Riding a dirt bike is freedom for 28-year-old Danny Baird.
The Lowell man has been riding since he was a toddler.
"My dad got me on a three-wheeler when I was like three and then moved up to a little PW50. I started racing when I was four,” Baird said.
He hasn’t looked back since.
"I do it all. I drag race. I motor cross. I hill climb,” he said.
Watching him ride you would never guess that Baird is paralyzed.
"I remember laying there and instantly I knew what was up. I couldn't feel my feet,” he said.
His bike ended up falling on top of him, leaving him paralyzed from his armpits down.
“What do they call it, a complete spinal cord injury or something? Like I said, I don't even know. I don't even really care what they call it. I am what I am and I just make the most of it, you know?” Baird said.
It would normally be a career-ending injury.
Baird: They told me all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't be able to do.
Reporter: Like what?
Baird: Pretty much live.
That didn’t work for Baird.
“I like riding my bike. I don't want a desk job,” he said.
After four and a half years, Baird got back on his bike for the first time in April.
"It was weird because even though it's been like four and a half years, it's like my body remembers everything that it should do, like seat bouncing when you jump and stuff. I've just got to figure out how to do it differently,” he said.
Differently is an understatement - with seat belts to strap him in and a cage around his legs.
"Motocross is like the physically most demanding sport in the world. You use every muscle in your body. I don't know, it's real hard but it seems like I'm figuring out how to do it the more practice I get,” Baird said.
Baird seems to have it figured out. He's taken part in numerous competitions - just recently getting back from Sturgis, South Dakota.
"Second place in the four-stroke class, which is a hell of an achievement for me,” he said.
What's more of an achievement, getting back on the very thing that almost took his life.
"This scares me so much I like it. Like, you know that feeling you get when you go on a roller coaster like you get in your stomach? Well, I can't feel anything below here but I can still feel that feeling like when I'm flying,” he said.
As for what's next for Baird, well, he said he's just rolling with it.
"I feel comfortable when I'm on my bike. As scary as many bad things can happen, I feel like I'm in control still somehow, you know? There's nowhere I feel more comfortable,” he said.
Baird is the first quadriplegic to compete in motocross.
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