Wish Stories

Jim Visits Craig Hospital & Plays the Blues with a Star

Jim was living a happy and active life as a husband and father of two children. He could have never predicted that it would all change in one moment—or the path he would need to take to rediscovering his independence and sense of self.

That’s the thing with life—it’s full of twists and turns, of highs and lows, and times of both light and darkness.

When he was 36 years old, Jim was riding his bicycle and was struck by a car. As a result of the accident, Jim was paralyzed and had to use a wheelchair. Jim’s doctors offered him a bleak outlook about the quality of life he would have. As he came to terms with his new reality, he found himself facing a time he calls “my years of darkness.”

But Jim’s surgeon also referred him to Craig Hospital—one of the best hospitals in the country for spinal cord injuries. With a glimmer of new hope, Jim traveled from the east coast to Colorado to pursue treatment at the specialty hospital.

For Jim, Craig Hospital became a light during a time of darkness. At the hospital, he was able to rekindle some of his active lifestyle, using adaptive devices to play sports and exercise. He learned how to be independent once again, enough so that he could eventually return to living at home with his family. After months of rehab and physical therapy, he realized that although his life was going to be completely different, he could still do many things that he loved—the things that gave him joy.

And as his point of view changed, Jim even rediscovered a passion he had long forgotten: music. Back when he was in college, Jim loved listening to the blues. He had been given a harmonica as a gift, which led him to fall in love with the music of Charlie Musselwhite, a legendary blues harmonica player. He once saw Charlie perform at a small venue and even got to shake his hand.

“Blues is a healer.” That’s what Charlie said to Jim that day. And that sentiment became profoundly true for Jim throughout his journey.

After rebuilding his confidence at Craig Hospital, Jim started playing the harmonica again—and he realized he was pretty good at it! He had discovered a new appreciation for music and even joined a blues band. In 2017, the Ragtime Willi Band celebrated 40 years of making music together, and they have no thoughts of slowing down. The band plays many shows a month in different venues around the Philadelphia area.

He’s also found meaning in supporting others. Jim visits new paraplegics to talk about what they’re going through and offer encouragement. He also gives presentations to children about bicycle safety and the importance of wearing a helmet.

When he shares his story, Jim credits two things with saving his life: Craig Hospital and music. Together, these two influences gave him the hope and motivation to push through the darkest moments of his life. After all these years, he wanted nothing more than to thank the doctors and care team for their irreplaceable role in his journey.

In October of 2017, Wish of a Lifetime was honored to help Jim’s wish come true. But through a stroke of good fortune and some serendipitous timing, we were able to make the experience even more special.

After 50 years of making music, Charlie Musselwhite was still touring the world and just so happened to be playing a show in Denver, CO—only minutes away from Craig Hospital!

Jim and his family flew to Denver, and Jim was surprised with a one-on-one harmonica lesson by his favorite musician! And Charlie added another priceless experience to the day: He gifted Jim one of his harmonicas. After the lesson, Jim and his family were thrilled to attend Charlie’s live concert and groove to the blues together.

But there was one thing left to do. It had been 25 years since Jim was last at Craig Hospital. As he passed through the doors, he knew that it still held the same treasured place in his heart.

Surrounded by cheering people and smiling faces, Jim felt his story come full circle as he reconnected with his doctors and care team. Jim and his family celebrated and thanked the people who had played such a significant role in his healing journey—the people who helped him find himself and the strength to live a vibrant life once again.

Shadow of hot air balloon on the trees below it

There’s so much we can do together

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