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Bradley told SI that last January, just before exiting a roundabout near his home in St. George, Utah, he was struck by a Dodge minivan, whose driver was “hustling to pick up her child from school,” in the words of the story’s writer Brian Burnsed. Writes Burnsed of the crash: “Bradley tumbled over the trunk and the driver’s side of the Saturn, and he landed headfirst on the asphalt, his helmet cracking under his 300-odd pounds. Police say the driver continued on but returned to the scene later. Never charged with a crime, she says she gave Bradley enough room when passing him.) Confused but conscious after the spill, splayed on the ground and gazing up at a crystalline sky, Bradley says he went through a mental checklist. He couldn’t move his arms or his legs. He couldn’t sit up. He had no control over his breathing, which soon grew labored. Only his eyes heeded his commands. Am I going to suffocate? he asked himself. Am I going to die slowly?”
Bradley now uses a wheelchair that weighs 500 pounds, took three months to engineer and “costs more than most cars,” he said. Along with his wife, Carrie, and her three children, his family relies on a new $120,000 cargo van, which has a lift to allow him to enter the vehicle. At home, he has a custom-made shower chair and needs assistance from a caregiver to exit his bed and ready for the day. “People that I’m very close with, the first time they see me, it’s emotional,” Bradley said. “It’s extremely draining.”
Now, though, his height is his primary hindrance. Already facing the most trying of circumstances, Bradley will see every task made doubly demanding by his stature. His accident presents a challenge without precedent in modern medical history, and the totality of it all will tax his mental health, as well as that of the people who love him, particularly the relentlessly positive wife onto whose shoulders have fallen extraordinary responsibility. Before Finley left, Bradley savored a goodbye hug. “It’s hard for me to let them see me like this,” he said afterward, choking back tears. “It’s the challenge of remembering what once was . . . and knowing it’ll never be the same.”