The New Stuff


Full Speed Ahead with Endurance Racer Michael Johnson

Editor’s Note: Michael Johnson of Lansing, Michigan, started racing motorcycles with his father when he was only three years old. In 2005, he suffered a traumatic accident in which he broke his back during a race, leaving him paralyzed from the mid-chest down. After adjusting to his new normal, he found his way back to racing, this time in a go-kart. As his passion evolved, he moved to racing cars in 2009. This summer, at 24 years old, he’s gearing up for a slew of North American races while keeping his eye on his long-term goal: the international circuit.


I was really young when I had my accident; I was just about to go into 7th grade. I kind of lost my teenage years because of it and had to grow up really fast. I didn’t really know what was going to happen next, but I knew I wanted to continue racing and just living life. Luckily, my parents were there to help coach me through everything. They supported me every day by going to all the doctor appointments with me and teaching me how to live, learn, and function on a daily basis again.

Stem Cell Surgery

michael-johnson-racing-7My parents attended a seminar given by Dr. Carlos Lima, who did my initial surgery after my accident in 2005. They talked to him about a new surgery for spinal cord injury patients that looked very promising. We convinced him to allow me to get the surgery in 2009 when I was 17. We had to go to Portugal to get it done because it wasn’t approved in the US yet. The process involved taking stem cells from my brain and injecting them into the damaged area of my spinal cord. In theory, those cells retrain the impaired nerves to work again.

Since the surgery, I’ve gained quite a bit back in terms of sensory feeling. I can feel vibrations. If you tap my knee bone, I can feel that, but I can’t feel small things like if you lightly brush my skin or pull my leg hair. We don’t really know how much of those gains are from the stem cell surgery and how much are simply from time and working out.

Good Vibrations


Being able to feel vibrations is a huge plus in racing.

Everybody says you can feel everything through the seat of your pants, but since I can’t do that, I’ve learned how to feel through my hands on the steering wheel. The vibration of the car is transferred up through my body to my hands, and that’s how I can tell what’s happening.

Training Brain and Body


I’ve been with my current trainer since my stem cell surgery. He goes to all the races with me. He knows my legs really well. He knows if they’re having a good or bad day, and he knows how to really work with my body. We train four to five days a week and do a lot of cross-training, cycling, swimming, and low-weight, high repetition exercises. I don’t want my upper body to be too bulked up because I try to keep it proportional to my lower body. There’s a minimum weight for all racers, so the closer you are to that minimum, the more you can add weight to other parts of your car to find your ideal configuration.

I train as much as I can to make sure I’m as physical and competitive as everyone else is on the track.


Racing involves a lot of coordination. There are so many controls on the steering wheel and numerous tasks you have to do simultaneously. While I’m doing tedious physical exercises, my trainer will throw math or spelling questions at me. This forces me to use my brain while I’m doing the exercise. It’s especially important to work on this when I’m exhausted physically because it mimics an actual race. We train a lot in order to be our best during long races. The more physically and mentally fit we are, the better we’ll be on the track.

In for the Long Haul


The type of racing I do is called endurance racing. We compete with teams, and depending on the race, they last anywhere from two hours up to 24 hours. In general, I do the two-hour races. I’ll do the first half of the race, then we do a pit stop to change tires, fuel up, and switch drivers. My teammate then finishes the race. My current teammate and I have been racing together for the last two years, and he was my coach before that. Our busy season is starting up, and we’ll be racing all the way through October. I’m feeling good and am excited to get back into the car.

The Road to Europe

michael-johnson-racing-13My future goal is to race professionally over in Europe. I’d love to be able to travel from country to country and do what I do best. In order to do that, it’s important to gain a lot of experience, which is what I’ve been doing the last few years. The more I race in North America, the more experience I gain and the more exposure I get. If I can get myself out there and make myself known, I’m more likely to get sponsors and funding. Without money, I’m not going anywhere.

I’m currently sponsored by a big company out of Indiana called BraunAbility who manufactures wheelchair lifts and accessible vehicles. FreeM, a suit manufacturer, and Arai Helmets are also on board, as well as my dad’s company, Universal Coating, who is my major supporter right now.

I’m keeping my brain active by going to school as well. I’m studying marketing with the goal of understanding the work my manager does to promote me. Eventually, when I retire from racing, I’d like to own my own team.

Don’t Give Up


The biggest thing that I tell people with a new injury is to hang in there; don’t give up. It will get easier. Some days you’ll have it bad, and some days will be much better. If you give up, you give up on yourself, your friends, and your family. Find a goal to go after that keeps you busy and active. Racing helped me. It was my therapy. Just try to enjoy the life you have, because it could always be worse. Try and live your life like you would if you were walking. You’ll have to make a few changes, but it’s not the end of the world.

Focus on something that makes you enjoy life.

michael-johnson-racing-5Editor’s Note: Follow Johnson’s schedule and results on his website and social media:

About the Authorbetsy-bailey-headshot

Betsy Bailey has a diverse background including experience in marketing research at American Express, business operations and client relations with 601am, travel and culinary writing with VegDining, and playing volleyball professionally overseas.

Betsy is excited to get back into writing, something she’s adored since childhood, and thoroughly enjoys the process of getting to know her interviewees. On top of her work with Wheel:Life, she also teaches students learning English as a second language, speaks French fluently, and travels any chance she gets!

A Special Offer from Coloplast


SpeediCath® Flex Coudé – order free samples now!

The new SpeediCath® Flex Coudé is here! The flexible tip and softness of the catheter tube makes it easy to handle and enables safe and gentle passage through the urethra. Try SpeediCath® Flex Coudé today and discover how easy it can be to cath with the new SpeediCath® Flex Coudé!

Recently Published


Sheri Melander-Smith on Living Your Best Life

Editor’s Note:  Sheri Melander-Smith was born with a vascular ...


5 Extreme Activities to Add to Your Bucket List

Have you already tried all of the typical adaptive sports available ...


Reflections and Lessons Learned in 2017

We hope your 2017 was as enlightening and empowering as ours was here ...


Living with MS: One Family’s Solution to Enjoying Life Events Again

Dave was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1999 and for the first ...


4 Tips to Help Teach Your Child About Self-Catheterization

At a certain age, kids will be the first to tell you that they want ...

waving happy young adult woman on wheelchair in the city in winter at sunset

Winter Weather Preparedness Tips for Wheelchair Users

Are you dreading this winter season? Dealing with slushy, icy, snowy, ...


Making Adaptive Climbing More Accessible with Arthur Torrey

Editor’s Note: When a tree-cutting accident in 2010 led to broken ...

woman on wheelchair entering the platform

Barbara Cramer – 75 Years of Defying Stereotypes

Editor’s Note: Barbara Ann Roose Cramer was born during World War ...


Serving the Spina Bifida Community with the SBAGNE

I serve as the executive director of the SBAGNE. One of my primary ...


Comfort Medical is Helping People to Achieve a Healthier and Happier Lifestyle

If you’re an avid Wheel:Life reader, you may remember that we ...


Advocating for Disability Rights with Stephanie Woodward and CDR

Editor’s Note: During a summer internship at the Center for ...


Building Strength and Confidence with Handi Capable Fitness

Editor’s Note: A botched hernia operation during infancy left James ...


Comfort Medical Sponsors Freedom Concepts to Help You Win An Adaptive Bike

Have you always dreamt of gliding down the street with the wind in ...


Experience It All At the Abilities Expo!

Days are becoming shorter, nights longer, and the holiday season is ...


ParaSportsLive: Bringing Adaptive Sports Coverage to the World

Editor’s Note:  When wheelchair user Tony Jackson’s original ...


Introducing the New Cure Ultra Coude Intermittent Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra® Coude ...


Get Ready for Rolling With Me’s Each By Name Conference

Wheel:Life, Comfort Medical, and Rolling With Me is excited to ...


Smooth Sailing with David Gaston

Editor’s Note:  A Texas coast native, David Gaston has been in and ...

Husband and handicapped wife taking stroll in park alley

Gain Traction This Fall with National Ramp

Summer is officially over and dreary winter weather is on its way. ...


Wheelchair Dancers Organization Says Everybody Can Dance!

When life-long dancer Beverly Weurding was diagnosed with limb-girdle ...


Pursuing Health and Happiness with Malaise Wheelchair Fitness

Editor’s Note: Justin Malaise grew up in small-town Wisconsin as a ...


Former Ms. Wheelchair Illinois Continues to be a Voice for the Community

Editor’s Note: Born with spina bifida, Kim Brown has been a ...


Dare to Discover the World of Accessible Travel With Handiscover

Editor’s Note: Sebastien Archambeaud has always loved traveling, so ...


Made for Kids! The Pediatric Hydrophilic Cure Catheter + Free Backpack Program

Parents only want what’s best for their children and keeping them ...


Wheeling, Driving, Bowling, Preaching, Parenting…Johnny Hudson Does It All Hands-free!

Editor’s Note: Johnny Hudson was born in 1977 with unforeseen ...

Pat Dougherty explains FreeWheel to a new fan at a recent Abilities Expo.

The Abilities Expo is Coming To Boston!

Boston awaits with open arms. This September 8–10, head over to the ...


Comfort Conversations: Change Starts with You – Becoming an Advocate

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...

» Blazing the Trail Towards an Accessible World  

Editor’s Note: After sustaining severe burns during a car accident ...


The Artfully Gifted Foundation – Serving Entrepreneurs with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: The Artfully Gifted Foundation (a non-profit) was ...


How the SCRS-IL Can Help You Live Independently

Editor’s Note: When triple degree holder Jose Gonzalez returned ...


Peter Arballo Never Gave Up on Himself — Neither Should You

Editor’s Note: Peter Arballo was born in Southern California to ...


Full Speed Ahead with Endurance Racer Michael Johnson

Editor’s Note: Michael Johnson of Lansing, Michigan, started racing ...


The Extraordinary Life of Triple Amputee Monica Vickers

Editor’s Note: Monica Vickers was born in 1954 missing both legs ...


Rick Hayden Rolls on Capitol Hill for Your Rights

When Rick Hayden visited the US Capitol last week, he went with your ...


Gear Up for Abilities Expo Chicago

Calling all Midwesterners — Abilities Expo is coming to Chicago! As ...


Run, Jump, and Throw Stuff with Angel City Sports

Editor’s Note: Clayton Frech is the CEO and founder of Los ...


Sled Hockey with Coach Koz

Editor’s Note: Sled hockey (also known as sledge hockey) is almost ...

Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL

Summer Solutions with STYLEDWEL

Editor’s Note: Mary Marshall, founder of STYLEDWEL, created ...


Following Your Inner Guidance with Kristina Rhoades and How National Ramp is Helping Her Do It

Editor’s Note: Kristina Rhoades is a mom, wife, speaker, writer, ...

men who use wheelchairs

Comfort Conversations: Finding Encouragement Through Peer Support Groups

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...


Allen Beauchamp on Life, Love and Hockey

My name is Allen Beauchamp, and I’m 43 years old. I live in a ...


Yoocan Get Empowered!

Editor’s Note: Inspired by a family member with disabilities, Moshe ...


Introducing the Cure Ultra: Ready to Use Catheter for Men

Cure Medical has unveiled the new 16-inch Cure Ultra™ Intermittent ...


Refuel and Rejuvenate At Abilities Expo New York Metro

East coasters, or anyone within striking distance, gear up for ...


Criptaedo: Breaking Boards and Barriers

Editor’s note: Paul Brailer, aka Criptaedo, was born with spina ...


Rolling Forward with Amputee Advocate Stella Sieber

I’m currently 63 years old and live in Durham, North Carolina. ...


Stroke by Stroke: Moving Forward with Mallory Weggemann

Editor’s Note: At 18 years old, Mallory Weggemann walked into the ...

Margarita Cover Photo

Comfort Conversations: Finding Your New Normal After a Spinal Cord injury

Join us every other month for Comfort Conversations, a discussion ...


Glenn Moscoso: Wheelchair Daddy

Editor’s note:  Glenn Moscoso is a husband and father living with ...


Avoiding Slippery Slopes with Garth Walker and National Ramp

Editor’s Note: After selling his prior business, Garth Walker went ...


The National Sports Center for the Disabled: Finding Self-Confidence through Personal Challenge

Editor’s Note: The National Sports Center for the Disabled, founded ...


Wheeling around the World with Susie Twydell

Editor’s Note: Based in England, Susie Twydell, an avid traveler ...

What rolls through your mind as you approach your own journey?

Amplitude Media Group: Closing the Information Gap

Wheel:Life is thrilled to announce their newest community partner, ...


Accessible Hiking, Camping and Fishing? WOW!  

Editor’s Note: Wilderness on Wheels (WOW) is a foundation and a ...


Comfort Conversations: Events, Free Packs, and More with James “Woody” Beckham

Editor’s Note: The Woody Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit ...


Jenn Sexton Shares Her Secret for Independence: An Extra Long Cure Catheter

Jenn Sexton was five weeks pregnant when she and her husband, Thomas, ...


Glen Schlotterbeck: Reinvent Yourself!

Editors note: As a graduate of the US Air Force Academy, Glen ...


Educate, Energize, and Enlighten at Abilities Expo Los Angeles

The Abilities Expo is back in Los Angeles and gearing up to show you ...


Juan Sebastian Betancourt: Changing the Way Businesses Serve People with Disabilities

Editor’s Note: Juan Betancourt is on a path to change the world for ...


AccessibleIndonesia: Making Travel Accessible in a Non-Accessible Country

Editor’s note: Kerstin Beise, a German physiotherapist, who also ...


A Lesson on Living Life to the Fullest with Hydred Makabali

Editor’s note: Hydred Makabali, born and raised in England and now ...

Up/Down Team Champions (Top L to R) Shane Hayden, Harold Collins (Seated L to R) Gary Bowling, Kenneth Hill, and Don Law

Knocking Down The Pins of Life with Wheelchair Bowling Champion Kenneth Hill

Editor’s Note: Fifty-year-old Kenneth Hill from Plainfield, ...


Take Your Wings and Fly with Denise Horn

Editor’s Note: Fifty-six-year-old Denise Horn of Janesville, ...


Ashley Hutson Wilson Beat a Small Chance of Survival to Live a Full Life

Editor’s Note: Thirty-one year old Ashley Hutson Wilson from Kyle, ...


Jam with Mel Bergman: Creator of Wheely Guitars

Editor’s Note: Mel Bergman of Camarillo, California, is the ...


Gary “Tiger” Balletto: Champion Prize Fighter Who Rolls with the Punches

Editor’s Note: You can capture a ferocious wild tiger and put him ...

9 Robby Heisner

Meet Robby Heisner: Creative Entrepreneur on Wheels

Editor’s Note: Robby Heisner of Smyrna, Georgia ...

Joseph Logar1

The National Rifle Association’s Adaptive Shooting Program with Dr. Joseph Logar

Dr. Joseph Logar Editor’s Note: Dr. Joseph Logar has his doctorate ...


The Rollettes Take On an E.P.I.C. Project to Empower Others

Editor’s Note: Chances are, you’ve seen these ladies ...


Speak Up Now to Save Your Wheelchair: Fight Medicare Cuts

Your window is narrowing to preserve access to mobility equipment – ...

engineered for adventure GRIT

Go Further Together with GRIT: Stories of Community Support

Our friends at GRIT, the makers of the revolutionary Freedom Chair, ...


Paralyzed Veteran’s Mom Awarded Dream Trip by ElDorado Mobility

Editor’s Note: Serving our country as a military service member is ...

4Kenneth Perry

Wheelchair Karate: Attack the Attacker with Kenneth Perry

Editor’s Note: Kenneth Perry from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, ...

5 Tom Cannalonga

Ditch Your Chair to Sit-Ski the Slopes with Tom Cannalonga 

Editor’s Note: Fifty-two-year-old Tom Cannalonga lives in Edison, ...


Welcome to Wheel:Life

We are so glad you’re here! Wheel:Life is a global initiative ...

%d bloggers like this: