Pushing the Boundaries of Perceived Limitations:

Joe Stone Teaches FVCC Students That Anything Is Possible

As part of their journey to becoming physical therapist assistants, nurses and surgical technologists, Flathead Valley Community College students recently spent some priceless hours learning from a man who, against all odds, survived a horrific paragliding crash nearly 10 years ago.

When he was 25 years old, Joe Stone nearly died after crashing into Missoula’s Mount Jumbo at almost 50 miles per hour while speed flying, a form of paragliding. The accident left him paralyzed from the chest down and with impairment in both hands.

Joe shared his powerful story of recovery with the students and then spent time working with the physical therapist assistant students to develop their skills in helping paraplegic and quadriplegic patients lead more independent and satisfying lives.

“Getting the patient’s perspective about a topic we were currently covering in class brought our knowledge of Spinal Cord Injuries to life,” said student Taylor Brott. “Joe spoke with us about goal setting and the importance of celebrating each step in the process, no matter how big or small.”

Before his accident, Joe was an endurance athlete and avid outdoorsman. His greatest concern after the accident was that he would spend the rest of his life in a nursing home in his home state of Minnesota, no longer be able to do the things he loved most. However, through research and determination, Joe learned that there are many ways for people with physical limitations to get back into sports. He set a goal of hand-cycling Glacier National Park’s Going-to-the-Sun Road and began working hard to rebuild his strength. Remarkably, on August 12, 2011… just one day shy of the one-year anniversary of the accident…Joe powered himself to the top of Logan Pass and celebrated his victory.

“The students and I talk a lot about life after rehab,” said Joe. “For me, that’s a very important part so that each student knows why they are helping people. It’s not so much for patients to get healthy enough to leave the hospital. It’s so patients can get healthy enough to get back to life. We all have to figure out the how, why and what we are working toward. Then progression really starts.”

More than two years after his accident, Joe had regained enough health and independence to move back to Missoula and live on his own. He founded the Joe Stone Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to merging the disabled and able-bodied communities through recreational activities that can be experienced together. He travels around the country sharing his story and inspiring others to push the boundaries of perceived limitations and to live rich and fulfilling lives, regardless of their physical and mental abilities.

Joe made a lasting impression on the FVCC health care students. “Joe’s positive outlook on life was infectious and left us all feeling inspired!” said Taylor.

Interested in a career that helps people like Joe regain their health and wellness? Learn more about FVCC’s health care programs at www.fvcc.edu/healthcare.