Going to college helped me accept the injury I sustained. It was an environment not only helpful to my mental health, but it also gave me direction and goals to work towards achieving a degree.
Seriously injured due to a crash that nearly tore his arm off, Greg Reynolds, ’10, ’16, had a one in 2,000 chance of surviving. But Reynolds beat those odds.
Reynolds suffered a traumatic brain injury and ultimately had to have his left arm and shoulder amputated after he was hit by a car while riding his motorcycle in 2008. He was in a coma for six weeks and had to relearn to walk and talk. Mentally, he was self-conscious about his disability and hid his amputation beneath sweatshirts.
His Bridgewater State education played a key role in the recovery.
“Going to college helped me accept the injury I sustained,” said Reynolds, whose doctors and mother suggested he attend college. “It was an environment not only helpful to my mental health, but it also gave me direction and goals to work towards achieving a degree.”
The transformation began in the Tinsley Center gym. It had the equipment Reynolds needed to continue strengthening his body, but he couldn’t hide behind a sweatshirt. Instead, he learned to embrace who he was and even jokingly shook hands using a fake skeleton arm in place of his missing limb. The confidence extended to the classroom, where he always sat in the front.
“For the longest time, I would struggle to accept help,” said Reynolds, an Army veteran who saw combat in Iraq. “I had the military mindset that I can do it all.”
At Bridgewater, he found a caring community of professors and students and discovered the value in reaching out for that help. Reynolds became a regular at the Academic Achievement Center where he found tutoring and writing support.
Reynolds earned a degree in criminal justice in 2010 and shared his story with fellow graduates at commencement. The experience led him to consider becoming a motivational speaker, and he returned to Bridgewater to earn a communication studies degree.
Professors such as Dr. Jason Edwards taught him about proper discourse and dialogue.
“That degree taught me to listen first and speak last, but also how to formulate your thoughts and how to become a better communicator,” he said. “The biggest thing was just cognitively getting back what I lost with the brain injury.”
Now Reynolds, who set the record for one-arm push-ups in one minute while carrying a 40-pound pack, plays softball for the USA Patriots team of amputee veterans and mentors youth through athletics. He speaks to groups across the country through his business, Makin’ Lemonade, and hopes his story will one day be the subject of a movie.
“No matter how hard life knocks you down, we all have the ability to get back up and push through and be the captain of our own ship,” he said. “You can be the victim or the victor. It’s all about the mindset.”
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