Last updated: August 24. 2013 5:57PM - 286 Views

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By Rosanne BowmanCOLUMBUS GROVE — Matthew Schroeder was just 18 years old when a patch of black ice changed his life forever. The then high school senior was driving to work on a cold, rainy day on Dec. 6, 1997, when he hit some black ice. His car spun out of control and wrapped around a telephone pole. To compound matters, a transformer fell onto his car. When firefighters and medical personnel arrived, live wires kept them from getting Schroeder out of the car for almost an hour. He sustained serious injuries in the accident, including two broken vertebrae in his neck and a traumatic brain injury.After spending just more than 10 weeks in a coma, Schroeder came back to consciousness, but the news was not good. Doctors informed him that his chances of walking again were extremely slim, and they also told him he would have to relearn the most basic things like speaking and eating, but Schroeder rose to the challenge.“Nobody knows what you can do, but you,” Schroeder said. “They did not think I'd amount to anything after the accident, but I kept trying and trying. My speech keeps getting better — it's not great, but it's understandable, and now I can get around without anything.”It took Schroeder over two years to get to the point of walking without help, but with his motto of “failure is the first step to success,” he achieved his goal. By 1999, he was able to start driving again. “I was always a big sports person,” he said. “I played basketball and baseball, and you learn in sports to keep trying and working.”He also went on to get both his bachelor's and master's degrees in education, graduating in 2003. Since that time, Schroeder has been speaking to area schools, athletic groups and churches sharing the story of his recovery to inspire and encourage others to achieve their own goals, no matter what the obstacles. ‘I want to share with people not to let others opinions and thoughts negatively influence what you can do with hard work,” he said. “A lot of things can be done with dedication and determination.”Currently, he averages about four to five speaking events each school year, but would like to increase that number. Don Huysman, principal at Delphos St. John's High School, felt Schroeder did an excellent job relating to the students and plans to have him back at a later date. “The kids still talk about it,” he said. “They were in awe of what he'd been through and how he's overcome that. If he wasn't good, I wouldn't have him back.”Alan Unterbrink, the guidance counselor at Delphos St. John's High School added, “Matt is a very caring and compassionate person who cares a great deal about helping young people making good choices.”While Schroeder does not hold a teaching position, he feels his presentations educate in a different way. “I feel like I teach more in my presentations and get out a deeper message than I ever could in a classroom,” he said.He has also been hard at work on an autobiographical, self-help book. The book, entitled “The Rest is up to You,” is tentatively scheduled to be released in June. It will be available in both e-book and traditional format through his website www.mattschroeder.org. “I don't have the release date yet,” he said, “but I'll be getting the proofs this week. It all depends on if there are mistakes in that or not — and there probably will be. I am hoping it will be available in June sometime.”He self-published the book through Create Space and has been working on it for over eight years. Because of the accident, he still deals with tremors in his hands, which make typing difficult. “English was my least favorite subject in school,” he said. “It kind of blows my mind that I'm writing this book, but I think it is the best way to help a lot of people and get my message out.”Although he has made a lot of progress in recovering from his accident, he still struggles with some things. “I think a lot faster than I talk,” he said. “That can be very frustrating. Also, things like fluidity of movement and the shaky hand movement, those things are the most difficult for me. I wish I could run, too.”Schroeder, who is a long time member of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, has relied heavily on his faith for a positive perspective. While the accident turned Schroeder's life upside down, he said he would not change things even if he could go back and relive that day. “I know it sounds dumb to say I would go through the accident again, and obviously, I wouldn't choose the pain of the accident again,” he said, “but I want to follow God's plan. I believe that everything that happens, God has a plan and it's perfect.”To find out more about Matt Schroeder's speaking ministry or his upcoming book, visit him at www.mattschroeder.org or on his Facebook page, “The Rest is up to You.”

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