- Associated Press - Saturday, May 2, 2015

MISHAWAKA, Ind. (AP) - When Greg Chambers’ neck was broken after a car accident in 1982, rendering him irrevocably paralyzed from the chest down, doctors said he would likely live only another dozen years.

And during the rehab that followed in Chicago, a counselor warned him, “Don’t expect people to hang around.”

But as he was preparing to turn 50 recently, Chambers noted on both counts: “I’m the exception to the rule.”

His mother, Susan, and his girlfriend, Connie Wolfe, credit Greg’s normally sunny disposition and his sense of humor for both helping him cope and inspiring loyalty.

“I live a pretty normal lifestyle, except for I just can’t scratch my own nose,” Chambers says with a droll smile.

Accommodations that might not be normal for the rest of us allow Chambers to live his life outdoors, which was always his preference, and outside his Bastogne Street home, among people. He breathes into a sort of plastic straw, called “sip and puff” technology, to operate his wheelchair, the television, the lights.

His mother notes that Chambers was always funny, and he retained his sense of humor after the accident.

The accident, he notes, was in the days when “cruising” was popular and in the days before mandatory seat belt laws. The Mishawaka High School junior had just left work and had set out with his friends on U.S. 20 when the speeding car didn’t make the turn, flipping and throwing all six out of the car.

Chambers was in the front passenger seat, “the death seat,” and was the only one seriously hurt.

But he was determined to live his life, returning to high school in a wheelchair and earning his diploma at the age of 20 from Clay High School. He attended Ball State University in Muncie before health issues ended his dream of working in forestry and environmental protection.

Still, vocational rehabilitation programs helped him earn a business computer operations certificate, and he worked with his sister and brother-in-law’s business in Florida for 12 years. While he was there, he fell in love with and married one of his nurses, and it was their divorce that prompted his return to Indiana in 2003.

He and Wolfe met when a friend invited her to his birthday party in 2010. The friend left her umbrella, and when Wolfe set out to retrieve it, she was warned: “Be careful - he’s gonna want you to give him a kiss!”

He did. And she did.

She’s become his girlfriend, caretaker, chauffeur. Wolfe says she appreciates “his karma, his personality. He’s an awesome person.”

“There’s no room for pessimism,” Chambers acknowledges. “It’s just a downer.”

Not that it’s easy. Chambers has suffered from congestive pneumonia and urinary tract infections a few times, for example, that have become so severe he has been hospitalized and on a ventilator, and he has nearly died more than once.

He has learned, over three decades, to seek out resources that might not be obvious. Just two years ago, for instance, REAL Services helped renovate the bathroom to include a special chair to allow him to shower - a luxury many of us take for granted.

Turning 50 is no small feat. Chambers has a sort of bucket list - including travel, if they can save enough money. (Wolfe mentions a double sky-dive, and Chambers says to his audience, “I’d give it a whirl. I’m not thrilled about heights, but it’s not the fall that kills you, it’s the sudden stop at the end.”)

“It’s funny,” Chambers says. “When I was still a teenager, I thought, ‘Well, if I make it to 50, I’ll have a full life.’

“When I got to 40,” he grins, “I thought, ‘50, well I’d better bump that up another 10 years.’”

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Source: South Bend Tribune, https://bit.ly/1GtsTXB

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Information from: South Bend Tribune, https://www.southbendtribune.com

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