Growing up, Jeremy McGhee was one of those people who was unafraid about living life to the fullest and being that positive, sociable guy who traveled the world with a smile on his face. Then in the fall of 2001, while riding his motorcycle, McGhee collided with a car that zipped in front of him, leaving him motionless on the road. “I did think I was going to die — I felt like I was about to die,” confides McGhee. “I was very lucky not to.”
Part of McGhee’s luck came in the form of two paramedics that happened to be having lunch across the street from where the accident took place. Within seconds, McGhee was being attended to as he did his best to fight off death and come to grips with the fact that his life was going to be different.
Photo courtesy of Nick Souza
“After that, I did have my moments. Honestly, they weren’t very long, but they were there — where I was screaming out to God ‘Why did this happen?’ and I wanted to die,” recalls McGhee. “(When) you’re alone in a dark hospital room for a couple of months at night, you have those moments. They were pretty intense and frequent, but over time they became less intense and less frequent.
“I believe there are no coincidences and everything happens for a reason, no matter how minor it is,” he continues. “I believe that before birth, I chose this. Does life continue after an injury like this? Well of course, because I live a pretty damn incredible life.”
As much as life was changing for McGhee, he did his best to try to keep it the same — if not cooler. While he is now paralyzed and in need of a wheelchair, McGhee chooses to keep on living his adrenaline-fueled lifestyle, skiing and participating in extreme sports. Feeling as if his accident provided him with a fresh perspective of the world around him, McGhee decided to not let his wheels hinder him. “I just so happen to be paralyzed — for me, the wheelchair is not there,” he notes.
Perhaps McGhee is too busy to notice. Today he’s a ski instructor/clinician at Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra near Mammoth, California, a team manager at On Point Productions and a sales associate at Footloose Sports — all positions he has held for the better part of the last five years. Additionally, McGhee does regular motivational speaking engagements, and is currently working with Hands On Concepts (HOC), a group that helps people with disabilities participate in extreme sports. One of their most recent projects was a revolutionized sit-ski device with better suspension to allow for a more comfortable ride — custom made sit-ski skis are also being developed.
“Right now, if you’re in a wheelchair, you’re pretty much left behind if your friends are going on a back country ski trip,” explains McGhee. “I’ve been working with engineers, designers, machinists, and professional athletes, designing and building equipment and making it affordable to get people out to the extreme outdoors. This is something that I feel is different and a need that isn’t being addressed yet.”
When speaking with McGhee, one thing is clear — he doesn’t see his wheelchair as his life’s destination. McGhee firmly believes that everything is within the person, including the ability to make life accessible to you regardless of the situation.
“I don’t need my wheelchair to get somewhere,” he adds. “I can get out of my wheelchair and get anywhere I want under my own power, some way, somehow. If I want to get somewhere, I’m going to get there.” jp