Author: Steven Fujita
In June 2012, Steven Fujita went to the emergency room, and was diagnosed with meningitis. After four days of improvement, he was scheduled to be discharged when his condition worsened dramatically. His blood pressure, body temperature and sodium levels all became dangerously low. He started to lose consciousness. He was rushed to the Intensive Care Unit. He had suffered spinal cord damage at the T4 level. Upon regaining full consciousness, Fujita could not speak, eat, breathe independently, control bodily functions, nor move his legs.
“Once we understand what we have to go through, become resolved to see it through, and know we will survive, we feel our ordeal is not so bad,” Fujita writes. In this book, he takes the reader on a journey of recovery from a spinal cord injury. It is not only a journey of determination and hard work, but of positive attitude, of drawing inspiration, of gratitude towards those around him: his family, his friends, co-workers, and medical professionals.
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Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Toe Up to 10K is about my road to recovery from spinal cord injury. Chronologically, it covers the time from when I was diagnosed with meningitis, and became a paraplegic, to when I was walking without a cane and working to run again. As far as the subjects I discuss, I write about the physical and issues I dealt with, where, what and who I drew inspiration from, my exercise regimen and the strategies I employed to adapt to the issues caused by the spinal cord injury.
Did something specific happen to prompt you to write this book?
In June 2012, I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with viral meningitis. Four days later, I lapsed into semi-consciousness, and when I regained full consciousness, I was paralyzed from the chest down. Although doctors thought I might walk again, it wasn’t guaranteed, and if so, only to the point of “well enough.” It was implied that I would spend about a year in a wheelchair. However, within six months, I was walking around with the aid of only a quad cane, and within 15 months, was walking without a cane.
So, the triggers for writing this book were the meningitis, the damage to the spinal cord, the resulting paralysis, and recovering from that paralysis much better than anybody expected.
Who or what is the inspiration behind this book?
There were two main inspirations. One, when I was in the hospital, I really wanted to know what would happen next – the chronology of recovery. Now, I know every individual recovers differently, both in areas that recover, and the amount of recovery. However, I wanted to share my experiences and be a point of reference for those who experience spinal cord injury. Although everybody’s experience is different, there are some common ground.
The second inspiration is the recovery itself. I don’t think I was expected to recover my ability to walk as well as I have, nor as quickly as I did. I wanted to share not only what I did physically, but also wanted to share the importance of attitude and drawing inspiration from outside sources, whether it is from creative works, such as songs, or from people, such as friends, family and healthcare workers.
What are you currently working on?
Outside of writing, I’m currently working on running. I currently walk at the same speed as pre-injury. When I finished the book, I still had trouble sprinting. Currently, I can sprint – I just need to work on speed and endurance.
As far as writing, I’m returning to my “roots,” so to say: supernatural fantasy. I use the word, “fantasy” because I like to write about monsters that don’t exist in real life such as stereotypical vampires and zombies. Specifically, I am working on the sequel to my vampire novella, Sword of the Undead.
Do you have any advice for writers or readers?
My one bit of advice to writers is to be yourself. Not only does the sincerity come out, but you, as an individual comes out. You will also notice that words flow easier, making the process more enjoyable (or less painstaking).
What do you feel sets this book apart from others in the same genre?
Other books on spinal cord injury are compelling and inspiring stories about people who’ve overcome obstacles. I believe mine is the same. However, Toe Up to 10K is different because it can also serve as a point of reference as to what issues what one can expect when the spinal cord is damaged. And regarding this, I cover some issues that are glossed over in other books, such as bowel and bladder issues. Toe Up to 10K can also be a handbook as far as finding examples of dealing with some of the issues caused by spinal cord injury: the exercises, the act of drawing inspiration from others, the importance of support from others, etc.
I didn’t include as much person to person interaction as I could have, and in that respect, I think this book has a little more of an objective feel to it than other books. I actually think it would make a good reference book for fiction writers who want to have a character whose spinal cord has been injured – and still enjoy the compelling and inspirational tone of the book.
What is the most important lesson you have learned from life so far?
Life is a priceless gift, and one of the best ways to make use of this gift is to practice gratitude.
Steven Fujita was born in Los Angeles and raised in Torrance, California. He attended college in Washington, D.C., and currently lives in Long Beach, California.
Listen to Steven Fujita’s interview on the Book Club with John Austin, which aired November 2, 2010, about his novella, Sword of the Undead, a re-telling of Bram Stoker’s vampire novel, Dracula.
His other book, $10 a Day Towards $1,000,000, is available on Kindle. This book promotes the idea of using time and savings to build wealth.
His new book, Toe Up to 10K, was released in September 2014. This book chronicles his recovery from spinal cord injury he sustained in 2012.
Visit his website at: www.stevenfujitaauthor.com