Former Stow resident shares inspiring story of death, new life

by Tim Troglen | reporter Published:

A 26-year-old man who once was so delusional that he thought of himself as the second coming of Jesus Christ is hoping his story of triumphing over tragedy can help inspire others to live their lives to the fullest, without taking even simple things for granted.

When Adam Helbling graduated from Stow High School in 2005, his future appeared bright. He was on a "free ride" scholarship to Ohio State University, pursuing his passion of water skiing by joining the college team and taking honors classes. Helbling's major was civil engineering. He wanted to build water ski parks for those who shared his passion for water sports.

"In the fall of 2008, that's when things went bad," Helbling said.

Helbling began smoking marijuana during his sophomore year of college.

"I was smoking on a daily basis up until my first manic episode," Helbling said.

After that episode, doctors diagnosed him with bipolar disorder and he spent more than two weeks in a hospital psychiatric ward.

"When I was in the psych ward I suffered from the Truman effect where I believed that there were cameras all over the place and everyone was watching the second coming of Jesus Christ," Helbling said.

He was later placed on medication, sent to drug rehab and attended therapy sessions. Helbling got a job, paid off the $15,000 debt he incurred during an episodic spending spree and began working with the girls water ski team. But, as things began to look up again for Helbling, he said he began smoking marijuana again on a daily basis.

He said he believed he "was on top of the world again."

Then, in January, he was told by a family member that his medication had been linked to diabetes.

"I went off of the medication for five days," he said

Helbling again became delusional. After driving a friend home, he said decided to not go home, but to keep driving until he reached California. Around 3:30 a.m., with five inches of snow on the ground and a temperature of minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit, Helbling drove west on highway 70.

"I was having the time of my life," Helbling remembered.

He made it to Indiana. While driving 90 mph, the car spun out of control, blew a tire, and started going backwards. However, Helbling was able to get the car under control without wrecking it.

"I felt I was invincible," Helbling said.

At one point, in Rushville, Ind., Helbling, driving close to 120 mph, passed a police station where two officers were outside of their cruisers. The officers began chasing Helbling, who was driving into oncoming traffic.

A song came on the radio, encouraging listeners to put hands in the air, Helbling said. Helbling put both hands through his car's open sunroof, when he looked down and saw his speedometer was at 120 mph.

"Then everything went black," Helbling remembered.

He later learned that his car flipped five times, front over front.

"When they got to me I had no pulse," Helbling said. "But, they were able to bring me back."

When Helbling woke up in the hospital, he was surrounded by family.

He suffered two collapsed lungs, a dislocated elbow and a spinal cord injury. He spent six days in the Intensive Care Unit and four months in the hospital. He was in therapy for a year.

The accident left Helbling a quadriplegic. He eventually regained the use of his arms, but remains in a wheelchair. He cannot feel pain from his chest down, and only has full movement of his right hand.

While recovering, Helbling began writing and telling his story. He noticed that people were responding to his story and wanted to change their lives around.

"Once I started writing on Facebook and getting feedback that it was helping change people's lives, I started to write more and more," he said.

Helbling began a blog and recently finished a book.

At he time of the accident, Helbling was five classes short of graduation. Helbling returned to Columbus in 2012 and earned his degree. He has told his story at a variety of venues and is one of 12 speakers at an April 13 OSU event.

"I want to tell people to learn to be thankful for everything, even something as simple as being able to go to the bathroom," Helbling said. "Any tragedy can be overcome."

Helbling wants to continue public speaking, get his book published and design handicapped accessible vacation locations, he said.

Helbling's mom, Patsy, called her son "pretty remarkable."

"I could not be more proud of him," Patsy, who works for Hudson schools, said. "He wants others to learn from his mistakes and how to live each day and not take anything for granted.

Karen Sue Carter, a friend of Helbling's family, said she was impressed by the ability he has to make people feel comfortable in his presence.

"There is no way you can feel sympathy for his situation because he doesn't allow it," Carter said. "Anyone who has an opportunity to meet this young man, hear his story or read his blog will be changed."

To read Helbling's blog visit www.AdamHelbling.com.

Email: ttroglen@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9435

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