My post for this week is nothing shy of an absolute honor. I had the privilege to speak with U.S.A Paralympic rugby player Nick Springer. Before even sharing a little bit about his story, I can easily say that Nick emulates everything a role model should be and more. After conducting a brief interview, I do not think there is a single person that cannot learn a lesson from Nick; he is a fighter, he is determined, and he is a true inspiration to all.
For anyone who is unaware, meningitis is a dangerous bacterial infection that moves rapidly, covering areas around the brain and spinal cord. At the age of just fourteen Nick suffered from this disease while he was away at summer camp. To show just how fast paced this disease actually is, Nick collapsed on the floor the following morning with difficulty breathing, had pain throughout his entire body and entered a coma within an hour. Nick’s coma lasted over two months, during which he had both of his arms amputated from his forearm as well as both legs from the knee. He conquered his 10% chance at survival and has not looked back since.
Nick is a huge sports fan and always was; growing up he tried baseball and football but one sport in particular just clicked- Hockey. He even had plans to attend the all-male Archbishop Stepinac high school in White Plains, NY where he was expected to be a starter. Given everything Nick had faced at an early age, it would be easy to see how sports may no longer be his priority, but that was far from the case.
Rather than focus on the change his life was about to take, Nick embraced it. As Nick said in our interview, “I remember the first time I set foot on the ice, I just wanted to get back to my normal life.” With an army of support from both family and friends, he knew he was never going to be alone and failing would not happen. Nick was always an athlete and was not willing to let the change in his physical appearance prevent him from being the athlete inside him or who he was as a person.
To begin his new athletic start Nick dove right in to his hockey roots and gave the sport sled hockey a go for a few years. While he enjoyed the feeling of “the ice beneath him and smell of the stadium” as he put it, a teammate of his recommended that Nick take a go at wheelchair rugby. At the age of 17 and a senior in high school, Nick was a dual sport athlete for a few years but had to make a decision. Nick said, “I will always, always be a hockey player at heart”, but he had a future in Paralympic Rugby and made the switch.
A future was an understatement when describing his potential in Rugby. Since beginning the sport Nick has become a gold medalist in Beijing, 2012 bronze medalist, 8 time national champion and 2008 player of the year in the U.S. Quad Rugby Association (USQRA). Recently Nick has taken a temporary leave from rugby but he plans to start attending some try outs this summer. When asked about one of his favorites moments Nick said, “winning the gold in Beijing was up there, it was awesome. But he probably has over 100 memories whether in sports or helping others that equally compare”. Aside from being part of a team, Nick loves rugby for the opportunities that it has created for him.
The sport has given him the chance to travel the world both as an athlete and meningitis advocate to spread awareness. As mentioned earlier meningitis is life threatening but there is a vaccine available to help prevent people from getting it. Nick travels all over the world to share his experience and knowledge and is currently trying to break into Africa to help yet another group of people. All of the effort Nick has put in to helping The National Meningitis Association and spread awareness is making rapid progress and he has people from all over the world interested in working with him to help send the message. Despite all that Nick has endured he said, “Everything gets back to normal, you have a future. The only thing that’s important is the fact that you survived”.
I would like to send out a thank you to Nick for taking the time to speak with me about his experience and amazing efforts all over the world. PLEASE remember that meningitis IS extremely dangerous, and is not something that should be taken lightly. There IS a vaccine available so do not take the risk!
For more information please check out the National Meningitis Association website: http://www.nmaus.org/
Help us spread Nick’s story and achievements by following us @Spiritinmotion3 on Twitter or our Facebook Page Spirit in Motion, Be brave in the attempt!