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A paraplegic veterinary student returns to childhood dream

For Bernard Dime, a first year student in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Program at Colorado State University, childhood goals have a funny way of showing up again.

“I wanted to be a vet when I was a little kid, and then that started to fade away as I got older and pursued other things,” said Dime.

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Bernard Dime poses for a portrait with his service dog, Corky, in the Anatomy building. Dime is the first paraplegic student in Colorado State University’s veterinarian program. (Forrest Czarnecki | Collegian)

 

Those other things included being a guitarist in a band called The Real You out of high school, touring with them for a few years, traveling and skydiving. Once he found skydiving at age 21, Dime was immediately hooked. He pursued the sport professionally and started training to join the army. Just weeks before Dime was set to enlist – an accident in the sky changed his life. He ended up on his back, his spine was shattered and left him paralyzed from the waist down.

It didn’t take Dime long to form a new plan.

“My decision to pursue vet medicine happened in the hospital,” Dime said.

He describes himself as a goal-oriented person, and early in his recovery he decided to return to his childhood dream, even if it would follow a nightmare.

“There wasn’t much information out there, I couldn’t find any veterinarian that was in a wheelchair,” said Dime. “I found one student.”

Dime found her number and contacted her. He asked the student how navigating veterinary school was, and the conversation went well enough that he decided to apply to CSU’s program. He is the first student in a wheelchair in the program’s history.

“I’m sort of paving the way for other people,” Dime said.

When Dime is asked what obstacles he anticipates, the only thing he can think of is large animals. Aside from that, the future is a mystery.

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“I have no idea what modifications will need to be formed, or what I can or can’t do,” said Dime. “The school doesn’t know either because they’ve never done this before. So we’re going to figure it out as we go.”

Dime describes his program as academically rigorous, and although he came to CSU immediately after receiving his degree in nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona, he says it is more crazy, but professes a love for his classmates.

“We all get along, we’re all in it together,” said Dime. “Nobody steps on each other to get where they need to go.”

The classes are not Dime’s only day-to-day challenge, this semester he has been working on balancing his coursework and taking care of himself and his injuries. Dime has a helper for the latter challenge – his service dog Corky.

Corky came to him through a program called Canine Companions for Independence. After doing research about service dogs during his recovery, Dime looked at the organization and found the dogs where well-trained and free of charge for those who needed it. Among many other commands, Corky opens doors and turns on and off lights.

Corky has inspired Dime to give back. Dime’s companion joined him after he already made the decision to go to vet school and strengthened his resolution. Dime is entertaining the idea of helping service animals, specifically from Canine Companions for Independence.

Right now, Dime hopes to connect with kids with spinal cord injuries, he wants others to see what they are capable of.

“A lot of people wouldn’t know how they would get through a catastrophic life-changing event, but I think you’re stronger than you think you are,” Dime said.

The future, however, is less clear to him.

“Maybe be a surgeon, maybe not, sort of going to see where it takes me,” said Dime. “I will probably end up doing something I didn’t even think I was going to do.”

Dime is probably right; his life has been anything but predictable.

Collegian Reporter Tatiana Talesnick-Parafiniuk can be reached online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @tatianasophiapt.

 

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