Despite being in a wheelchair, former HS athlete passes NJ road test
When Mike Nichols was paralyzed playing hockey for Monroe High School on Jan 4, 2014, he vowed that he would never be held back by his wheelchair.
He has made good on that promise in so many ways such as competing in the New York City Marathon with a former teacher, moving up to a wheelchair that he can partially manually control, and now he has passed his road test which will enable him to drive.
When Mike, who was my former intern, texted me asking if he could call to my show, I asked him what he wanted to talk about and then he explained on New Jersey 101.5.
"After suffering a spinal cord injury leaving me paralyzed from the chest down on 1/4/14 I had a long road ahead of me. Along with that long road, I had a list of goals in my head. Getting off the ventilator, strengthening my arms, continuing my education, learning how to drive my power wheelchair, being able to drive a manual chair and lastly being able to drive."
So how could Mike pull driving off while still in a wheelchair?
"In order to drive, I need hand controls. Steering with my left hand, brake with my right. I had to go through driver training. My first experience with that was in 2016 when I started practicing and doing some lessons. I did well until the van broke down with me in it."
A mere bump in the road.
"That left me on the mend for 5 years once I went to do other things like school, [physical therapy], internships, etc."
One thing to know about Mike Nichols is, he doesn't give up.
"My second go-round of driving training started in the summer of 2021. I would do training about two times a week. Getting used to the hell controls little by little and then ventured out onto the street instead of the parking lot. Got a little more comfortable and then went on to the main roads and continue to there all the way up until parallel parking. Which is where I failed my first test, parallel parking. I hit a cone. I nailed it this time around, though."
So what happens now?
"Now that I have my license I’m going to have to get a new vehicle that is made for me to drive. It needs a conversion so I can get in it and it needs hand controls specifically made for me. The process will be longer than I’d like but I think I’ll have a van that I can drive by winter at the latest."
On Thursday, August 4 there will be a golf outing at the Royce Brook Golf Club in Hillsborough to raise money for both the Nichols Family Trust, which helps with Mike's future medical costs as well as the conversion of his vehicle, and the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which does SCI research and quality of life grants for people like Mike who are less fortunate and can't afford the things they need.
To participate in the event or to donate to Mike please visit firstname.lastname@example.org signup for golf click here.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise only. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.
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