by Amy Leibrock May 22, 2018

Bob Wassom's life changed forever on May 29, 1972. Twenty-two years old and about to graduate with a journalism degree from Utah State University, he and some friends decided to spend the day at a lake before life took them their separate ways.

"One of the guys ran down the beach and dove into the water, and I followed right behind him," said Bob. Just before he dove, Bob stepped on a loose rock with his right foot. It threw off his forward momentum, and he dove head first into a submerged tree stump. He didn't lose consciousness, but he was lying in about two feet of water and couldn't move a muscle. The impact had broken his neck, and he was paralyzed from the neck down. Bob's friends were close by and pulled him to safety.

Despite this harrowing accident, Bob considers himself lucky. After two months of paralysis, he started getting feeling back, starting at his toes. Within a year he was able to move everything and walk again. Through lots of therapy and hard work, within a few years, he was at about 60 to 70 percent of his former ability level. It helped that he was young and had always been an active, outdoors-loving person.

While he's never been able to regain all of his former strength, Bob has been able to live a full, active life over the past 46 years. In his thirties and forties, he started getting into cycling and cross-country skiing. "I couldn't run very well, but I could ride a bike just fine," he said.

Team Captain BobTeam Captain for Friends on Bikes, Bob and his group raised $5,000 for MS.

That's where ROAD iD comes in. Bob wears it whenever he's out biking, not only for identification, but also as a custom medical alert bracelet to tell EMTs about his spinal cord injury in case of an accident. Paramedics could unintentionally do damage if they didn't know about his condition. If they needed to put in a breathing tube, for instance, they would need to be extremely careful with his neck.

Now, as he's getting older, Bob has been noticing a loss of function and strength again. "I now have to use trekking poles to walk, but I can still get on my bike and ride," he said. "It's my freedom. It's what allows me to get outdoors with other people."

Bob and his granddaughterBob at the finish line of a charity ride with his granddaughter, Ellie.

In the area Bob lives, near the Wasatch Mountains in Utah, he has access to a great network of bike trails. During good weather he will take several 10- to 30-mile rides per week by himself or with friends. But since he's slower than most other riders, he lets them ride ahead. This means that he spends a lot of time riding by himself.

Bob has been wearing a ROAD iD as a medical alert bracelet for so long that he's forgotten how he first heard about it. "ROAD iD seemed to make such sense to me," he said. "As I've learned, freak accidents can happen when you least expect them. It feels better to have it on."

Bob ski bikingSki biking? Why not? Bob gives a new adventure a go.

In addition to weekly rides, Bob also enjoys participating in charity rides. Each year he does a ride for multiple sclerosis and the Summit Challenge, a bike ride that raises money for the National Abilities Center, an organization that provides recreational opportunities for people with disabilities. He recommends ROAD iD to other people with disabilities. "People with disabilities sometimes have other health issues, or they don't respond well to heat," he said. "When you have some kind of disability you need to protect yourself wherever you can."

At age 68, it's even more important to Bob that he is able to remain active, and ROAD iD gives him the peace of mind to do just that.

"It's a constant battle. If I wasn't this active I'd probably be in a wheelchair," he said. "That's where the bike comes in. It really saves me. It keeps me motivated to want to get out there."


Amy Leibrock is a Cincinnati-based freelance writer. Her work has appeared in,, Family Circle and more.