Daniel Vance - Disabilities

In early evening, January 27, 2005, Shaun Cook and his girlfriend were driving through downtown Minneapolis. She had just been at H&R Block doing her taxes, and Shaun soon would be dropping her off at her home.

“My family and I do this thing called fishtailing,” said 26-year-old Cook in a telephone interview, “where you swing your car lane to lane. I was on a residential street. A car next to us began swerving in my lane and then swerving back, like they were fishtailing. I thought it was a family member.”

So Shaun began having some fun by swerving into the Black Yukon’s lane.

“We then came to a stop light,” he said. “When the light turned green, someone in the other vehicle shot at us. The bullet went through my back door, the headrest, and into my back. The bullet is still there.”

Cook immediately lost all feeling from the stomach down, and couldn’t apply pressure to the gas pedal.

“Doctors said I had a spinal cord injury and I’d never walk again,” he said. A Mayo Clinic website reports the top five causes of spinal cord injury as motor vehicle accidents, violent acts, falls, sports and recreation injuries, and diseases.

“I am very determined,” he said. “It has been over three years since the accident. I can now walk some with assistance. I still go to therapy and getting better is a hard process.”

Today, Cook mostly uses a manual wheelchair to get around and has regained some feeling below the waist. His number one priority now is finishing therapy. Although he had a great deal of family support immediately following his spinal cord injury, he lost most of it after a few months.

Cook said one day he wants to help young people, like him, who have had run-ins with the police. “It’s hard out here (on the streets),” he said. “And even though your mom or parents don’t have it all and the people on the street glorify gang fighting and drugs, there is a way out. If I can help just one person out of ten, then I feel I can do my part. It’s my way of giving back.”

He felt this way before, he said, and having the accident only increased these feelings. He added, “No one thinks something like this will ever happen to them.”

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