you find inspiration and relatability in one of these many books!

In Health,


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