By Mina Corpuz, The Enterprise (Brockton)
BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- DJ Bishop and Ryan Feeney started out as baseball competitors in high school and were almost on the same team at Bridgewater State University. But then Bishop was injured and paralyzed from the chest down from a diving accident.
Three years later, after Bishop’s injury and recovery, they are teaming up as a duo to compete in the Falmouth Road Race on Aug. 18. Feeney will push Bishop in a wheelchair during the seven-mile race.
“It was kind of a last ditch effort as an opportunity to compete together,” said Feeney, who approached Bishop about the race. “It was a way for us to be teammates again.”
They are racing as Team Bish Strong and raising money for Journey Forward, a paralysis rehabilitation center in Canton that Bishop has attended since 2016.
The Falmouth Road Race is also an opportunity for them to raise awareness about neck and spinal injuries, which Bishop has sustained.
“I’m very excited to be part of a team again and compete,” he said. “I’ve always been a competitive athlete and competitor.”
The pair has been training since June. Bishop directs Feeney where to go and they work together during turns. In addition, Bishop motivates him throughout the runs.
Feeney is 25 and graduated from Bridgewater State in 2017. Bishop, also 25, hasn’t graduated yet.
They met through baseball when Bishop played for Dartmouth High School and Feeney, who is from East Bridgewater, played for Coyle and Cassidy High School and Middle School.
After Bishop transferred from Westfield State University to Bridgewater State at the end of his junior year, he and Feeney got to know each other better.
Before the start of his final year, Bishop broke his neck and injured his spinal chord while diving into shallow water in a lake. He needed emergency surgery and a spinal fusion.
Feeney reached out to him after the injury and they have kept in touch since.
At first, doctors thought that Bishop wouldn’t be able to breathe or eat regular food on his own again, but he was later able to.
After nearly four months in the hospital, Bishop began physical therapy at Journey Forward, where he has been able to regain strength and balance. Going there has also given him hope.
Before, he was only able to shrug his shoulders, but now Bishop can curl his arms and has a lot more function.
“I’m still not where I want to be and I have a lot to go, but I keep pushing every single day,” he said.
Although doctors have also told him that he would never walk again, Bishop doesn’t rule out the possibility.
“In my mind, I don’t listen to that and I block it out,” he said. “I do what I got to do to maintain and get stronger every day. And never say never.”
Visit Bishop and Feeney’s race fundraising page for the Falmouth Road Race at www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/falmouth-road-race-20191/teambishstrong