Founder of Spinal Cord Peer Support USA, Jay Erwin, Sits Down for an Interview with the Cure Nation
Jay Erwin, of Boone, North Carolina, is a dedicated family man and has always been deeply religious. One morning, he was driving to work and praying for a friend, when he felt inspired to make a promise to God. He vowed that if something should ever happen to him, that he would “glorify the Lord, like Job did in the Bible.” Ten days later, Jay Erwin endured a traumatic spinal cord injury that killed him on the spot.
Jay erwin: Surviving a Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury
Jay had been working in customer service – a job he loved – for 17 years. He was married and a proud father. An avid runner, he had been training hard for the Boston Marathon, and was in tip-top shape. He was active in his community and even managed an in-person and online group for local runners. Jay Irwin was living a full and happy life.
Jay recalls the August day when he was injured, “I was cutting a tree down in our community that had been leaning for a while. I was worried it would fall and block the road or possibly hurt someone. So, I decided to take care of it. I had cut a lot of trees down before and had plenty of respect for the tree.”
“I made the cut and it fell the right way, but got caught up in another tree. When that happens, you have to cut the bottom to keep bringing it down, removing the bottom pieces as you go. The last piece I cut, didn’t kick out – it was stuck under the tree. I remember looking up at the tree and it was fine, still leaning safely against the other tree. The next thing I knew, I woke up in another state.”
At the time of the accident, Jay was working with his son to chop the tree down. “When the tree fell on me, I died,” Jay shared.
“My son, who had never taken CPR, came to my aid to do what he could. He felt and listened for breath or a heartbeat and found neither. He proceeded to do CPR and got me going again.”
When Jay woke up in the hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee, after 19 days of heavy sedation, his wife was by his side. He recalls asking her what happened – but she was reluctant to tell him. Finally, after some coaxing, she told him about the accident and his prognosis. The tree had fallen onto his shoulder and crushed everything down to his hip bone. Bones were splintered, he had a punctured lung and his spine had been completely detached, resulting in a T-6 spinal cord injury.
“When she told me, I cried. I was so upset. I couldn’t believe I was paralyzed. It’s like taking a bird’s wings away to take a runner’s legs away.”
The day after he woke up and learned about his injury, Jay says he remembered the promise he had made to God, just 10 days before. “Immediately,” he recalls, “I had a sense of calmness come over me. I had a sense that it was going to be ok. Almost as if God had said it Himself.”
Soon, Jay was transferred to Shepherd Center in Atlanta for 90 days of rehab. He said he noticed right off that there wasn’t a lot of socialization going on on his floor. “Everyone was in their own rooms, with their families. It seemed like everyone was separated and not interacting much. No one was in each other’s rooms. Patients mainly came out for therapy.”
“I started meeting people – even going to rooms of people I didn’t know. I would pray with them and just talk to and encourage them – and I did that the whole time I was there.”
“The nurses all said that something special was happening there, something different from what they’d seen before. After a while, people were coming to MY room to seek out that interaction.”
During his stay at Shepherd, Jay made some really close friends and attended therapeutic groups that had positive impacts on the patients. He experienced the healing value of simple socialization with others that share our struggles and the importance of having access to resources that improved our quality of life.
Jay remembered his vow and realized that he was in a position to really help people.
Jay Erwin Starts a Facebook Peer Support Group for People with SCI
Less than half a year after his injury, Jay was compelled to create the Spinal Cord Peer Support USA group on Facebook. It began as a local group to bring 24 individuals with SCI together from his surrounding area. But, it didn’t take long for it to expand.
“I wanted to create a place where people could vent, talk about the real things, share their fears and get information. I wanted it to be an awesome community. I wanted people to be encouraged,” Jay says.
Today, the Spinal Cord Peer Support USA group has over 8,000 members from all over the world. Jay’s careful about who he allows into the group, too, to ensure that each members is legitimate and truthful about who they say they are. Managing the group has been a significant time commitment and Jay is proud that he has created a positive, supportive environment where people can feel safe.
To protect the safety and security of everyone in the Spinal Cord Peer Support USA group and to maintain a positive, collaborative environment, each member must complete a questionnaire before being admitted. Request to Join here.
Jay has also started several other Facebook groups, with the goal of bringing people together. The most popular is something of an “online flea market” for disability products, called Disability Trading Zone. He also manages a group with inspirational quotes and scriptures, and another for hunters with spinal cord injury.
Jay Erwin shares his thoughts about Cure Medical
When asked about the Cure Commitment, and the mission of Cure Medical to help discover a cure for paralysis and urinary retention, Jay shared the following:
“I watched the video of the founder of Cure Medical, Bob Yant, discussing his thoughts and advocacy.”
Video: Cure Medical – the Cure Commitment to Fund Paralysis Research
“I am very impressed with Bob Yant and his drive for better spinal cord research. I, like him, feel that a lot more could be done,” Jay continues.
“I’m also happy to see that Bob has personally raised $8 million for spinal cord research and to hear that Cure Medical gives 10% of their net income to research. Millions of people depend on it!”
Meet Bob Yant here.
“I thank Bob Yant for his passion, vision and drive for the Cure!” ~ Jay Erwin
For more ways to connect with friends who roll, check out this article we wrote for the Cure Nation that includes a list of local, in-person peer support groups around the U.S.Enjoy Our Free Resources & Articles
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