This 12-year-old did not let an SCI derail him from ambitious goals

When you are 12 years old, disciplined by grounding, and have a brand-new bike, waiting for those restrictions to be lifted can be interminable. But when you live with your grandparents, are impishly cute and intelligently persuasive, getting an early release isn’t all that difficult. “Yeah, it was like any other day,” says now 18-year-old Tyler King, smiling as he reminisced about charming his Grandma. “It was a really nice day, and a really nice bike.” King’s friend Kenny, who lived less than ¼ mile down their rural road, was his regular riding buddy.

A Phone Call, A Mishap

“As I’m riding to meet Kenny, I got a phone call,” he says. “I was pretty good about riding with no hands, so as I was putting my phone in my pocket, I was also coming up on a curve on a downgrade.” King, unfamiliar with his bike’s new controls, reached for the wrong brake. He estimates he was going 25 mph. King hurtled into the brush, and the brush caught in his spindles and spokes, stopping the bike fast. But not his 12-year-old body. “The momentum kept me going, and I hit a tree, but not full-body.” King sustained an incomplete C4-level SCI.

A 12-Year-Old’s Wonder

“I didn’t know anything about paralysis, so (after getting stabilized) my initial reaction was like a WHAT JUST HAPPENED?? In big capital letters,” chuckles King, with his boyish, impish personality shining through. Five days after King’s injury, surgeons reset his C4 vertebrae, placed two titanium rods for stabilization. His cord is bent, not severed, and six years later he is still working on regaining strength and function. “At first, I had no mobility,” says King. “Now, I’ve got a lot more mobility—well, I can’t really control my arms too well, but I can move them in various ways—but I can’t move my hands yet…”

Shake, Rattle, Roll

King references the spasms that SCI warriors are all to familiar with, not as “painful” or “annoying” but as “awkward.” “I can’t move anything from my waist down,” says King, “But my legs will shake, rattle and roll when I don’t want them to!!” When chatting with King, his infectious optimism about his prognosis, his life outlook, his humor and his joie de vivre are remarkable.

All Sorts of Initial Therapy

King received in-patient physical therapy at the Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh. “It was both confusing and intense,” he recollects. King had a lot of support, but also recalls, “They put their hands together and said, ‘We’re going to start therapy now,’ and like that I was introduced to stim machines, hand bikes, bike machines, stretching, all SORTS of thing!” he laughs.

Movement Came Later

“Unfortunately, I didn’t encounter any bit of movement on my own until after I was home for a month and a half,” he sighs. And by that time, King was not getting any active therapy. Eventually, he did receive some help from The Shriners, but according to King, it was not the intense SCI therapy from which he might have benefitted. Today, he has a personal care attendant, and some equipment at his home that, when he can get help with it, he uses.

The Quest

King’s grandparents, with whom he still resides, have explored every avenue and revenue stream to give their grandson his best outcomes. “We’ve done all the research, have used everything we’ve been given, and have provided as much as we can on our own, but I know I would benefit from more structured and intense physical therapy,” he says.

The Pursuit of Learning

When the conversation turns toward King’s future, his intellect and enthusiasm shine through. He’s a senior at Fort LeBoeuf High School in Waterford, PA, and he proudly proclaims that he is also taking college classes too. No easy feat for a young man who uses a mouth stylus to produce papers and essays that he admits contain “complex vocabulary that doesn’t translate well with speech to text!” King’s passion is learning. “I love learning! I’m an ambitious individual who aspires to learn as much as I can!” It’s at this point Tyler King’s enthusiasm is infectious.His college coursework includes macroeconomics— “I can teach you a thing or two!” he jokes, while he describes a clever process he devised for producing diagrams.

An Honest Individual

King plans to obtain his MBA and to become a financial manager. “I wouldn’t mind being a financial advisor and helping people around my community,” he muses. “I’m probably one of the most honest individuals. I’m good with numbers, I like money, I like stocks, and I like people. “And I’m probably one of the most resourceful people anyone might ever meet.”For a 12-year-old who took a life-changing injury, powered through the curves, and figured out a new and meaningful life, that’s a very fair assessment.



Take one step at a time. “You're not going to know anything when you get your initial injury or even afterwards but take one step at a time; don’t try to rush anything.

Be ambitious about the information that you acquire and advocate for yourself. “A lot of people may think they know what they're talking about, but only you know what you’re actually going through. You need to advocate for yourself. Advocation was my biggest concern. Speak up for yourself. Do not let others speak for you.”

Stay motivated. “Everyone gets depressed, I’ve done that, and it’s OK. I read a lot of inspirational quotes, and I make up my own.”