Bryan McCormick is a 32-year old T8 complete paraplegic who lives in Pittsburgh, PA. At 6 feet 8 inches tall, he is a pretty unusual sight. One doesn’t come across too many people in a wheelchair, who are tall enough to play in the NBA. With his size, he could be a menacing figure, but McCormick is anything but! He is much more of a gentle giant with a great sense of humor.
“Being my size definitely comes with pros and cons,” says McCormick. “The pros are that I can reach things on high shelves, and see better in a crowd. As far as cons… I have a difficult time fitting under normal tables, and finding pants that fit. I have to special order pants online, at places like St. John’s Bey and Big & Tall stores.”
McCormick grew up an only child, who became paralyzed in 2001 from a skiing accident.
“I was skiing at Hidden Valley (a Pennsylvania resort) when I over shot the landing ramp, and landed on my back.”
When asked how he responded to the news of his permanent paralysis, he said “I’ve always been a pretty easy going guy, and took things as they came along. I probably get it from my parents. I was instilled with those qualities. We’ve always been very close.”
He also credits his upbeat attitude to all the sports he played growing up. Some of which include soccer, football and horseback riding.
HORSEBACK RIDING, at 6’8″? “Well… I did that when I was young” he said with a chuckle.
Keeping with the tradition of those who were athletic before their accident, Bryan is just as active since, if not more so. Even though it was the cause of his paralysis, skiing is still his first love, but he also hand-cycles, and more recently got involved with kayaking at the Three Rivers Rowing Association, through the mentoring program at Mercy hospital.
“Just this summer I was able to get on the water and compete in Philadelphia.” McCormick went on… “They have a weight room with rowing machines, which allow you to get a great workout. The fee is only $90 annually, and it’s on Washington’s Landing, under the 31st Street Bridge.”
About 4 years ago, McCormick became one of the mentors of the Spinal Cord Injury Support Group at Mercy hospital (in Pittsburgh, PA) – aka Peer Mentoring Group at Mercy. He credits Patty Mikosky with getting him involved. “It (the support group) really has the potential to change someone’s life. The group can change someone’s perspective of his/her injury.”
The support group meets twice a month at Mercy Hospital, where Bryan and a few fellow mentors talk with “wheelchair newbies”, and share some of their experiences. But the group isn’t just for those in a wheelchair.
“It’s a great place for spouses, parents and other loved ones to learn what type of things they can expect after a life altering injury.”
So… how has paralysis changed McCormick’s life?
“It’s definitely a challenge. But… overall it had a positive affect on my life. Prior to my injury I wasn’t very focused on life. After my injury I decided that I’m going to take the opportunity to do everything I wanted to do, because you never know what life brings. So … I went online and learned how to play the guitar. Even took some music theory classes at Pitt (Greensburg). I love classic rock… Phish, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Sabbath… pretty much all the big guitar-bands.”
While he’s still only 32 years of age, one can see how McCormick’s smile and attitude can be contagious. Anyone who sits and talks with him even for a few minutes, will almost immediately be inspired to be and do better. While no one wishes spinal cord injury on anyone, the community is better off having Bryan McCormick as one of its representatives.
For anyone who’d like to join the Peer Mentoring Group at Mercy, the Facebook link is provided below. Bryan and the gang welcome all comers with open arms. In his words… “You never know who is inspired by whose story.”
Like they say in street slang… “Tru dat Bryan… tru dat!”
Story by Attila Domos