RANDEE DADDONA PHOTO
Author Chuck Adams discusses the similarities and differences between
his life as a paraplegic and the life of his novel’s main character,
Even Chuck Adams’ parents have difficulty separating their son from the character of Bobby Sanders in his novel, “Something More.”
While the Mattituck author said the book isn’t autobiographical, many of the ways in which he talks about his own life are similar to how Bobby Sanders expresses himself in the book — with one notable exception: While Bobby Sanders expresses frustration with his life as a paraplegic and a desire to end it all, that’s something Mr. Adams said he has never felt.
“Success isn’t driven by your arms and legs; it’s driven byyour heart and head,” Mr. Adams said.
As a boy, he identified with the television character played by Raymond Burr in “Ironside,” a wheelchair-bound detective he quotes as saying, “I don’t need my legs to be a step ahead of the bad guys.” But in “Ironside,” the audience saw little of the realities of a paraplegic’s life, Mr. Adams said.
“I loved the show, but my life was going to be different from that,” he said.
His paralysis resulted from a breech birth, which today probably would have prompted a Caesarean delivery that would not have severed his spinal cord. The damage wasn’t diagnosed until he began to crawl and his parents realized he was using his arms to pull himself along as his legs dragged behind.
Once diagnosed, Mr. Adams spent the better part of a year living at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson as doctors explored what might be done for their young patient.
Today, Mr. Adams at age 55 remains wheelchair-bound and wears leg braces to give himself stability and a plaster cast on his upper body, a result of surgery he had early this year. He previously underwent a spinal fusion in 1967, and again in about 1980. Another came in January this year. What he told his doctors about the most recent surgery was that he wanted 10 or 15 more years to “chase the dream. They’ve given me that chance,” he said.
That dream includes publishing all three parts of the Bobby Sanders trilogy — the first that debuts April 26, the second that is written and awaiting work by his publisher, PublishAmerica, and the third on which he’s currently working. The books can be purchased through the publisher’s website at publishamerica.net or through Mr. Adams’s own site, bobbysanders.com.
Chuck Adams has lived with Bobby Sanders in his head since 1979, when he began writing the book. He put those early chapters in a drawer and forgot about them for years, only to rediscover them in 2004. In those years, Mr. Adams underwent some attitude changes and, accordingly, so did Bobby Sanders.
“I was no different from anyone else,” Mr. Adams said he used to think about being in a wheelchair. But that defiance changed when he mentored some students at the Mickey Mantle School for severely disabled students in Manhattan.
He realized in interacting with the students that “it’s OK to be different. Maybe I had to grow into finishing the story,” he said about letting so many years lapse between the start of “Something More” and its completion.
“This is the story of determination,” Mr. Adams said about his novel. “Primarily, it’s a romance novel.” But for the jocks who might be turned off by that description, he said he wants you to know there’s plenty of sports and adventure in the book to keep you reading.
“All of us want something more,” he said about the title he gave the book. “But I’ve never gone to bed praying that I could walk someday,” he said.
He credits his parents with teaching him he could achieve anything he set his mind to do. Attending Mattituck schools, he never wanted to stand out as the kid in the wheelchair. If he couldn’t join the sports teams, he could be team manager and scorekeeper. That led to his working as a sportswriter, something he still does for Times/Review Newspapers. At Hofstra University, he was captain of the wheelchair basketball team. He has also played wheelchair tennis.
He was vice president of marketing and public relations for Riverhead Savings Bank and now is corporate sales representative for BJ’s Wholesale Club. He also co-hosts the weekly sports cable television show “The Hot Stove League” with Ed Zabrowski.
Twice married, Mr. Adams has two grown daughters and hopes the future holds still “one more romantic chapter.” In the professional realm, he hopes his Bobby Sanders trilogy will someday be made into a movie.