We're continuing on with Pheez's story from his days as a teenage rapper, to his accident while serving in the Navy, and his sweet journey to becoming a loving husband and dad. In today's blog, Pheez talks about joining the Navy and how hw was injured. In case you missed it, check out part 1 here.
Why did you decide to join the Navy?
Oh man, so that's a funny story. I was in the agriculture program at my high school and when I took the veterinary science classes my senior year, I decided I wanted to become a veterinarian. Then my teacher told me how many years of college it would take, plus how long it would take to pay off the student loans. I said “Yeah, I’m not going to be that guy.”
Then one day I was in the lunchroom at my high school when one of my friends said she wanted one of the free water bottles the military recruiters were handing out, so I told her I would go get her one. Right before that day, I was talking to my boxing coach and another guy who was a retired Green Beret (member of the United States Army Special Forces), and I told them I wouldn’t mind becoming a Navy Seal. So, there I am in the lunchroom trying to get a free water bottle meeting a guy named Petty Officer Lewis. He asked me what I was doing that Saturday, and I ended up signing the paperwork with my parents’ consent, turned 18, and started going through the preliminary stages.
Before leaving for bootcamp, I remember talking to my ex-girlfriend and her saying “What if a war breaks out?” I reported for bootcamp on September 6, 2001, and a few days later September 11th happened. I knew I was going to be getting deployed soon.
I am happy I joined the Navy though because I loved it. I served on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, completed two deployments, and appreciated the experiences I had serving alongside my fellow sailors. If I could go back in right now, I definitely would. I just enjoyed everything about it.
How were you injured?
I actually had been having a lot of premonitions leading up to when I was hurt. Around April of that year, I remember being on watch on the ship and asking myself “I wonder what it would be like to be paralyzed?” I don’t know why that thought came to my mind. Next, I remember going onto the floor, laying there, and trying not to move. Then I thought, nope, this is not for me. I do not want that.
Fast forward a couple of months later to June 12, 2005. It was my friend’s 21st birthday and we were planning to go to the beach for it. While we were waiting for my friend to get ready, I said to my fiancé at the time that I didn’t necessarily want to go, but we could just go for a couple of drinks. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to celebrate my friend’s birthday, it was just so hot. Turns out, he told me later he didn’t really want to go either, but we had all been talking about it so we went.
I remember getting to the beach, putting on my swim trunks, and going to the shoreline. I went over to my coworker, Preston, who was just observing the beach with his arms crossed. I jokingly asked him if he saw anybody drowning. He made a joke to go save someone and I ran into the water. It was more shallow than deep. I broke my neck on impact and couldn’t feel anything, just doing the dead man’s float. I remember saying to myself, “This is it, today you die.” Trying to prepare myself to drown.
Like I was saying, everything kind of circles back to events that have happened earlier in my life that led up to that moment. I have a very interesting perspective on it. At 17, I had been tasked with reading The Perfect Storm and in it they describe drowning. I remember thinking, God, take me out any other way because drowning seemed horrific. Then there I was getting ready to drown. I just cried out to God in my mind and my heart, please save me. Suddenly my body turned enough where I could take a breath.
My friend Reggie was calling out to me: “Pheez, stop playing. Stop playing.” In my mind I was thinking if you only knew because I am not playing. Reggie grabbed me, dragged me out of the water onto the beach. I just waited for them to come with the stretcher and neck brace. I remember not wanting to ask about my legs, but my arms felt like they were above my head like I was still diving. So I asked where my arms were and they said by my side and I knew that was it. They got me onto the stretcher and into the ambulance. I woke up three days later from a medically-induced coma in the Naval Medical Center Portsmouth where I stayed for three weeks. Next, they flew me up to West Roxbury, MA where I spent five months in rehab learning how to work a power wheelchair, operate a computer with voice recognition, and stuff. Eventually they built a ramp at my parents’ house so I could go home.
I have a C4/C5 spinal cord injury. Basically, my C5 jumped onto my C4 vertebrae on impact. The doctor, who was the top neurosurgeon on the East Coast for the Navy, said she didn’t know how I survived.
Check out Pheez's music and follow him on social media here.
Next week, Pheez shares how God puts people in your life for a reason and shows how he successfully navigated dating and parenting as a quad.
Angie Kiger, M.Ed., CTRS, ATP/SMS
Portfolio Marketing Manager
Angie Kiger, M.Ed., CTRS, ATP/SMS earned a Master of Education degree in Assistive Technology from George Mason University. She is an Assistive Technology Professional (ATP), Seating and Mobility Specialist (SMS), and a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist (CTRS). Angie has over 20 years of experience working in the field of assistive technology serving infants, children, and adults in inpatient, outpatient, school, and community settings with a variety of diagnoses. In addition to working as a clinician, Angie has served as an adjunct instructor at George Mason University and presented hundreds of clinical education trainings both in-person and virtually for global audiences. She has written articles for trade publications and been involved in clinical research. Angie is a member of and serves on the executive board for the nationwide advocacy group The Clinician Task Force. She joined Permobil Americas in mid-2022.