There are a lot of different ways to describe 32-year-old Kraig Kettler. He is a happily married husband and a new father. He is a full-time accountant who ranches with his dad on the weekends. He is also an individual living with a spinal cord injury he sustained at 17. However, Kraig hasn’t let the injury define him. “I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to do the things I wanted to do,” recalled Kraig. “But I haven’t found anything to stop me yet.”
In fact, the 2006 four-wheeler accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down has only inspired the Paola, Kansas, native to live life to the fullest. Since then, Kraig has graduated from high school, gone scuba diving in the Cayman Islands and the Florida Keys, earned his bachelor’s degree, met and married his wife, Chelsie, and so much more.
Kraig credits much of his active lifestyle to his positive outlook and the treatment he received at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospitals. “Madonna shaped me and helped me to move on with my life,” said Kraig. “My therapist was awesome, and she pushed me pretty hard to get things done. That’s kind of what I needed. I’m the tell-me-I can’t-do-it-I’m-going-to-do-it [person].”
For example, while at Madonna’s Lincoln Campus, Kraig learned that a typical stay for his type of injury lasts roughly six to eight weeks. He quickly made up his mind to beat that record. “I set a goal for myself to be out in four to five weeks,” said Kraig. “It was my senior year of high school, and I wanted to get home. I was able to achieve that goal in about four weeks.”
Kraig’s strong determination and motivation have stayed with him long after his time at Madonna. A few summers after his accident, he decided to return to ranching with his dad. “I thought ‘I wonder if I could get on a tractor and drive,’” said Kraig. “So, we rigged up some hand controls for the clutch on the tractor, and away I went. Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
Kraig’s advice to others living with a spinal cord injury is simply this: “Figure out what motivates you,” said Kraig. “Then, do what you can and live life. There’s still plenty of life to live and so many opportunities out there.”