It took just 1.6 seconds for the accident to occur back in 2007, drastically changing Michael Murphy’s life, leaving the 2004 Potomac School graduate a paraplegic, without the use of his legs.
Murphy lost his balance and fell off a steep-pitched roof the night of April 22, 2007, while partying with friends during his junior year at Randolph-Macon College, where he was a baseball and football player. He landed hard some 20 to 25-feet below, severing and shattering his spinal cord.
When he couldn’t get up, Murphy already knew what doctors would later explain – the former standout Potomac School baseball and football player wouldn’t be able to walk again.
At that point, the life change that would include surgeries, months of rehabilitation and recovery already had begun in Murphy’s mind. Because he was an athlete and had a strong competitive edge, he took that as a challenge and “fueled” him to become the best and fastest at rehab.
Over the years, Murhpy has continued to remain upbeat about his life, despite having another surgery in March to fuse a lower portion of his spine.
“I realized and accepted right away what had happened to me, and I was glad to still be alive,” Murphy said. “I didn’t linger in denial and have many low points. That was a testament to how I was raised by my mom and dad and the amazing support group I had.”
The 35-year-old Murphy, who now lives in Denver with his wife, Casey, and 18-month-old son, Dylan – recently published a 262-page book titled, “When I Fell.” It’s the first of what will be a trilogy about his life and recovery.
Murphy said the two-fold purpose of his writings is to tell his story and to serve as inspiration and help for other spinal-cord injury patients.
Murphy said the foundation for the eventual book began soon after his accident when he starting writing regular journals.
“I knew I had a story to tell, and it was a therapeutic outlet for me,” he said.
The rough draft of the first book was completed sometime in 2009. Murphy said it then took years to condense the writings and determine the book’s proper direction, purpose and audience.
“The most fortunate misfortune opened up opportunities for me,” Murphy said. “I realized my purpose in life and I met my wife through physical therapy because of the accident. I am living an amazing life. So it can be done.”
There are some 18,000 new spinal-cord injuries each year in the U.S.
“Sadly, that could always make my books popular,” Murphy said. “I just hope it’s reaching and helping some people.”
Since that 2007 accident, Murphy returned to Randolph-Macon to finish his undergraduate degree in 2008, received a master’s degree in military history from George Mason University in 2012, has become a motivational and key-note speaker, has been a guest on podcasts, and remains an adaptive athlete as a sit-skier and wheel-chair marathon cyclist with top-five finishes in the Boston and New York races. Murphy has a goal of someday qualifying for the Paralympic Olympics as an adaptive-skier.
In coming weeks, he plans to promote his book by returning to Randolph-Macon on homecoming weekend Oct. 9 for a booksigning.
Murphy has been told by experts that those who have spinal-cord injuries are warned their positive moods can subside over time.
“They don’t know my son,” Murphy’s father Frank Murphy said.
Looking ahead, Michael Murphy said there is always hope that medical advancements in spinal-cord medicine could change his life again, causing him to have to update and change the focus of his books. But he doesn’t dwell on that.
Looking back, he says his life is pretty good considering the alternative. Murphy had planned to join the military after college. He had a premonition that he’d either be hurt badly or killed in action somewhere oversees if that life-plan had occurred.