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Local man shares his story of triumph

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Published on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 by BY DAN PATE | CONTRIBUTING WRITER

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Lake Stevens resident Dan Pate’s car after his terrible accident in 1991.

My name is Dan Pate. Many of you may have seen me cruising downtown Lake Stevens in my wheelchair. I wanted to share my story with my Lake Stevens family.

I was raised in the town of Snohomish and graduated in 1987.  My family has always been very supportive and loving. I worked as a cattle pusher and did odd jobs at Britton Brothers Auction. Throughout school I worked light duty at a machine shop in Everett. As time progressed I excelled and became an accomplished machinist.

At the age of twenty-one (1991) my cousin Jim made a visit to my home, he was excited about a car he had purchased from a used car lot.

The car was sold in “as is” condition. We drove toward Monroe to visit my oldest brother and enjoy a meal together. While driving on Highway 2, the cars’ front brakes locked at 54 mph causing the car to flip over six times.
My cousin Jim was launched through the windshield lying nearly lifeless in a field with a broken back and severe head trauma. I was found pinned and unconscious in the car with a broken neck. Thankful to the firefighters and EMTs on scene, both of our lives were spared.

Upon being airlifted to Harborview, (oblivious to what had happened) the hospital staff sprang into action and took over.
My family and friends crowded the hospital hallways while I underwent an eight-hour surgery.
When I woke I heard the surgeon speak these words, “Mr. Pate, you will never walk again.”
He told me I would be paralyzed from the chest down, leaving me without use of my hands. He said, “with hard work I could live a long healthy life.’’

I was horrified and angry at the same time. I asked myself, as many of us do, “How could this happen to me?’’
I lay unable to move in a whole different world. Close family surrounded my bedside in shock as well. After a moment with my family, the surgeon approached me and looked into my eyes. It was then I spoke, “when do we get started?’’ He said to me, “that attitude will take you a long way in life.’’

After four months of intense therapy and support from many people I was to be discharged and start my new life.
I sat terrified unknown to what the big world held for me beyond the hospital walls I came to know as home. I moved to Mill Creek with my mother, and started learning the life of a quadriplegic.

It has been intense beyond thought and comes with trial and error. I have caregivers to assist me with my daily needs and care. I’m blessed with great care, and very appreciative.

Now, almost twenty years have passed. In that time I have acquired a degree at Everett Community College. I worked a job at the college teaching voice activation to others with disabilities and helped them get acquainted to college life.
I was honored to become President of a club called Barrier Breakers.

 Our priority goal was to teach faculty, students, and staff about the seen and unseen disabilities people deal with on a daily basis.

In my last years at college, Barrier Breakers won club of the year out of thirty-five active clubs.
I currently continue to mentor others with their needs, disabled or not. I like to think I have much to offer, and enjoy helping others. I’m able to get around very well with a motorized wheelchair.

My wheelchair works as my legs, and I feel fortunate to have it. I do not have use of my hands, but I can give good hugs.
I’ve found in life, there are many hands out there willing to lend. A perfect stranger will reach for something if needed for me. I’ve learned so many great things about people from a disabled point of view.
People keep me going, I’m here for the long run/wheel.

My cousin made a full recovery, with the exception of a slight limp. He now resides in New Mexico with his wife of over ten years.

People always ask, “how do you do it?’’ The answer is always easy, “I could have been worse off, or I could have been killed.’’

I believe the good Lord gave me a second chance so I could view life through disabled eyes.

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