It’s been more than a decade since Cody Tracy’s accident, but the life-changing moment is ingrained in his memory like one of his photographs.
On Nov. 11, 2007, Cody was enjoying a carefree Sunday four-wheeling with his brother in Oklahoma. Cresting a 70-foot sand dune, his all-terrain vehicle suddenly plunged into a ravine. Cody went airborne and landed face down in the water. “I could only move my shoulders and didn’t realize what had happened,” Cody said. The distinct hum of his brother's engine grew closer and Cody remained surprisingly calm. As his brother gently turned him over, Cody was grateful to be breathing.
Cody remembers the helicopter ride to Via Christie Hospital in Wichita, Kansas, where surgeons fused his broken vertebrae and explained he was paralyzed. “It was a devastating blow,” Cody said, then a 22-year-old junior at Wichita State University.
“It took roughly two weeks for me to comprehend that my life was going to be different.”
At Madonna’s Lincoln Campus, Cody’s motivation to reclaim his independence revved into high gear. Using technical devices and personalized modifications, the young man regained the ability to feed himself, complete self-cares and master his cell phone and computer. “I used every piece of equipment,” said Cody, who also relearned to drive. “Madonna’s technology surpassed anything in the Kansas area.”
Relationships played a key role in Cody’s recovery. Encouragement came from Dr. Paul Krabbenhoft, physiatrist, and counselor Kipp Ransom, both spinal cord injury survivors leading full lives. “They were upbeat, 20-plus years post-injury and that inspired me,” Cody said. Bonding with his nurses and therapists provided healing, too, and Cody appreciated their knowledge and input. Camaraderie with other spinal cord patients inspired the young Kansan. “We celebrated our small goals and pulled each other through.”
Today, Cody is a successful business owner in his hometown of Roseville, Kansas. He specializes in commercial, fine art and portrait photography. “I love the freedom and flexibility with visually telling a story,” explained Cody, who lives on the family farm and also enjoys bow hunting.
His truck with adaptive controls, and a four-wheeler, allow freedom for off-grid adventures to places like Montana’s Glacier National Park. On the five-year anniversary of his accident, Cody returned to make peace with the sand dunes. The terrain matched his vivid memory. “It wasn’t all ceremonial; I still wanted to play!” Cody said. “It’s a therapy I can’t get anywhere else.”
Acceptance unfolded in various stages during Cody’s recovery. Staying healthy in body and spirit anchors him. “Madonna taught me a new foundation and opened my eyes.”
A bamboo plant sits on Cody’s desk, a gift from his therapist after completing therapy in 2008. It’s vibrant and thriving, just like Cody.