Cody Everson is a 23 year old wheelchair user, and eight years into his new life, feels he has got his life together. A high school rugby accident in 2011 dramatically changed his life and left him as a tetraplegic, having dislocated his C5/6 vertebrae.
"A guy who was a lot bigger than me landed on top of me" he explains, "I fell wrong and from that moment I couldn’t feel my legs. Since then I haven’t walked."
Then began his long road to recovery, “The early days were tough, I couldn’t do anything for myself. Being in the spinal unit was where I took control of my independence, I met people who gave me advice about how to do things.”
Since leaving hospital Cody has rebuilt his life, he bought a house, found a partner and has two 'kids'… in the form of dogs. He also reclaimed his independence by upgrading from a van with a driver, to what he counts as his biggest achievement in his recovery; getting his own car and learning how to drive again.
Cody met his partner Jess two years ago through a mutual friend and after much persistence he took her out on a date, “I knew she was the one,” Jess admires how far Cody has come and loves the confidence he exudes.
Sport plays a big role in Cody’s life as he had to find something to fill the gap rugby left. Now he has been playing wheelchair rugby for six years and has made it into the top team, the Wheel Blacks. The team is made up of wheelchair-users with different levels of ability ranked on a point system, Cody classes as a ‘one-pointer,’ because he does not have much function in his arms or hands.
Wheelchair rugby has motivated Cody to train hard and be the best he can, “When I got into the Wheel Blacks I realised how far I could go,” now he goes to the gym with a personal trainer to improve his strength with an aim to be at the top of his form. He's had the opportunity to captain the team through a tournament and has travelled overseas for competitions, the tactical coach Greg Mitchell says he is highly ranked, “for his point class he’s one of the top players in the world.”
Cody has also recently taken on a new job with Health Vision, talking to other wheelchair-users about independence in life with a wheelchair, “This is my first job, it’s quite cool to have a job and an office to feel like I’m doing something.”
A visit from an old friend, Sholto from his hospital days ignites Cody’s gratitude, “I don’t think I would have found wheelchair rugby or met all these people without him.”
Sholto also sees how far his friend has come; “He’s gone from being this young kid to this mature young man who has had a go at captaincy, he’s found a young lady, he owns his house,” he has come a long way.
Upon reflection Cody is proud of where he is but wants to keep moving forward, “six years ago I didn’t see myself where I am right now, I’d love to go travelling and spend some time in Europe. I can almost 100 percent say I wouldn’t be where I am now if I was walking.”