Brian Swift just published his first book, titled Up: Getting Up is the Key to Life.
But he still has a lot of work to do.
“Every book has a certain audience,” Swift said. “Mine is more inspirational and motivational, but the tone is from someone who suffered a traumatic injury and is determined to keep moving forward in life. Now it’s just getting the word out and giving people an opportunity to find it.”
Hard work is nothing new for the 51-year-old father of three. Swift suffered an accident while playing football at age 17, and became a quadriplegic. He went on to finish high school, college and law school, and spent much of the last 20 years coaching football, including with the Mokena Burros.
Swift took the past year off coaching to write the book. During that time he was a finalist in the Best Dad on Wheels contest by the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.
“My goal was to help others in similar circumstances, whether that person has a disability, or he or she cares for a family member with a disability,” Swift said. “There are so many people I hope can learn something and be inspired.”
Up starts on the day after Christmas in 1979.
“Everyone is on break, and we’re enjoying life like every typical young teen does,” he said. “With a blink of an eye, everything changes.”
The book details Swift’s initial injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down and continues as he recovers from the accident, going through his life to the present day.
“Recovery is a broad term,” Swift said. “There’s the physical rehabilitation, but then you go home and you have to make those adjustments. The adjustments continued as I went back to school, and got my first job and became a father.”
Swift and his wife Monica adopted two boys, 18-year-old Spencer and Callaghan, 11, as well as a daughter, 13-year-old Sydney.
“You have to have a lot faith, which I was blessed with, and support, which I was also blessed with,” Swift said about what it took for him to recover. “It’s as much mental as it is physical. You have to mentally move on too. There isn’t a person out there who wouldn’t want to be walking again, but if you aren’t mentally recovering, you’re going through something just as traumatic.”
Swift said it’s important for people to find resources as close as possible to help them and their families. He also recommends that caretakers allow those they care for to find their own independence.
“I didn’t want anyone treating me differently or feeling sorry for me,” Swift said. “I also saw it as a challenge and I have sports to thank for that. In sports, you’re always being pushed forward and you always want to move forward too.”
With the book complete, Swift is learning the ropes of marketing “Up” to the masses. He started a website and has busied himself connecting with non-profits, rehab facilities, social service organizations, and anywhere else he thinks the book might reach an audience.
“I first had the perception that the publisher would do all of that, but it rally falls in your lap,” Swift said. “Without mega money, it’s a lot of hard work to get it out there.”
Along with marketing the book, Swift is conceiving new writing ideas and wants to coach again. With experience coaching youth flag football through full-contact high school, he is looking at coaching teens again.
“It’s probably one of the most rewarding things I have ever done,” Swift said. “It’s such a unique feeling to see them grow as athletes and as young people into young adults. I think you learn a lot of life skills from athletics. You learn to win with dignity and lose with dignity.”
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