Brown said people misunderstand many things about spinal cord injury. "It's not a disease, but something that happens to you," he explained. "No injury is the same. The majority of us want to work, but people stereotype us, they look at people in chairs and they figure we can't do things."
About 200,000 people are living with spinal cord injury in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brown noted that his is the first generation that is living long enough to actually age. But the longer lifespan brings a wide range of challenges. He has had six surgeries over the last 15 years and lives in pain every day. And life as a quadriplegic is expensive. Beyond medical expenses is the cost of special equipment, physical therapy and extra support at home. Financial issues often plague people with spinal cord injuries, he said.
But despite all that, Brown is an optimist. "I believe in living life to the fullest and have always been one to live by example," he said. He regularly swims 45 minutes -- a mile and a half -- in the Olympic pool at his apartment, switching between reverse butterfly, backstroke and free-style, using a snorkel. "Keeping your body in shape is key to living an active life as a quad," Brown said.
His goal for the foundation, he said, is to bring people together to fund important research and help people get the resources they need to lead good lives. He has committed to raising $250,000 -- $10,000 for every year he has been paralyzed -- through a campaign he calls "The Power of We."
Susan Howley, executive vice president for research at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, is optimistic about the future for people with spinal cord injury. "Whereas 35 years ago this field [spinal cord injury] was
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