John Hockenberry was paralyzed as the result of a car
accident that took place while hitchhiking
from the University of Chicago
. The driver fell asleep somewhere in Pennsylvania
and the car left the road, vaulting a guardrail. After the Laws of Physics
got through with them, they were at the bottom of a 200-foot embankment. He sat with the guitar
s, his friend sat with the sleeping bags. If only they had switched places he'd be a tap dancing
fool right now. Instead, he has lost feeling and motor
control from his nipples
down. He broke his Fifth Thoracic Vertebrae
, severing his spinal cord
After recovering from his wounds, he went back to school, where among his other achievements he invented a device to operate the pedals on a piano, using pressurized air, so he could play more subtly.
After graduation, he got a job as a journalist and reported on the eruption of Mount St. Helens. This considerably helped his career prospects, and he moved to National Public Radio, where he reported as a correspondent from Jerusalem and acted as host of Talk of the Nation in 1988. It was also during his time there that he reported from the funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini. The only american in a wheelchair in a sea of crazed mourning Iranians.
After reporting on the Gulf War, Mr. Hockenberry traded in his wheelchair for a camel, and rode along with Kurdish Refugees near the border between Turkey and Iraq. A paralyzed man, changing his catheter on the back of a dirty, spitting beast in a war zone is nothing to take lightly.
In addition to his expertise as a reporter, he seems to fall into amazingly bizarre situations. He once left a hot casserole dish on his unfeeling lap without noticing for long enough that the emergency room physicians he saw could not perceive the severity of the burn. He spent 10 hours hiding under the bed with his wheelchair, in the apartment of an ex-lover, while she was with her new boyfriend (he left a note apologizing). He was once hit by a bus near Lake Michigan in Chicago. When asked by paramedics if he could feel his legs, he responded "No, I can't." An honest man.
He has worked for NPR, NBC, ABC, and MSNBC, and has written for The New York Times, The New Yorker, I.D., The Columbia Journalism Review, Details, and The Washington Post. He also appears in one man shows and has written a book about his life entitled Moving Violations.