Bushnell strives to be ‘better version’ of himself despite obstacles

The term disability is a word that describes a variety of conditions that have one thing in common — that uncomfortable feeling many experience when discussing it. According to information from the University of Missouri, thousands of its students have a disability. Often, students will struggle on their own.

One of those students, who has both a physical and mental disability, Hunter Bushnell, says adjusting to life at college was hard.

“Adjusting to life here and at the dorms was really difficult for me at first,” Bushnell said.  “I was not used to having to use my wheelchair to get so far and sometimes laundry is difficult to do. But, I’m happy with my decision to come here.”

Hunter is paralyzed from his armpits down due to a football accident that occurred a couple of years ago. While he is adjusting to this new way of life, Hunter has to continue to move forward as a college freshman. In addition, he deals with ADHD, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, which makes it hard for him to focus on his studies and schoolwork. Bushnell said of the two, his ADHD has been more of a challenge to overcome as a college student.

“By far my ADHD disorder has been difficult to deal with,” Bushnell said. “The disability center has gone above and beyond to help me with my wheelchair, but there is only so much they can do to help.”

Hunter’s mom, Brandy McCorkle Shoop, said as a parent, it is tough to watch her son struggle.

“Seeing him off on his own is hard enough as a mom, but seeing him struggle to figure things out was harder than I could ever imagine,” Shoop said. “It took everything I had to give him his space and let him relearn how to live alone. I can’t imagine all the things he pushed through to adapt to the new independence, but I still don’t understand how he was able to overcome the few things I did see him fight through.”

Shoop said it is up to her son to access the resources available around him. The last two years of Bushnell’s life, Shoop has been his No. 1 support. He has depended on her to help him with daily tasks. The transition has brought a new set of challenges for mother and son.

“I have to trust that he will ask for help when he needs it, but I’m pretty sure this has been easier for him to deal with than it is for me to watch him struggle and not step in,” Shoop said.

All college freshmen have to make adjustments to their lifestyles, study habits and other activities. Even though students who live normal lives have trouble adjusting, for those with disabilities it can be harder. But, MU has support available for students. These accommodations include course substitution, emotional support and service animals, flexible attendance, adjusted housing, parking, reduced course load and transportation.

For instance, a weekly chore that is so common for most individuals looks completely different for Bushnell. He said doing the laundry is one of the toughest tasks he is faced with. Most students carry their clothes down, pick a washer and dryer, then go back to their rooms to fold and put away. Bushnell can’t do that on his own. He requires help carrying the multiple loads. From there he must use one of the lower washers and dryers, and this can be difficult at times when there are none available. Even folding and properly putting laundry away is a battle. Full range of motion is a privilege many take for granted, yet Bushnell has found new and innovative ways to complete even the simplest of tasks with a little help from friends.

Bushnell said he knows he will be all right because there are a multitude of people standing behind him. His family, friends and the University support his efforts to further his education. Bushnell said he doesn’t want to be known for the injury that has changed his life, nor will he be remembered as the kid who can’t focus. Instead, he hopes to inspire others to believe that no matter what life throws in your path, you can always overcome to be the better version of yourself.