It was an organized effort by many to select T.J. Atchison as the first spinal cord injury patient to participate in such a landmark clinical trial. When it was time for a decision to be made by T.J. and his family, little did they consider the procedure to be as monumental as it was. After all, T.J. was a mere nursing student at the University of South Alabama trying to make his final effort to become a college graduate. He had no intention or desire to become a famous person; his only wish was to walk again.
Film crews from ABC News traveled to the small town of Chatom, Alabama last week to interview T.J. about being the first spinal cord injury patient to be injected with human embryonic stem cells. In the photo above, T.J. and Cameron Waite act more like brothers than first cousins as they play a quick game of basketball.
ABC News Correspondent, Steve Osunsami, extends a hand to Anita McDonald as she reveals what it felt like to hear the devastating news of her son's accident.
Through it all, T.J. is not interested in being some sort of hero, but if he is presented with the opportunity to help his fellow man and future sufferers of degenerative medical conditions, he believes it is his religious and ethical obligation to be an advocate for this clinical trial—and the research behind it—that may just end up giving millions of disabled people the ability to live a normal, productive life.
Little sister Alyssa enjoyed spending the afternoon with T.J. as he interviewed with Steve Osunsami from ABC News.
T.J. enjoyed a few laughs with Steve Osunsami and the film crew from ABC News.
With no hesitation whatsoever, T.J. has asked for my help to co-author his story, The Human Candidate, in effort to share his identity and perception as being the first recipient of HES cells with the world. Not only is T.J. eager to be a spokesperson for stem cell research, he feels it is his lifelong mission to help other disabled people.
Please stay tuned to Head in the Clouds, as a date for T.J.'s ABC News interview will be announced soon. Much love, Tory