ST. LOUIS, Mo. - "At no point was I unconscious. It was just a very painful experience for me," Kevin Ogar said.
Ogar, who grew up in O'Fallon, Mo., was performing a powerlift last month in California when his spine was severed. During a weightlifting move he'd probably done hundreds of times, Ogar lost his balance and when he fell backwards. The barbells bounced off the floor into his neck.
"My first reaction was just dealing with the pain that was going on in my body at that point in time," Ogar said. "It kind of felt like every nerve in my body was on fire."
After two operations to repair his spinal cord, Ogar is paralyzed from the waist down. He spoke from Denver, where he takes part in six to seven hours a day of physical therapy.
"It's not something I think about day-to-day," when asked about the possibility of walking again. "Would I like it to happen? Yeah. I would love to get feeling in my legs back be able to walk a little bit on my own again, but my legs are not what defined me as a person, so if I never get any sensation back or walk again it's not going to change who am or what I can do for others."
When asked about a photo of a smiling young woman giving him a hug, Ogar expressed thanks for his family's support.
"That's my sister,Megan. My family's been really great. They've been around me since the accident happened. I'm really close with my family, brothers, sisters, aunts, cousins and everything. Megan's been out here and it's been really awesome," Ogar said.
Ogar has more than family to thank. When he woke from a drug-induced coma, he was shocked to learn that thanks to social media, over $100,000 had been raised. As of February 24, more than $365,000 has been raised for his medical bills. Much of that money came from total strangers.
"It's still something I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around that there's that many people out there so giving and caring, for someone they don't know," he said.
And there have been cards and Facebook messages from all over the world.
"Germany, Latin America. I think there's some in there from over in Spain, Australia. I've gotten some from Japan," Ogar said. "I had so many kind words sent to me, like cards, they really make a difference in the day to day struggle of staying positive."
And that's how Ogar is approaching this challenge: with a positive attitude.
"It's kind of hard to ever be really negative with that much support. I really think I'm pretty lucky. It sucks to be in this situation, but I said before, I'm probably the luckiest person to be in this situation. My mind wasn't affected. My upper body still works, so I feel like I'm pretty positive about the whole thing," he said.
Ogar says his goal is to go back to work as a coach and personal trainer.
"I think there's always hope. No one's really sure what's going to happen with spinal injuries and science in the near future. I had one doctor tell me that anyone who tells me there's a 100% chance of me never getting sensation or ever walking again probably doesn't know what they're talking about because there's always a chance and there's always hope."
To learn more about Kevin Ogar, or to contribute to his medical care, www.kevinogar.com.