‘Never give up’: How one Utah man was able to turn tragedy into triumph

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Abel Seward’s story is one of tragedy, perseverance, and triumph.

Seward is originally from Ghana in West Africa, but moved to the United States after a tragic incident that seemed to have found a happy ending.

The father of three is currently living his life in a wheelchair due to a series of unfortunate events.

“I wasn’t always in a wheelchair,” says Seward. “Sometime before I came to this country right before senior high school, I was riding what they call in America a scooter and I got hit by a car.”

At the time, Seward didn’t think the accident had caused any severe damage, since he seemingly recovered from his injuries.

But a year after his recovery, things started to change.

“I started having symptoms that included feeling weak in my limbs, but I was able to complete senior high school,” says Seward.

After graduating high school, Seward moved to the United States.

“I was still able to walk and everything,” says Seward. “I was still feeling weakness in my limbs, so I went to a doctor and got diagnosed with muscular weakness.”

Doctors explained to Seward that he had a mutation in his muscle proteins that was causing the weakness he was feeling.

Seward says, “It took a while, but eventually, I started going from a walker to a cane and then a wheelchair.”

A year after moving to America, Seward was enrolled in college. He had high hopes and dreams. At first, he was trying to pursue a business degree and eventually a masters in business administration, because he wanted to own his own business one day.

But after his diagnoses, he changed gears.

“When I got diagnosed with this disease, I was told at the time that there was no treatment for it, but there were ongoing clinical trials to come up with some kind of drug to help people with this condition,” says Seward. “When the doctor told me that, I decided at that moment to pursue pharmacy so that I could be involved in the research to help find a cure or have first-hand knowledge of whatever comes up for my condition. Not only for me, but also to help others.”

The dream of pursuing pharmacy nearly got shattered. While living in Minnesota, Seward got into another accident.

“I had another accident because of the condition I had in Minnesota,” says Seward. “One time I was driving to the library, and by this time, I was still able to move around without a wheelchair. I was on the highway driving about 60mph, and then my right leg froze on the accelerator. I couldn’t lift it. It just froze.”

There was a red light ahead of him as he was exiting.

Seward says, “It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life. I had to run the light and hit multiple cars in the process. I still couldn’t get my foot off the accelerator.”

That accident caused more damage to his already existing condition. Walking or moving around became a little more difficult for him.

Seward stopped going to college for a while after that accident.

“For about 10 years, I was waiting for answers,” says Seward. “I was waiting for some kind of hope, some kind of positive or something, but it didn’t happen.”

Seward later moved from Minnesota to California and says he felt strongly that it was time to try and go back to school again.

“I was scared to go back to school. I didn’t know how I was going to do it with my condition,” says Seward. “I knew going back to pursue pharmacy was not going to be an easy thing. I thought of all the classes and labs I would have to take as part of the course.”

His worries grew stronger.

“How am I going to be able to move from class to class?” says Seward. “At the time, I was using a manual wheelchair, so everything felt impossible for me. I was kind of in a dark place for a while thinking it was over for me, there’s is no hope until I gathered the courage to go back to school.”

Seward was eventually able to take classes one at a time, starting from a community college and eventually leading into pharmacy school.

He was enrolled in a private University in South Jordan, Utah. He moved to the Beehive State with his 5-year-old son at the time, not knowing a single person in the area.

“Traveling with a 5-year-old was not easy. I just took the chance and moved,” says Seward.

Seward found out he could combine his pharmacy degree with an MBA, taking on the challenge of pursuing both due to his continued passion for business.

“A pharmacy degree takes about four years on average after a bachelor’s degree, and an MBA takes about two years. So together, I was looking at a six-year education, but I was able to do it in three years,” says Seward.

Seward graduated with a 4.0 GPA with both degrees.

All these achievements didn’t come without their own set of challenges.

Seward added, “Being that I was a single parent with an extra set of challenges, including catching the bus to school and so on, I had to make sure that I woke up early, get my son ready, and take him to school before heading to school myself, and then leave school and pick him up after.”

It was hard, but Seward says, “I kept fighting.”

There were times when he taught himself the pharmacy course at home due to discrimination and intimidation he didn’t want to deal with at school.

Seward says there were many people who tried to push him to quit. He added, “When you talk about systemic discrimination of minorities, I faced all that. When I got to the school, after the first semester, I felt that these people didn’t want me here, but I had waited so many years to get here and I just couldn’t quit.”

One of the requirements for Seward’s pharmacy course was to get CPR certified during his first semester.

“They failed me because they said being in a wheelchair, I wasn’t able to apply enough pressure or deep enough pressure that will be required on the dummy to effectively do compressions for the CPR,” says Seward.

Seward says it was hard to study sometimes. He is the first person in his family to ever earn a degree.

“I wanted to share my story because sometimes in life, people get hit by unexpected circumstances, and that can be the end of it,” says Seward. “They lose their dream and lose everything because they don’t see the possibility of coming out of that situation.”

Seward says above all else, he believed in himself.

“Quitting was not an option for me,” says Seward.

He is the oldest child in his family, and as such, he felt he had to set a standard for his younger siblings to follow.

“I knew God had given me intellectual talent, so instead of letting the situation bury my talent, I decided to pursue and fight to be an example for my family and also my kids,” says Seward. “I wanted a better life for my kids.”

Even though raising a 5-year-old by himself due to his condition was a challenge, Seward says bringing his son with him was a huge motivation for him.

“Every time I looked at him it kept me going,” says Seward. “I knew I wasn’t just doing it for myself. I knew I was doing it for him.”

Seward adds that he is a man of faith, and prayer was another thing that kept him going.

When asked what his advice would be to anyone in a similar situation to his own, Seward says, “There is a lot of uncertainty in life. Nobody knows tomorrow and what can happen. When things happen, you can easily give in and give up on your dreams, but no matter the challenges that come your way, know that your willpower, your God-given talent, and your God-given ability is stronger than the circumstances that might hit us. Never give up! No matter what comes your way, never give up.”

Seward is now studying to take the board exams for his pharmacy license after graduating.

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