Archive for Wednesday, October 24, 2001

Maurer’s pace is still going strong

October 24, 2001

Carrying a bucket of paint in his lap, Tony Maurer pushes his wheelchair through the grass and up an incline so he can paint the eaves of his parents' earth-contact home. His wheels leave tracks in the dew-covered grass.

Maurer, the son of Leroy and Sue Maurer, Tonganoxie, has a busy day planned paint the house and then drive back to Pittsburg to start another week at school. Like most college students, he is continually on the go.

When he's not in class or studying, he's likely to be found shooting clay pigeons, hunting for deer, riding his four-wheeler, spending time with Kristen Riley, his fiancee, or driving his pickup truck.

But the difference between Maurer and his classmates is that he was injured April 1 while riding a four-wheeler in Pittsburg. The accident broke his back.

Even though he is paralyzed from the waist down, Maurer, 20, is determined to live a normal life.

At Pittsburg State University, where he's majoring in automotive technology, Maurer insists on using a manual, not a motorized, wheelchair on campus.

And to get to campus, Maurer drives himself in a full-sized pickup truck with hand controls, a truck his doctors told him he'd never be able to use.

"They said I wouldn't be able to get in it and get my chair in it," Maurer said.

His grandmother, who was serving biscuits and gravy to the family for breakfast, agreed.

"They said he couldn't do it and that's why he did it," she said.

In fact, Maurer is so determined to stay active, that he sometimes forgets he can't walk.

"A lot of the time it's like I'm not in a wheelchair," he said. "And my buddies forget I'm in a wheelchair. I'll be sitting in my truck with my chair in the back and my buddies will just get up and leave I'll say wait up for me."

Normally, when Maurer drives, he pulls himself into the truck with his arms, then picks up his wheelchair, removes the wheels and arm rests and puts it in the seat beside him.

The accident changed the way he drives his four-wheeler. It's not about speed anymore, he said.

"It's about getting around. It can take me where a wheelchair can't and it's a lot quicker."

The accident changed the way other people see him.

"When I was six-foot-five, I never had any trouble getting salespeople to wait on me," Maurer said. "Now that I'm four feet tall, they don't help me so fast."

And, he said, the accident has changed the way he looks at life.

"I give everybody hell down there at school," Maurer said. "Stuff will happen and people will get real upset and depressed over it and anymore nothing bothers me. I've had about the worst that can happen happen to me. One of my buddies was moaning about his truck being broken down and I said at least you didn't break your back. It made him shut up really quick. Things are never as bad as you think they are."

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