Steve Emt delivers a stone during the World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2017 on March 7, 2017 in Gangneung, South Korea.
More than 25 years ago, Steve Emt was fighting to stay alive.
A future that included a wife and two children, becoming a standout Paralympic athlete in curling, a high school basketball coach, a teacher and now a published author was a faraway vision. Survival was the only thought. Nothing else mattered.
Emt, who turned 50 in January, was 25 at the time and admitted he drank way too much, drove under the influence at more than 85 miles per hour and crashed. Several days later, Emt was still in a coma and was unsure if anything would ever be the same again. It wasn’t.
Emt was paralyzed from the waist down and could have given up. He could have quit on accomplishing the most basic challenges in life.
Through an incredible tale of perseverance, Emt not only survived but thrived despite being paralyzed from the waist down. Emt, a former walk-on basketball player at the University of Connecticut, completed his college degree and continued his athletics career as a Paralympic curler, competing as a third on skip Kirk Black’s team at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. In addition, Emt became a motivational speaker and a role model to countless people.
“When I was 25 and woke up from a coma, the only person who could help me was myself,” Emt said. “My favorite player ever was Larry Bird. But Larry Bird wasn’t going to help me. I had to help myself. Ultimately, it came to me making a decision to how I was going to go forward. Was I going to embrace life or was I going to sit back, do nothing and waiting to die?
“I had to make a decision which way my life was going forward. I pushed forward and refused to use the word ‘can’t’ in my dictionary. No such word for me. I had to take one of the most negative things ever and turn it around into a positive. That’s what I did. That’s what I continue to do. I have a wife, two healthy kids … I consider myself lucky.”
When the pandemic began in March, it limited Emt’s outreach like so many others in the world. Yet he refused to be fazed. So Emt began the arduous process of researching ways to publish a book telling his life story.
The result was “You D.E.C.I.D.E.” a six-step self-help plan to prove to anyone how they can succeed under the most dire circumstances. The six steps are Determine, Educate, Create, Implement, Don’t ever give up and Evaluate.
Completing this book was a true labor of love for Emt.
“So many people have been telling me for years to write a book,” Emt said. “They said I needed to write on to tell my story. Since my accident, I had so many stories to tell about moving forward and not giving up on anything.”
Even with an incredible story to tell, the project was far from easy. The biggest hurdle was just getting started. Once Emt sat down and began writing, the words poured out.
“Oh yeah, I hate writing,” Emt said. “That’s why I was a math teacher. Once I finally started writing, I found myself writing more than four hours later. It was cathartic, very rewarding. I had so many stories to tell and had so much inside of me waiting to come out. For someone who hates writing, this turned out to be different.”
For years, Emt has been asked about his accident from so many people. It’s a natural question. When Emt was writing the book, this was part of a larger answer of how to conquer life’s challenges.
“All the time, people would say, ‘How did you not give up?’” Emt said. “I only know one way. I wasn’t going to let my accident define me. I wasn’t going to be denied all the good things. I am so blessed with my life and I tell my family that all the time. I’ve had so many negative things happen in my life, like the loss of family members, and people always ask how did I go on? How could I not? Not moving forward was not an option for me. It’s garbage. There’s one way to live and I’m doing it.
“I hope people who read my book are inspired. They can do things even when things look bad. Don’t quit and give up. Keep fighting. You can take care of you.”