#ChaffStrong: Man paralyzed in accident shares story

Left to right: Adam Chaffee, Matt Chaffee


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A West Michigan man paralyzed in a swimming accident in July is now starting the long process of rehab at a Grand Rapids hospital.

Now, in his first on-camera interview since the accident, Adam Chaffee is sharing his story with 24 Hour News 8.

Pictures before the accident tell the story of an active and healthy 23-year-old. If you ask Adam, he was a gym rat.

But late last month, that swimming accident near Three Rivers changed everything.

“It was actually really scary because I fell in the water, and I kind of realized that I couldn’t move any of my limbs,” Adam told 24 Hour News 8.

Adam was rushed to the hospital and into surgery, but the prognosis wasn’t good.

He’d broken his spine — and is now paralyzed from the chest down.

The month since the accident has been full of hard work in various hospital beds. Adam is now off a breathing ventilator and a feeding tube.

Friday was his first day of rehab at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital in Grand Rapids.

“What they really want is for me to have basically the use, full use, of my hands and arms,” Adam said.

And it could happen, thanks in part to a rare stem cell procedure performed on Adam in Chicago last week.

“That would be huge, that would change everything,” Adam said.

What may be most unbelievable about Adam’s story, is that his brother, Matt, has already lived it.

Matt was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident last fall. And now, as Adam starts his rehab, the brothers find themselves in a familiar place.

The roles are now reversed — but the bond between the two is stronger than ever.

“He always has a positive attitude, and he’s strong as an ox,” Matt said of Adam.

They’re more than brothers — they’re best friends. And the support for pair has been overwhelming.

A GoFundMe page has raised more than $78,000 in just one month.

Adam was moved to tears when talking about it.

“Just thank you, so much,” was Adam’s message to everyone who has supported him.

For now, Adam’s bracelet that reads “hope” and a t-shirt with the motto #Chaffstrong might best describe what the future holds.

The brothers aren’t feeling sorry for themselves. They’re staying positive.

“Sure it’s been tough but — but you know, you can’t give up,” Adam said.

The brothers’ ultimate goal is to be able to live together — just the two of them — without any other assistance.

This story is starting to get national attention. On Tuesday, the family is doing an interview with “Inside Edition.”

If you’d like to help the family, here is a link to their GoFundMe page.

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