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All About Attitude: Christopher Watts '03
This article originally appeared in the Bentley Magazine.
In November 1997, Christopher Watts ’03 suffered a spinal injury that left him quadriplegic. Today, he’s busy making a life despite the physical limitations – and working toward the day that he will walk again.
Since the accident, which occurred during his junior year at Bentley, Watts has proved exceedingly adaptable. He honed skills as an auditory learner because reading textbooks was cumbersome and note taking, impossible. He switched his major from finance to marketing when he could no longer work a calculator. And he struck out on his own in business when a conventional job hunt was frustrating at best.
“I went for interviews without telling people I was quadriplegic, and they always stopped in their tracks when I showed up,” says Watts. “So I started explaining my situation beforehand and nothing ever turned up. I had no other choice but to start my own business. I’m not making a lot of money, but I’m being productive.”
Watts designs web sites out of the Marshfield, Mass., home that he shares with his parents. Despite having limited use of his upper body, he can type with one pinkie and use a trackball mouse. Software such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking9, a speech-recognition program that types up to 160 words per minute, helps to ease the day-to-day challenges.
Fitness is among the 32-year-old’s greatest passions. His doctors advise staying in peak physical condition, so he’ll be a prime candidate for stem cell therapy or another treatment that may come along.
“Being able to get stem cell treatment and fully take care of myself – cooking, dressing and bathing – would be leaps and bounds better than where I am now,” he says.
In the meantime, a wheelchair that tackles stairs and uneven terrain allows Watts to get around more independently. He is grateful to fellow alumni who contributed toward the recent purchase.
Next up: Raising $15,000 to buy a bicycle equipped with functional electrical stimulation (FES). The technology allows people with little or no leg movement to pedal in place via electrical impulses sent to their muscles. The FES bike has proved effective in building muscle mass and, for some patients, in returning sensation to limbs. With some of his Alpha Gamma Pi fraternity brothers, Watts aims to set up a nonprofit organization that would solicit funds to purchase FES bikes for himself and other quadriplegics in Massachusetts. The work helps him stay positive.
“If I was negative and angry, my situation would be worse,” Watts observes. “Instead of dwelling on what I can’t do, I focus on what I can do.”
Learn more about the alumnus’s fund-raising projects and other work at cwattshappening.com.
The Yawkey Foundations have recognized Bentley University’s longstanding commitment to service-learning and awarded the university $500,000 to educate students to effectively lead nonprofit organizations and expand student efforts to help community groups.