Life and Attitude

Imagine lying crumpled on the side of the road following an accident, your back broken like a matchstick and thinking, “This isn’t a catastrophe. Life-changing, yes, but not catastrophic.”

Those were the exact words swirling through Adam Lane’s mind on July 14, 2007, when his motorcycle careened off the road while maneuvering a sharp curve. The athletic paramedic vividly recalls lying face down at the scene, unable to breathe and frantically pleading with friends to remove his helmet. 

Lane waited patiently for the ambulance and fellow Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) to arrive and administer the same aid he offered countless trauma victims during a three-year career with Johnson County Med-Act as a paramedic and coordinator of their bicycle team. When he tried unsuccessfully to move his legs, he feared a bleak prognosis. Further complications from a collapsed lung, six broken ribs, a fractured scapula and no response from his belly button down added to his grim realization that he faced a monumental task of rebuilding his life–especially when doctors said it would be as a paraplegic.

From the first day of living his “new normal,” Lane says an unexpected positive chain of events was quickly set in motion. 

“I had a definite spiritual experience immediately following the crash,” recalls Lane, now 36 years old. “There was an overwhelming feeling I was going to be okay, regardless of my physical condition.”

Lane made the decision early on in his five-week hospital stay to adopt an attitude of gratitude rather than self-pity and embrace his readjusted life. He spent three months of quality time with his father during excruciating physical therapy, continued to work on his recovery from alcohol addiction (he recently celebrated 11 years of sobriety) and strengthened relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

“Obviously life would be better injury-free,” reflects Lane. “Yet I’ve honestly seen things improve because of the accident. I have a love for life I previously didn’t and appreciate things much more.”

One of the most difficult things for Lane to accept was not being able to work as an active paramedic. Today he is a lab instructor for aspiring EMTs at Johnson County Community College and speaks for the Think First Foundation and the Young Traffic Offenders Program. 

Lane’s early journey in life was met with challenges that unknowingly prepared him for the defining moment of the accident. His mother died when he was 3, leaving Lane’s father to raise young Adam and his older sister. Lane says seeing his father perform a stereotypical female role reinforced a never-give-up sensibility in him. That philosophy has served Lane well, especially in his pursuit of competing in the Shawnee Mission Triathlon on July 12.

“I went back into the gym on the first anniversary of the accident and climbed Lifetime Fitness’ rock wall,” remarks Lane, who was inducted in April into KU Medical Center’s “Wall of Fame” for his courage and determined spirit.

“Adam does something to commemorate the accident every year,” says Frances Fields, a triathlon athlete and one of Lane’s many cheerleaders. “It reminds him the event was life-altering but that productive and positive personal growth can continue.”

Lane swims, lifts weights and does Pilates weekly. He’s also trained for several months on a hand bike purchased with the help of fundraising efforts spearheaded by three friends, including Fields. That piece of equipment and a specialized racing wheelchair are necessary for Lane’s triathlon participation. 

As Lane moves gracefully through his life–not on the two legs he was born with, but in a wheelchair, he adopts a personal mantra, a famous quote from Winston Churchill that is in many ways a symbol of his remarkable fortitude: “Never, never, never, never give up.”

For more information on donating to Adam Lane’s triathlon efforts, 

E-mail Frances Fields at ffields01@yahoo.com.

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