At 20 years of age, Ron Lindenfeld was very athletic and competitive; he played baseball, was a cyclist, and had a thirst for adventure. Ron was injured in a diving accident, and now functions as a C6/C7 quad. After the accident, of course his life changed dramatically. He spent 6 months in the hospital, and although he got a lot of support while in the hospital, once he left that environment he started to feel disabled. The next two years were tough and he faced a lot of low points. But he persevered.
“You can’t ever replace the things that you love and that are no longer possible, and it’s silly to think you can ever ‘get over it.’ It’s just like losing someone you love. But you can learn to tolerate it, and most importantly, to find things in life that will work for you and satisfy you”, Ron said.
One of the things that helped to turn his life around was getting his first wheelchair accessible van. Bussani Mobility Team set him up in a full-size van with right-angle hand controls, a 6-way power seat, electric barn doors and lift, low-effort steering and brakes, and a raised roof. “Once I starting driving around again, and I didn’t have to depend on people to pick me up, I got my freedom back”, he said.
As he was looking to see what he would do with his life now, Ron remembered a visit he received while in the hospital at Mt. Sinai from a man in a wheelchair who told him all about Freedom Wings International. Based in Pennsylvania, the organization provides opportunities for those who are physically challenged to fly in specially adapted sailplanes, either as a passenger or as a member of the flight training program.
Words of Wisdom
There are always solutions. Look at what you want to do, not at your limitations. Look at the support that’s available and get help when you need it. And use adaptive tools to overcome your limitations.
And just like that, Ron had found his calling, and he soon had a goal he believed in. He began flying, and his instructor (a high-functioning quad) acknowledged his natural aptitude for aviation. He went on to compete on a flight simulation team and made it to the top 10 in nationals (among some 400 competitors), and eventually went back to school for a degree in aviation. Ron now teaches aviation at the Dowling College School of Aviation on Long Island, and he says he feels privileged to be working closely with students to help them pursue careers in aviation.
When we asked Ron what was most important for him in overcoming his mobility challenges, he said:
It’s more of an attitude challenge than anything else. You have to think about how well you can not let the physical disability stop you. There will be times when you think it isn’t going to work out, and sometimes you can’t do it by yourself, but there are always solutions. Look at what you want to do, not at your limitations. Look at the support that’s available and get help when you need it. And use adaptive tools to overcome your limitations. It’s easy to get in a rut. But if you develop an awareness of yourself and your feelings, you can learn to address anything.