In a single indescribable second 4 years in the past, Will Cotter went from often taking part in soccer to dropping the power to stroll. He went from routinely spearfishing in deep waters to studying adaptive methods to get again all the way down to the underside. And he went from figuring out how one can trip a motorbike utilizing his ft to studying how one can trip a handcycle along with his arms.
In a diving accident with mates, he had shattered his spine.
“The easiest way to explain it’s you principally simply should relearn how one can dwell your life,” he mentioned.
Take it from him. Cotter this summer season graduated magna cum laude from Florida State College with a level in organic science, and now he’s aiming for a profession in neuroscience – following his brother and grandfather into drugs.
He sees his new path as a manner to assist others who’ve sustained comparable accidents and others that have an effect on the mind.
“Having suffered a spinal cord injury, I skilled how drastically it will probably change your life,” Cotter mentioned. “That’s the explanation I’m so decided to assist others who’ve been via trauma — I acknowledge how terrifying it might be and the way simple it’s to really feel hopeless. I need to encourage individuals to search out power inside themselves and to reassure them that there’s at all times hope for a greater future in the event that they preserve a optimistic mindset.”
School members know him for his household’s FSU pedigree – his mom, father and brother all graduated from the college – and for the instance he has set.
“Will is a rare younger man who has overcome seemingly not possible odds,” mentioned Mark Zeigler, a educating professor within the School of Communication and Data. “He’s fearless and compassionate, and he has the potential to make a huge impact on others, his neighborhood and our world.”
Within the spring of 2018, Cotter was on the cusp of starting the subsequent chapter of his life, at FSU. He had already gotten his scholar ID and was finalizing his housing association for the autumn. As a longtime soccer participant affected by a number of knee and ankle accidents, he wished to pursue a medical profession in orthopedics.
Then every part modified.
Whereas spending a day on a lake with teammates from the Tampa Bay United soccer membership in Palm Harbor, north of St. Petersburg, Cotter opted to forgo the jet skis and keep on the dock. He wished to dive into the water, one thing he’d performed flawlessly hundreds of instances, and thought it’d be enjoyable to leap from the roof protecting a boatlift.
He jumped and, to his shock and shock, hit backside. The impression produced a particular thud and a shrill ringing in his ears. He desperately scraped for the floor however found he was unable to maneuver his legs or core. Scared, struggling and drowning, he puzzled if he’d make it earlier than a pal lastly pulled him up, saving his life.
Cotter sustained accidents to 2 cervical vertebrae and suffered a cervical break in his neck.
The impression immediately paralyzed him from the chest down. He was taken to Tampa Common Hospital, the place docs operated for seven hours and fused vertebrae C4 via T1, which make up the house from the neck to the shoulders.
Cotter and his household finally quickly realized he most likely would by no means be capable of stroll once more.
One week after his surgical procedure, he was transported to the Shepherd Middle in Atlanta, which focuses on medical therapy, analysis and rehabilitation for individuals with spinal cord injury and illness. It was there the place Cotter realized how one can dwell with a spinal cord injury, spending six lengthy months doing bodily and occupational remedy virtually daily.
And it was there the place he obtained a go to from John Thrasher, FSU’s president on the time and now president emeritus, and First Woman Jean Thrasher. He additionally obtained a go to from Zeigler.
“I wouldn’t be the place I’m as we speak with out the assist system that I had,” Cotter mentioned. “I understand how difficult it may be and the way it actually assessments an individual, and it’s simple to really feel such as you’re hopeless and there’s nothing to look ahead to. However you simply have to search out it inside you to have hope and proceed to try to obtain your objectives and dwell a cheerful life.”
Cotter determined he wouldn’t let this accident redefine his life. Six months after the accident, he moved right into a dorm and began the spring 2019 semester at FSU. He even did his personal procuring, cooking and cleansing.
“It was a bit nerve wracking simply because I had spent six months within the hospital having a ton of individuals round to assist out, and I principally was simply dwelling the lifetime of a standard school scholar,” he mentioned. “Simply the stuff that you simply’d usually undergo, however with a bit little bit of an added problem.”
Cotter thrived at Florida State. He pledged the Theta Chi fraternity and made the President’s record, efficiently balancing his lessons whereas nonetheless attending remedy at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital twice per week.
But the injury modified his life, and it gave him an opportunity to see a brand new area of drugs firsthand — neuroscience.
“After I obtained harm and had that have, I noticed how that area is rising and the way there’s a lot analysis to be performed on totally different accidents like spinal cord, stroke, mind injury, and shifted my pursuits.”
Cotter’s mom and father, Gabi and Geoff, and brother, Robert, preceded him at FSU. Robert, now a medical scholar at Yale College, was midway via his junior yr when Will’s accident occurred.
Zeigler, the educating professor within the School of Communication and Data, knew Will’s dad and mom throughout their time on the college. He taught Robert in school and would run into Will on campus on a regular basis.
Zeigler by no means taught Will however pronounced him a graduate throughout a summer season graduation ceremony on the Donald L. Tucker Civic Middle. Zeigler, the reader of scholars’ names on the ceremony, learn Will’s identify, then stepped from behind the rostrum and gave the graduate a hug.
“Watching his FSU journey since summer season 2018 has been one of many nice joys of my profession,” Zeigler mentioned. “I like him dearly.”
Cotter plans to take a yr off however keep busy. He’s trying to shadow docs again house within the Tampa space, with the hope of securing an internship in a hospital.
He’ll additionally submit purposes to medical faculties and maybe embark on enhancing his Spanish via a month-long immersion journey to Spain. He has constructed a basis within the language via his mom, a Guatemala native, and eight years of Spanish in class. Additionally, a grandfather accomplished medical college in Guatemala and practiced within the U.S.
“I need to be fluent in Spanish as a result of it’s a part of who I’m,” Cotter mentioned. Additionally, he mentioned: “Being bilingual will solely broaden the inhabitants of individuals I might deal with when changing into a health care provider.”