On May 29, 2010, Garrett Bazany woke up in a hospital bed, confused—but only for a moment. As the mental fog lifted, the terrible truth slowly leaked into focus, written all over his parents’ faces. As doctors and nurses came in and out of the room, checking, rechecking, poking and prodding, Bazany knew. His legs would never move again.

Though he was technically alive, breathing, seeing, hearing, smelling, one thought crept into Bazany’s mind, dominating all others: My life is over.

Just 15 years old and paralyzed from the chest down, everything that had filled Bazany’s days with joy— skiing, running, jumping and action sports of any kind—was now part of his past. In fact, it was one of those very things that had put him here. Practicing a double front flip on his family’s trampoline, Bazany came up short and landed on his head.

Start of Life

“After my accident, my life didn’t end, though,” Bazany said. “In many ways, it began. God started me on a journey I never could have imagined. It has changed me in so many ways and made me who I am today.”

That journey began before he even left the hospital.

“Instead of focusing on the things I couldn’t do, I started to see the things I could do. From that moment on, I have remained positive and focused on my recovery, getting stronger, seeking every adventure and using my story to make a difference in others’ lives.”

Garrett Bazany taking a selfie with a friend among large rocks.

The right community

Four years at Calvin was one of the stops along that journey. Calvin built ramps and improved accessibility, allowing Bazany to thrive as a wheelchair- using student living in the dorms full time as a freshman. Campus Safety committed to plowing a path from his dorm to his classrooms early every morning whenever it snowed. And if his car was ever snowed in, they would clear it within minutes.

“I’ve always felt welcomed in the Calvin community,” Bazany said. “It doesn’t matter where I go on campus—there’s always someone I can hang out with. I love knowing most of the people in my graduating class. But there’s also always so much going on. Calvin is the perfect size for me. Not too big, not too small.”

Bazany posing in front of mountain range

Career Aspirations

That Calvin community has also helped Bazany discover his vocational calling. After initially exploring engineering, he decided on a medical career, but not as a doctor.

“I was in the pre-med program, but I switched to the pre-physician assistant (PA) program. As a doctor, I wouldn’t be able to get the experience I want with my patients. As a PA, I will have a lot more potential to interact with patients—and have time to spend with my future family.”

With help and recommendations from his Calvin professors, he completed a research position at Michigan State University and received multiple scholarships from Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. He also traveled abroad on a medical missions trip with professor Larry Gerbens.

No looking back

At his Commencement ceremony, Bazany had one more surprise waiting—one last challenge he’d dreamed of conquering for four years. As the final member of the Class of 2017 to hear his name called, Bazany wheeled himself to the front of Van Noord Arena, stopped for a moment, and stood. With the help of a walker—and with his friend Nolan Coallier by his side—Garrett Bazany walked the final stretch to receive his diploma from provost Cheryl Brandsen and then to shake president Michael Le Roy’s hand (which turned into a hug). Then he raised a triumphant fist to a thunderous standing ovation.

“You can’t look back on the past and hope to change it,” Bazany said. “I have to look forward every day. I have to do the best I can to fulfill the life God has set before me. May 29, 2010, was the start of this journey—and I know it’s going to take me so much farther. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me next.”

With the help of a walker, Garrett Bazany walks up to receive his diploma beside President Le Roy.