"30 Days" 30 Days in a Wheelchair (TV Episode 2008) - Plot Summary Poster

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  • 30 Days follows former professional football player Ray Crockett as he learns about the difficulties faced by people with spinal cord injuries by spending 30 days in a wheelchair. He experiences the difficulties faced by those in wheelchairs and talks to those have experienced spinal injuries first hand.


The synopsis below may give away important plot points.


  • Ray Crockett, a star NFL star player with two Super Bowl rings known for his defensive prowess with the Denver Broncos, spent 30 days in a wheelchair to see how America's quarter of a million quadriplegic and paraplegics living with paralysis. Host and creator Morgan Spurlock said the issue of living in wheelchairs has been swept under the rug in the 15 years since the Americans with Disabilities Act was signed, but the issues of stem cell research and images of American soldiers returning home with critical injuries has brought it back to the fore.

    When he was with the Detroit Lions, Crockett was on the field when teammate Mike Utley became paralyzed after attempting to throw a block during a game. "You see that happen and you have to think about, 'What if it was me?'" Crockett said.

    Ray would live by three rules: he'd live in a wheelchair for 30 days, but be able to stretch them once per day to avoid permanent side effects; he'd participate in a wheelchair rugby league (think "Murderball"); and he'd tag along with patients at a spinal cord rehabilitation program.

    Day 1: Crockett met a spinal cord specialist at Baylor University who said the main thing is that he appreciate the frustration that wheelchair bound people experience. "If we as a culture and society can help accept these people, that is the biggest part." Crockett then met a 34-year-old woman who'd been in a car accident that left her with permanent injuries two months earlier. Crockett said he became vulnerable, "only because you think that this could happen to anybody."

    Finally, Crockett sat in the wheelchair for the first time. He won't be able to use his legs, but he'll be able to power himself with a manual wheelchair. Even on the way out to his car, he felt stares from people he'd never felt before and wondered if they were looking at him because of the wheelchair. His first time rolling around his house in a wheelchair, he realized how little he could get around inside. He couldn't fit the wheelchair into the bathroom. "Even though I've lived in this house for seven years, once you're in a chair, you find yourself trying to find new ways to approach living in your own house."

    Day 2: Crockett went about getting ready for the day and realized how much time and energy went into just getting in and out of the shower. He then went and visited Shannon and watched as she struggled to just lift herself into a sitting position from laying on her back, with the use of loops around her arms that she used to replace core strength that she no longer possessed. "It was real difficult to watch," Crockett said. "It almost a certain feeling of, 'I couldn't do it. I couldn't be in that position.'"

    The great unknown: On the third day, Crockett's wife April found out what life was like as a caregiver, and Crockett discovered life with limited independence. The next day, Crockett got his home retrofitted. He realized he had more financial means to make such modifications that most people don't have. A couple of days later, Crockett went for a ride with his new friend, Matt, a paraplegic who asked Crockett if he thought everything would be the same if he suffered a serious injury. That's the unknown, Crockett said.

    Getting strong: On Day 10, Crockett had his car fitted with manual controls for the gas and brakes so that he could drive without using his legs. A few days later, he was introduced to quad rugby. Crockett met Mark Zupan, the face of "Murderball." Inspired by Zupan and the gang, Crockett pumped some iron to develop some strength in his upper body. Crockett met Matt's friend, the one who was with him the day he suffered his sudden injury, which happened while he was swinging from a rope into a creek. Matt said a lot of people in wheelchairs probably think that they'll wake up the next day and the bad dream will be over.

    Gaining independence: Crockett went back to Baylor to visit Shannon, who was in her final week of rehab before going home. She said needs to gain strength to become more independent, rather than take the help that her parents and others want to provide. "My job is to make her independent, not to teach her how to have help," her therapist said, adding that Shannon has the ability to get full strength. Crockett said that for the first time he felt good for Shannon in that he saw the sense of achievement in her.

    On Day 25, Crockett went back for another round of quad rugby. He had some trouble keeping up with the competition, but eventually held his own a bit on the court. On Day 28, Crockett went to the hospital to see Shannon off and she cried as she left her friends behind at rehab. Crockett told her she was an inspiration to him.

    Day 30: Crockett recalled his experience, saying, "You learn so much, not only about yourself, but about people that are quote-unquote what we consider 'different,' but they're really not different. They live differently, but they're really not different, they're the same people." Crockett was glad to be back on his feet. "There will be a part of me that will always remember the chair," he said. "I think it taught me a lot." In the end, Crockett said, "Can I put myself in their shoes? No. But, if nothing else comes out of this, I will definitely view life differently."

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