Bryan King is a single father who has a very special bond with his son.
With only his son by his side, Bryan King has been a single father for over five years. His son, Kadin, 18, is his best friend. Fortunately, the split with Kadin’s mother hasn’t had a negative effect on their relationship and Kadin has lived with him full time since the divorce.
“We have always had a special relationship,” Bryan, 40, says. “We always get asked if we are brothers. We give each other a hard time and have fun doing it, so we do have that brother-like relationship, but he does have the respect of me being his dad and knows when those times are.”
Their relationship has been strong from the start. Bryan was injured when Kadin was only 2 years old, so he’s been a wheelchair user a majority of his son’s life, but he hasn’t let that get in the way.
Down a ditch
Bryan was injured while working on a job in his current residence of Imperial Valley, Calif. He was a Zanjero, which means he was in charge of water distribution for farmers. He worked the graveyard shifts, and one night he switched locations with another coworker. This was a location he had never been to and he was very unfamiliar with the area and the work that was being done there. While he was driving, he drove over a small hill and there was a 20 feet wide and 18 feet deep ditch on the other side that he didn’t know about and drove right into it at approximately 35 miles per hour.
“There was supposed to be a sign there, but the sign had been knocked over by some farm equipment. It was reported, but never replaced,” Bryan says. “Since it was 2 a.m., it was pitch black. I could see the road continue on, but not the portion on the other side that was lower. So, me not knowing what was on the other side at that time, and the sign being knocked down, I had no clue [the ditch was there] and I went over it and hit the other side.”
Bryan had his seatbelt on, but he was thrown around inside the truck. He hit his head on the ceiling of the truck which pushed his spine down and shattered his T3 and T4 vertebrae. He lost all feeling in his body instantly and knew something was very wrong.
“A lot of things were going through my mind that night,” Bryan says. “I was hurt really bad, and I didn’t know exactly how hurt because I couldn’t feel the rest of my body. I didn’t know if I was struck by anything from the vehicle, because there was broken glass, and there were a lot of things that were not right.”
He remembers getting on the radio in his truck and telling everyone that he loves them. The one thing he wanted that night was for his son and his family to know that he loved them.
He’s run into some health issues which has led him to leave his job, but he still maintains an active lifestyle with activities that he loves, such as shooting, working on cars, cooking and spending quality time with Kadin.
“Other than being specifically sick with certain things, life in a chair hasn’t been that bad,” Bryan says. “I’ve done a lot, I’ve met a lot of great people through my experiences. I think I’ve been pretty complete about most things. My son is happy, and I always want him to be happy and he’s in a good place right now and I think I’m in a good place. I think life is good I have no complaints.”
Being a father
For Bryan, being a father has been the most rewarding part of his life. He is also very close with his father, which has influenced his relationship with Kadin. They joke around with each other like brothers, go on hunting trips together, play sports together and hang out like friends. When Bryan was younger, he and his father built his car together and now he is sharing that experience with Kadin as they are currently building Kadin’s car.
Bryan was a good baseball player before his injury. He was drafted into the Houston Astros in 1995 and the Oakland A’s in 1996. He has passed down his athletics to Kadin who has played baseball, football and learned martial arts. He even helped coach Kadin’s baseball teams for 12 years. Bryan has always been able to participate in activities with his son, but there have been some hard times that he has faced.
“The thing that really got me was the fact that I wasn’t able to teach him how to play baseball the way, I guess, a normal father and son would,” Bryan says. “I would still play catch with him, but it’s a little different. It’s been a real challenge trying to teach him without being able to show the actual movements of things. It was a challenge trying to pick up on how to describe things and how to do things without showing him. That was always pretty tough.”
While he has mentally struggled with those thoughts, Bryan has never let Kadin see him struggling.
“I’ve always done everything [with him] and not let him see me struggle or be upset about it,” he says. “Of course, he’s seen some days of my frustration, I’m not perfect, but he’s always been understanding, caring and very helpful. He’s actually made it [being paralyzed] really easy.”
Throughout the years, Bryan has watched his son mature into the man he hoped he would be.
“It was kind of like a switch that flipped on with his maturity,” he says. “It wasn’t right away, but around his junior year [of high school] he kind of just matured so fast all of a sudden and I’m pretty proud of him. He’s just been a really good kid.”
Advice to fathers in wheelchairs
“I would say try to be as positive as much as possible, even when you have harder times, and to take things slowly,” Bryan says. “Life is short. My main thing is to try to make things not so difficult [for him] and don’t stress about the small stuff. Try not to show anger, try to have fun and treat them with the respect that you want to be treated with.
“As a single father, keep them close, ask questions, don’t be so serious all the time, have fun, relax and tell them ‘I love you’ every day. I don’t want to ever think that if one day something happened [to me] that I didn’t say that to him. That’s something I do say to my son every single day, I always say ‘I love you.’ Tell your kids that you love them.”