Tim Strachan, former NRH patient, is being honored at the 24th annual Gala Victory Awards. His story and amazing strength serves as an inspiration to everyone. Tim was born and raised in Kensington, MD and still resides there today with his immediate family as well as his extended family. Tim, his three older brothers, and his parents live within a six-block radius of one another in Kensington.
Tim’s passion, football, began when he was just five years old. For three years, he became more of a mascot than a player as he was too little and too young to play. However, he wanted to be like his older brothers so after serving his time as mascot, Tim began playing on a team of his own. He knew from the beginning what he wanted to do and that was to play football. “It was all consuming for me,” said Strachan.
Tim’s football career progressed rapidly. He played on the junior varsity team his freshman year at DeMatha High School and on the varsity team as a sophomore and junior. Tim became a starter the fourth game of his sophomore year and led his team to the championship both years. The summer after his junior year, Tim was being highly recruited by college coaches and his name could be found in all of the major sports magazines. He went on unofficial recruiting visits in the summer of 1993 and contemplated which college would be a good fit for him.
Tim and his family visited Penn State University to meet with Coach Joe Paterno. After taking a tour around the campus, Coach Paterno told Tim that they were going to offer him a scholarship. However, early offers for athletes were very new and Tim’s coach at DeMatha, Bill McGregor, did not want any of his players to accept early offers to avoid any negative consequences on other team members.
Excited for his senior year, Tim went with his family to Bethany Beach at the beginning of August. On August 5th, Tim went on his normal two mile jog and played hours of beach volleyball. Covered in sand and sweat, Tim looked to the ocean to cool off. As a wave came, Tim dove into the ocean, hitting his head on a rock on the ocean bottom. Tim lay floating in the water, his own arms hitting him in the face.
His girlfriend at the time thought he was kidding but soon realized something was wrong when she flipped him over and saw blood coming from his mouth. She called for help and Tim was taken by helicopter to Thomas Jefferson Hospital. He had broken his neck and fractured the fifth vertebrae of his spine.
During his two months in the hospital, Tim endured 19 hours of surgery. He spent two weeks in the ICU and was very ill with pneumonia. He recalls it as one of the lowest days of his life - he realized he had gone from an elite athlete to someone who could barely feed himself. “It was a really low, sad moment,” he recalls.
Only a couple of days after his first surgery, Tim asked the nurse when he could get the halo off his head. After learning that it would be three months, he realized this would be after postseason. The nurse had to inform Tim that he probably wouldn’t be playing football again. Tim responded, “Go get my dad.”
Tim’s father sat down and told him that he was paralyzed and the chances of him walking again were very slim. He reassured Tim, “What you have to remember is that you are still you, you will always be the same person. You will always be T.” This message reminded Tim that despite the huge physical challenge ahead, his personality would never change.
After leaving Thomas Jefferson in Philadelphia, Tim wanted to be close to friends and family so he began his rehabilitation at NRH. At first, he could barely stay in his chair for more than a couple of hours. However, each day got better and therapy sessions became easier. Tim says, “NRH taught me how to take care of myself, first and foremost. They taught me how to take care of my health, my body and my skin which has been instrumental to this day.”
During his three months at NRH, Tim regained limited use of his arms and hands. He was able to do the first competitive activity since his accident, play ping pong with a paddle strapped to his hand. He is especially grateful to the doctors, therapists and nurses for their incredible support during his recovery.
After NRH, Tim resumed going to class part-time at DeMatha. He was able to attend the final football game, the playoffs and the championship game which they won.
Tim was always looking for ways to improve his physical condition and soon found incredible help from the housekeeper of a family friend. Trained in neurology in El Salvador, she was the first person who tried to get Tim to stand up. The first time, he stood up for a couple of seconds and he could feel his muscles trying to work. For years to come, Tim spent a few hours daily trying to walk. The family converted his brother’s garage into a workout room and Tim used a pulley system installed over a treadmill.
In the fall of 1995, Tim enrolled at the University of Maryland. He worked very closely with the football team, helping the quarterbacks and doing behind the scenes work. Terrapins broadcasting legend Johnny Holliday asked Tim what he was doing during the Saturday games and asked him to do the sideline radio reporting.
“I was awful when I first started,” said Strachan. “I never really prepped before games.” That was 15 years ago and Tim has been broadcasting the games ever since.
After graduating from the University of Maryland in the fall of 1999, Tim was not sure what was next for him. After working for more than a year, Tim decided to pursue his education and was accepted to Georgetown University Law School in the fall of 2001.“Law school was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, including breaking my neck,” he said. Tim found a niche in the legislative arena of law. His first real job after getting his law degree was serving on the Council for the Senate Judiciary Committee. He learned a tremendous amount about the law and how U.S. Congress works.
After three years, an opportunity opened up for Tim to move his career into a more defined direction at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Today, Tim still works for the FCC in the Office of Legislative Affairs as an attorney advisor. He serves as the liaison between the FCC and Capitol Hill. In addition to his full-time career in law and his football broadcasting, Tim is married to Leslie Neale Strachan and is a father to two young girls, Sophie and Olivia. “I am always striving to be a good husband and dad and to keep working and moving forward,” he says.
Tim also does professional motivational speaking when his schedule allows for it. “I speak to anyone from a kindergarten class to a fortune 500 company.”
In addition to telling his story, Tim shares what he calls “the fundamentals for life” in terms of how he overcame adversity. He says, “You don’t have to break your neck and become paralyzed to have challenges in your life. We all have adversity and challenges on a daily basis and I tell people that they can get through it.”
-- Danielle Servetnick