By Luke Kenton
Seven-years after a horror accident left him quadriplegic, this man stood-up in-front of his girlfriend for the very first time.
At 16-years-old, Cole Sydnor was enjoying a day by the river with his friends in Richmond, Virginia, USA, when a spontaneous decision to dive into the water would change his life forever.
Launching himself from the bank on August 11, 2011, as he entered the water Cole collided head-first with a rock beneath the surface – shattering four vertebrae in his neck instantly, leaving him lifeless in the water.
Pulled out by his friends, Cole soon regained consciousness but knew right-away that “something was seriously wrong” when he couldn’t feel anything from his chest downwards.
After ten-days in intensive care, the high-school sports star’s worst fears were confirmed, as doctors told him he was now a quadriplegic and would ‘never walk again’.
Despite losing all function below his chest and only retaining movement in his triceps and wrist, Cole remained positive he would one day stand – and on July 20th at the Sheltering Arms rehabilitation center, his reverie became a reality.
With the help of a specially designed exoskeleton, Cole, now 23, was able to stand up and walk in front of his girlfriend, Charisma Jamieson, for the very first time after meeting at the center nine-months ago.
Noticeably emotional, the pair lock into a silent embrace before joking about how tall Cole is to keep the tears at bay.
Cole, who documents his life as a quadriplegic on his YouTube channel, Role With Col , said: “It was strange to suddenly be looking down at a world I’m always looking up to – it was totally surreal.
“I told Charisma not to cry, otherwise I was going to.
“I didn’t realise how tall I am.
“I was 5ft 10 at the time of the accident, and now I’m 6ft 3.
“It felt amazing to be up and moving around – this exoskeleton is the best there is, because the weight and maneuverability makes it feel like the real thing.
“I can’t remember a great deal from my time in hospital after the accident, I was in a constant state of sedation at the time.
“I remember shortly after hitting my head, I opened my eyes underwater to see my hands limp floating in the water as a red fog poured from my head.
“In my mind I was paddling desperately as I knew I had to get out of the water, but I wasn’t actually moving.
“When I realised I couldn’t feel anything from the chest down, I knew something was seriously wrong.
“The impact that it might have on the rest of my life took a long while to sink in.
“Sheltering Arms have been incredible in helping with my rehabilitation and keeping me healthy.
“As a student of neuroscience, I’m very confident that I’ll one day walk completely of my own admission.”
Charisma, who works as an occupational therapist added: “It was definitely a great moment, this is the first time I’ve seen him stand above me.
“It was amazing to be able to lay my head on his chest as we hugged.
“He’s very tall and to see him walking was as amazing personally as It was professionally.
“I was speechless, we just didn’t know what to say but I knew I had to hold it together.”
Though he now accepts his life-changing prognosis with unrelenting positivity, Cole does admit to confronting some demons during his lengthy stay in the hospital, after the accident.
Failing to see what life may hold without the freedom of movement – and momentarily believing he didn’t want to “wait to find out” – Cole, still unable to speak at the time, typed out the words ‘Kill me’ on a spelling board and presented it to his brother.
Soon realising there was “more to life” than being able to drive and play lacrosse, Cole never contemplated the unthinkable again, but one concern that continued to bother him was his fear of never finding love.
But all of that changed when he met Charisma at the Sheltering Arms rehabilitation centre, nine-months-ago.
Cole said: “Everyone would tell me to just be patient and be ready when the right person came along – but I kept thinking that’s easy for you to say.
“We have a very unique relationship, we make it work – it’s awesome.”
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCA5Zfb-OOm7eDHHa8iu9izQ