Scott Brown - His Story - At his home in Grand Junction, Colorado, on April 14, 2009.
We are talking about the good old days when Rancho Alamitos was a young high school, and we were all young. On May 1, 1960 - at the end of my sophomore year - I had my accident. It was a beautiful sunny day, nice and warm. Ken Gaulden and I had gone to Huntington Beach to check out girls. Somehow we got into a tackle football game with a bunch of college kids. Eventually it got hot, and we went down to the water to cool off. I decided that I was going to do a running somersault in the air over the wave as it rolled onto the beach. I would flip and land in knee-deep water. I had just seen the Moriarty twins, Bill and Don Moriarty-Thompson '59, do this dive that they learned while they were in Hawaii. This time I straightened out into a dive and landed on the top of my head. That is where the damage was done to my spinal cord. I broke my neck between the 5th and 6th vertebrae.
After I was injured, my friends who were there got me out of the surf. They realized I was in trouble when I could not move or yell and was being tossed about by the waves. Then the lifeguards took over and eventually got me to an ambulance and to a hospital in Newport Beach. There they put me in the hallway outside the emergency room. The doctors would not touch me. They kept looking around the corner to see if I was still alive. They could not get a hold of my parents to get permission to give me treatment. One of the last things that I remember before I blacked out from shock was a little old lady from housekeeping, in her yellow outfit, came up with a vacuum cleaner to clean away the sand that was all over me.
The lifeguards had immobilized my head with sand to keep me from doing any more damage to my spinal cord. Later that night they shaved my head and put tongs in my skull to place me in traction. I woke up while they were shaving my head and asked if they had shaved off the bleached hair I had on the front. In those days I bleached the front part of my hair and I had enough awareness to ask that they not cut that off. So they shaved my entire head except for the white tuft right in front. The rest of my head was a bright red from the iodine they had painted my head with. You can imagine what my parents thought when they came in and saw this bright red scalp, tongs sticking out and me laying on a Stryker turning frame. When I left the house that morning I was a potential champion football player and now I am laid out totally helpless. So this was an incredible shock, especially to my mom.
I was at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian in Newport Beach. Many of you visited me while I was there. After a month, I was transferred up to Orthopaedic Hospital in Los Angeles, where we did a neck fusion so that I could keep my head up. Then a month later we did a surgery to re-route nerve function into my arms. I spent the next few months just doing rehab exercises. My goal was to be back in school by September 1960. That did not happen but I did make it to the Garden Grove football game. After that we made the game against El Rancho, which was the best high school game I had ever seen. I also made a couple of basket ball games. I was discharged from the hospital by Christmas time. I came home and began having classes with a home teacher, Mr. Robert Asay. He would come to my house after teaching at Rancho and spend two hours with me. He gave me my assignments and homework. I was not allowed to return to school because it was determined that I would be a disruption in the classroom. Looking back on it, that was probably best.
In the next year and a half, I completed three years of school so that I could graduate with my class. I did not get credit for my sophomore year because I had fewer than 150 days of school. So I had to repeat that year. I also had a scare just before graduation because they said that I did not have my required physical education classes. When I threatened a lawsuit, the State Superintendent of Education determined that my physical therapy would count as physical education.
The day after graduation, I got on an airplane and went to New York City to the famous Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine at New York University Medical Center in New York City. I spent the whole summer back there. Then I came home for the wedding of Terry Carter and Betty Cadwell. Mike Edgar was the best man for that. He replaced me because I could not get back for the rehearsals.
The next two years I was at Santa Ana Junior College. I do not remember anyone that I knew from Rancho going there, except Terry Carter. Terry drove me to and from college and was my attendant/companion during the summer of 1961. I did not graduate because I could not get to the science labs, which were upstairs. I was a Psychology major and later switched to Business, focusing on Accounting and Bookkeeping. They did not have computers in those days. I did it all on typewriters.
Over the years I attended college for four years, but never received a degree. I went to Santa Ana Junior College for two years and Orange Coast College for two years. I got a lot of units but did not graduate. I am very good at Jeopardy; I know a lot of trivia.
My brother-in-law had an insurance agency. After taking a few insurance courses, I began to sell insurance for him. That was OK but it was not appealing enough for me to go on to get a broker's license. If it had not been for my brother-in-law I probably would not have even done it.
I married one of my caregivers in 1966. Her name was Ellen. We lived in Costa Mesa and she was my caregiver throughout the marriage. Finally we just ran out of things to talk about. When you are together 24/7 for 22 years, you just sort of drift apart, and that is what happened to us.
My first meaningful job was keeping books for the people doing swap meets at the Orange County fairgrounds. Some of those people had to have a good set of records if they were applying for a loan or going into business. I would do a good job for them and they would then go to a CPA to get what I did certified. Some of the people were unhappy because I told them that they had to pay sales tax. Many of them did not have enough money left over to pay taxes and stay in business. This business brought in only a little money. For the most part, I was supported by a generous allowance from my father. He also paid all of my medical bills until he retired from the Aspen Colorado Ski Company in 1882.
In 1989, Ellen and I divorced and I moved to Grand Junction, Colorado. I had put out a notice to all of my family that I needed a different place to live. I had a sister in Grand Junction who knew about Hilltop Rehabilitation Hospital. Hilltop had some ground level apartments called Bacon Residential Center. I was able to get an apartment there.
In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) passed. Until this time, I had never been politically active. I just minded my own business and fought my own battles. Soon after the passage of ADA, I became active in disabilities awareness and was involved in the implementation of the ADA and its provisions. I started working with an organization named "READI" (Resources, Education, Advocacy, for Disabled Individuals). It was a group that originated in Grand Junction and was started by a man named Ron Halsey who was a quadriplegic. He had been active in disabilities awareness since the early 1970s. He needed a community organizer in Grand Junction. I was hired because I was outspoken and took a leadership role in disability causes. We held the first Americans with Disabilities Act conference here in Grand Junction before the rules and regulations were out. We wanted people to become familiar with it.
Up until that time, I had always fought my own battles and usually did not win. I finally realized that even though one person can make a difference, the politicians listen to groups. We started an organization called Mesa County Coalition on Disability, which was a loose group of individuals with disabilities. There were about 40 of us. We had members show up at City Council meetings and County Commissioner meetings. Whenever our coalition members had something to say, they would introduce themselves as members of the Mesa County Coalition on Disability. With this name recognition, we developed a political clout and began to make a difference. We worked with the city and the county on implementing the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Grand Junction had to put in over 1900 curb cuts. The county had to remodel several buildings to provide wheel-chair accessibility. They had to provide a special microphone in public meetings so that people in wheel chairs could speak. We also worked with the business community. We were not interested in lawsuits; we just wanted access. Our role was to provide technical support for organizations and businesses to indicate what needed to happen to come into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
At the same time, I took another job through Hilltop, which was Co-coordinator for the Northwest Local Resource Team for the Colorado State Assistive Technology Project. A year before the passage of the ADA, the Federal Government passed the Assistive Technology Act of 1989, realizing there was a lot of unused assistive technology. In 1992, Colorado's proposed program to educate people about available assistive devices to help them function as normally as possible was approved and funded. Some of these devices include computers, screen readers, voice-recognition programs, etc. My duties were to provide information and technical assistance regarding assistive technology to individuals with disabilities, employers, and local governments throughout the Northwest quarter of the state. This represented a half-time job so I took another position with Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition. This is a very active group over in Denver. I was community organizer for them. I traveled through northwest Colorado and Utah giving awareness presentations in all of the communities. I gave up my work with READI so that I would have time for these two positions.
After two years, the funding for the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition dried up. During the early Clinton administration, our group was very active collecting information about health-care needs of the disabled. We had hoped to be of some influence in the health-care agenda that Hilary Clinton was in charge of. After two years of this, it became obvious that nothing was going to happen. We brought a lot of people together, but politically our efforts were pretty much wasted. We felt a let down after this period.
In the early 1990s, I lobbied in Colorado for Personal Attendant Support Services. This is an optional program under Medicaid. Colorado, like most other states, did not want to add another expensive Medicaid program to its budget. The state of Colorado did want to improve the kind of long-term care its citizens could receive. In 2002, the state was granted permission to have a pilot program called Consumer Directed Attendant Support. This allowed the state to operate the program within its existing structure rather than start a new program under Medicaid. We did this for five years and enrolled over 500 people with disabilities who needed long-term care. Prior to this, in the State of Colorado, long-term care for people with disabilities was provided by family members, home health care agencies, or in nursing homes. The disabled person did not have any choice over their care scheduling or who provided his/her care. Plus part of the cost to the state was supporting the health-care companies. Now an intermediary service organization called ACCENT disperses payments to persons chosen by the disabled patient himself. The state looks at the needs and determines a budget. The patient then sets the hours of care and hires help within these constraints. This makes the patient responsible for his own health and for the success of his care system. If I am in the hospital too frequently or have health issues related to improper care, then the state steps in to better control the situation. This has saved the state money and placed more responsibility on the individual for proper care.
In 1995, I began to lose kidney function and had to have a cystoplasty. I retired following that. Two years ago, I wore out my right shoulder. One night I was turning myself and the shoulder popped out of place. The pain and the popping continued to get worse. I went to an orthopaedic surgeon who confirmed my shoulder was worn out. He suggested a cortisone injection. As a result of this, it got infected, and I lost all function in my right arm. It took four surgeries and three months of IV antibiotics to get rid of the infection. While I was in the hospital, the doctor asked me if I would organize a support group for spinal-cord injuries. I agreed to do this and to hold one meeting a month. I have been working with this for the past year and a half. It now has a membership of twelve people. We get together and talk about things that are relative to spinal-cord injury and/or anything else people talk about.
I am now left handed and not very good at it. I cannot feed myself, shave, or brush my own teeth like I used to. I type on the computer with one hand by holding a typing stick. I have a voice-recognition program to dictate. With the help of others, especially my regular attendants, I still get by and get things done: just not as independently as before.
Questions and Answers:
Barrie - What are some of the highlights that have made your life full and rich?
Scott - I was lucky. I was responsible for breaking my neck. I did not have anyone else to blame. Immediately after the accident, God and I had a few discussions. He told me, "You did it, live with it." It would have been different if a drunk driver had hit me. I may have had a different attitude. But I was an athlete. The disability was a challenge that motivated me through the rehab process. I was competitive, and I competed against myself. I kept pushing my physical limits. We set a goal of graduating with my class. All the effort and the studying was worth it when I was pushed out to receive my diploma and received a standing ovation from all my Classmates, Members of the faculty, and guests. I had fantastic support from family and friends. They did not treat me like I was disabled. I was included in everything. If I could do it, I did it. I did not want to miss any part of life.
Barrie - What trips have you enjoyed?
Scott - The trip to New York in 1961 was an interesting experience. Although I was living and receiving care in the Rusk Institute Center, I was disabled and on my own for the first time. Not to mention the shock of going from Garden Grove, California to New York City.
Ellen and I used to take trips over night to Balboa Park in San Diego. We would go down for a picnic and listen to the peacocks' squawk. We enjoyed the beauty of the park. We would stay in a motel. Sometimes we would go to Sea World. A couple of times a year we would go to Santa Barbara. We did a lot of traveling for about the first ten years.
I would go to Colorado to visit my dad and step-mom for a few weeks each summer from 1963-1969. In 1966, Terry Carter went with me and we had a blast!
Barrie - What groups were you a part of that made you feel you made an impact?
Scott - I did not get involved with groups out in California. If I had a complaint, I would go to the City Manager and tell him personally. But when I moved to Colorado in 1989, I got involved with groups. I think in many ways Grand Junction is better off because I did come here and worked with city, county and businesses to make things accessible for disabled persons without lawsuits and animosity. We were flexible in our demands. We looked for improvement that was acceptable to both parties.
I lobbied for a bus system. When I moved to Grand Junction the only public transportation was one wheelchair accessible van with a part-time driver operated by Mesa County for the elderly and disabled. Within two years, we had a system for elderly and disabled. This consisted of four vans and six employees that would take us anywhere in town during their hours of service. In 1998, when Grand Junction grew to over 100,000 people, we were able to get a fixed-route system.
Barrie - What were the toughest things that you have done?
Scott - Getting a bus system in Grand Junction.
Barrie - What have been the hardest challenges emotionally and mentally?
Scott - I can remember having many 'blue days'. It was hard being hospitalized. I was sixteen years old, away from my family. I was feeling pretty blue one day and one attendant came over seeing that I was feeling sorry of myself. He rolled me out of bed onto a gurney. He took me up to the fourth floor of the rehab facility where the pediatric patients were. He rolled me around and introduced me to some of the kids who had spent their whole lives in full body casts. All you could see was their eyes and their smiles. It was hard to feel sorry for myself. I had had sixteen years of football, baseball, swimming - you name it, I was very active. These kids had not had anything, but they could still smile. All of a sudden, my problems became very trivial. That instilled in me the feeling that self-pity is pretty much a waste of time. I have just taken one day at a time. I have racked up 49 years of one day at a time.
Barrie - We are preparing for our Reunion in 2012. As you think back on people whom you have known and people that you would like to hear from, can you give us names of those who have been particularly special?
Scott - There are some of us who go back to 1956 in Marie L. Hare Elementary and Lampson Intermediate schools. The big change was playing varsity football at Rancho my sophomore year. When you play varsity football you become a snob. I was a letterman, so I would just hang out with other letterman. That took me away from some of my other friends. Ken Gaulden and I started Marie L. Hare together. I remember Terry and Joe Carter, Danny Dymond, Mike Edgar, and Bob Bowyer (I notice he Bob has passed away). In eighth grade we were good friends with Donna and Diane Ward. Betty Cadwell, Karen Kessler, Ronnie Walters (who was in the 1964 Olympics), Mr. Sexton (our Spanish teacher and junior varsity basketball coach), Miss Coxson (English teacher - she was the only teacher who stood up for me after the accident and said that I did not have to repeat sophomore English), and Mr. Robert Asay (my personal teacher who home schooled me). The summer of my accident I remember Burnis Cannon used to come to Orthopedic Hospital to visit me frequently. She also came back to Garden Grove from New Mexico, where she had spent her senior year, to see our graduation.
I apologize for omitting the names of many classmates, teachers, and colleagues. None of what I've accomplished would have been possible without all the people that have been part of my life.
Barrie - Is there anything that you would like to tell the class? Any words of wisdom?
Scott - The best is not necessarily behind us. Every day is a gift and should be treasured as such. Live each day to its fullest. That is how I have made it through all these years. It has worked for me.
Charles Scott Brown graduated from Rancho Alamitos High School (RAHS) in Garden Grove, California, on June 15, 1962, along with nearly 500 other RAHS classmates.
Currently, Scott Brown lives at 612 17th Street, Grand Junction, Colorado 81501. His telephone number is 970-243-0251, and his e-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Throughout his story, Scott uses the term "Grand Junction," not only as a reference to the City of Grand Junction but also the urbanized area of Mesa County Colorado
The United States Congress enacted the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act (Public Law 101-336) on July 26, 1990. This statute provides comprehensive civil rights protections to individuals with disabilities in the areas of employment, public accommodations, state and local government services, and telecommunications. [see: http://www.ada.gov/]
Since 1995, the Hilltop Rehabilitation Hospital has been owned and operated by the St. Mary's Hospital and Regional Medical Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. [see: http://www.stmarygj.com/body.cfm?id=15]
The website of the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition (CCDC) is located at: http://www.ccdconline.org/
Barrie Smith prepared the transcript of this interview with Scott Brown.Note From Walt Regarding the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine:
Howard Rusk, M.D., was a visionary leader in the development of modern rehabilitation. Among other things, Dr. Rusk (1901-1989) was the founder of two highly regarded organizations for the care of individuals with disabilities: the Rusk Rehabilitation Center in Columbia, MO, and the Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York, NY.
Dr. Rusk is recognized as the "father of comprehensive rehabilitation," which means, those suffering disabilities that result from illness, injury, or congenital defect are given therapy and training designed to help them to live and work in the community to the best of their abilities. Dr. Rusk initially developed this field as a contribution to military medicine during World War II and later broadened it in application to the civilian population.
The Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine in New York City is the world’s first university-affiliated facility devoted entirely to rehabilitation medicine. It is the largest center of its kind for the treatment of adults and children with disabilities. It is the home to innovations and advances that have set the standard in rehabilitation care for every age of life and for every phase of recovery. For further information, see: http://rusk.med.nyu.edu/