By Tim Kalinowski
In Ken Schneider’s own words when he was a young twenty year-old he used to be “an adrenaline junky.” Athletics, dirt biking, snowmobiling, anything to get him that adrenaline high, Schneider took chances. He took risks. It was all part of the fun. He was as strong as an ox, cocky as a rooster and as fearless as a wolf.
And then one day when he was 21 year-old all that changed after a near fatal accident on his dirt bike left him a paraplegic.
“I have what you call traumatic, induced amnesia (after the accident). I do not remember the day I had my injury. From then on I was a paraplegic. From the waist down I don’t have any muscle or information from the skin. You could come up here and cut my big toe off and I wouldn’t feel it,” Schneider told the two Grade 9 classes from Irvine who were his audience.
Most of what Schneider relates of the events which led up to his accident have been reconstructed from what his buddies, who witnessed the accident, told him afterwards. He knows he was responsible for his own injury, but he will never know for sure what he might have done differently. It is this perpetual uncertainty which has haunted him since the day of his accident.
“Your body has a way of blanking out stuff instead of letting you burn out. It’s like a breaker switch,” said Schneider. “They (my buddies) said I was on a flat stretch doing about 30 mile an hour. There was no rocks, no bumps, no ditches. All there was was cactus. They said I was going along about 30 and all of a sudden did a handstand up on the handle bars. The reason I figure I got into that I was practicing the wheeling trying to bring the front end up and instead the pro-link reversed. Instead of bringing the front end up it bucked me like a horse.”
The result was Schneider was thrown up and over the handlebars in front of the front tire of his motorcycle.
“The front wheel hit me on the T-11/ T-12 vertebrae and crushed both vertebrae,” explained Schneider. “It pile drived me into the ground: 200 pounds of bike going 30 mile an hour. It should have ripped me in half and killed me just like that.”
Instead it left Schneider permanently disabled. The message he wanted to drive home for the students was an accident can happen just like that. If you put yourself in a situation of risk, and something happens, there is no time to do anything. The best policy was to make sure they use better judgment than he did, and not put themselves in a similar situation to repeat his fate.
“We want you guys and girls to make it to the point where you can control your life’s outcome,” said Schneider. “There is a saying: ‘That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ I don’t want you to have to be broken (like I was) to find out how strong a character you’ve got… Don’t go through that. Take care of each other.”