- Associated Press - Sunday, March 19, 2017

INMAN, S.C. (AP) - Driving is like a video game for Josh Steadings.

Steadings, a history teacher at Mabry Middle School, was paralyzed from the chest down after a February 2015 car crash left two of his vertebrae broken.

Now, after overcoming a bit of trepidation, Steadings again has a driver’s license, and his family is working to raise money for a specialized car that would allow him to drive with his arms. The modified Ford Explorer would allow Steadings to steer with his right hand and accelerate and break with his left hand.

“Not being able to walk was a blessing in this instance. Because I can’t feel my legs, I don’t have the inclination to want to use them (while driving),” he said. “For me, it’s like playing a video game. I just look out the window and steer and do my thing. It wasn’t hard getting used to.”

The car comes with movable front seats, allowing Steadings to ride his motorized wheelchair up a ramp into the vehicle, where he can be in either the driver or passenger spot.

Steadings’ two children, Camryn and Ainsley, were in his truck when it was struck by a driver who ran a stop sign. They suffered only minor injuries in the crash, which caused the truck to flip multiple times.

It changed how Steadings behaves on the road.

“Not to sound too overconfident in myself, but I worry more about what other people are doing. I’ll watch other drivers now, even as a passenger, so much more than I ever did before,” he said. “I never go through an intersection without watching like a hawk.”

August marked the start of Steadings’ second school year back in the classroom after the crash. He said being in the wheelchair only had a slight effect on his ability to teach.

“Outside of the chair, everything is about par for the course,” he said. “I can’t go up and down the aisles like I used to and jump around, but I can still yell at them.”

The crash also complicated Steadings’ family life.

His wife, Autumn, left her job at Spartanburg Medical Center to become the school nurse at Shoally Creek Elementary School.

The career change put Autumn Steadings on the same schedule as her husband and children. She gets herself, Josh and the kids up and ready each morning, and then she drops off Josh at Mabry Middle before taking Camryn to daycare and stopping at Shoally Creek, where Ainsley goes to school.

“She’s Wonder Woman,” Josh Steadings said. “Autumn’s my hero.”

The ability to drive himself to work each day would be a huge weight lifted off Autumn’s shoulders.

“It gives me a sense of independence, that I’m getting part of my life back. It also takes a huge burden off my wife. She has to drive me to and from work, so we have to get up at around 4:30 every morning,” Josh Steadings said. “I could drive myself and my son to school, and then she would just be responsible for taking my daughter. In essence, she could leave the house an hour later each day.”

The family started a GoFundMe page that has raised nearly $5,500 of the $25,000 needed to pay for the modified car.

Autumn Steadings said the cars aren’t cheap, so any donation, or even simply prayers for the family, are welcome.

“Josh has come so far, and we are extremely proud of him and for his achievements,” she said. “We have been working towards Josh getting to drive for almost a year.”

Josh Steadings said the crash made him a stronger believer in his faith and the goodness of others.

Even if the fundraiser falls short of its goal, Steadings said the gratefulness he feels is hard to put in words.

“To the folks that have given, thank you so much,” he said. “It has definitely shown me how kind we are to each other and how people are willing to help out.”


Information from: Herald-Journal, https://www.goupstate.com/

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