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Turning Tragedy Into Hope for Others With Spinal Cord Injury
Date:1/24/2013

By Barbara Bronson Gray
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Jan 24 (HealthDay News) -- It was the start of 1988, a beautiful morning on a New Year's vacation at the beach in Martinique when Alan Brown went in the water for a quick swim. The ocean seemed a little rough, but the deep blue of the sea appeared to stretch into infinity.

Before he knew it, Brown was face down, submerged in the water and unable to move. The combination of big waves and a strong undertow had flipped him onto the hard sand.

"I remember hearing a loud snap and I knew right away I was paralyzed," Brown said. "Afraid, I tried gulping water in an effort to die quickly. I think I came very close to dying -- I remember seeing that bright light. My friends thought I was kidding around. But they soon realized something serious had happened, and pulled me carefully out of the water."

Brown was stabilized in Martinique and flown to the United States where he had extensive spinal surgery on his 21st birthday.

Adjusting to his new life as a quadriplegic was difficult. "Every day was a fight," said Brown, now 45. He can move his arms but his hands don't work well, though he can drive a specialized car. He can undress himself but cannot get dressed without help.

Since the accident, Brown has always been able to work, first in his family's art supply business, then doing marketing for Slim-Fast. Later he started his own marketing company, became a sports agent, then worked for the Florida Marlins baseball team. He also started -- and sold -- a sports radio station.

Now he is director of public impact for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, in Short Hills, N.J., doing marketing, fundraising and advocacy for spinal cord research and services.

It's still not easy, Brown said. He is in the process of getting divorced. "I don't blame her. She got worn out, dealing with all the things I have to cope with: getting deh
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