Injured student still seeks to inspire and instruct

Mason Liagre, News Editor

Cosmo Trikes has always been an adventurous, upbeat individual. In his third semester at Michigan Tech, this was tested when a skiing accident on Mont Ripley left him paraplegic. He now uses a wheelchair.

“It starts at the top of the ski hill,” says Trikes. “I was good at skiing in the way a generally athletic person picks up on any new activity. I always liked speed, the adrenaline rush it gave, actually. Going down the hill, fast, I decided at the last moment that I should do a jump.”

This wasn’t out of character for Trikes, a self-described risk taker. He says, “My mindset before and still after my accident is to take a risk because the worst that can happen is dying and death doesn’t really scare me… Even today I don’t hesitate to take a risk; I enjoy a good challenge.”

Continuing his story, Trikes says “I angled myself to move over and then launch. I hadn’t done a jump before this, so I had no control over the situation and I went from thinking ‘oh shit’ to waking up in the hospital trying to relay my social security number — which I definitely got wrong, but I was conscious enough to admit I wasn’t giving them the right one, then promptly told them not to steal my identity because I have good credit.” Trikes has kept his sense of humor following the accident.

“After staying in the hospital for a long showerless week, I found myself in an ambulance on my way to Shirley Ryan Ability Lab. I swear on my life that for the month and a week I was there, I did not have a bad day, in fact, some of the greatest things to ever happen to me, happened when I was there in rehab. I remember one specific moment that I got mad, but that only lasted for a short while. Every single day, I woke up eager to do more. If they were keeping records, I would have broken all of them and made some. I was actually pushing the therapist more than they pushed me, and at some points, scaring them with the things I would do. Essentially, you’ve got a man who doesn’t stop.”

Cosmo Trikes returned to school and is now on a co-op with Kimberly-Clark. “Aside from the work, I’ve been doing a lot of networking and volunteering to help as much as I can within and outside the company. Outside of all that, I take actions to improve myself as much as I can, listening to audio books whenever I can, reading every morning and night, keeping healthy with my diet (controversial fact: I don’t like vegetables), going to the gym and stretching. I also have been learning from a friend about massage therapy, it’s a very intricate and interesting field. Once my co-op is over, I will be doing a study abroad in Australia.”

Trikes agreed that much can be learned from his story. “I learned about myself in a way not many people are given the opportunity to. Being put in such a situation where you’re in the hospital on the phone with your mom telling her you can’t feel or move your legs, reveals character as much as it builds character. People can only do so much to prepare themselves on how to react during trying times. What I had been beginning to master had shown that day and the days after. I hate calling myself a leader, but upon reflection I would at least say that I have some qualities of a leader. While I was in the hospital, I made sure to keep calm. I never was freaking out or crying, I was just being witty and charming as usual. When I told my mom the news, I also told her don’t worry about it and she doesn’t have to come up. She still flew up and stayed with me for a while. Being able to have a positive attitude, as many say, and not to instill worry or pity in those around you is a quality of a leader. In this case it was by example, I knew that the way I react will be how others react. I made sure to stay calm, not let anyone see that I was phased at all and of course, banter with all my nurses. If anyone learns anything from me, I would hope they learn when your energy comes from the inside out, nothing — not even becoming paralyzed — can get from the outside in. Of course, that is something of a hard quality to attain.”

Cosmo has attained a degree of Internet celebrity. His Instagram, cosmocantdie, brands him as America’s Most Ambitious Man. He also runs a YouTube channel called Wheelchair DNA. It contains a collection of instructional videos geared towards other wheelchair users as well as anyone interested in learning more on the subject.