Soon after Maine native Travis Roy graduated from Boston University in 2000 and decided to stay in the area, he moved into a beautiful Back Bay building with a striking stone stairway and lovely lobby, complete with 24-hour concierge. For Roy, the elegant building was a necessity, not a luxury: It is one of only a few area condominiums accessible to the disabled.
The former BU hockey player, whose tragic accident on the ice eight years ago this week left him a quadriplegic, says it would be “nice to use the front entrance.” Still, a rear entryway and elevator, the concierge services, and the convenient Common wealth Avenue location provide him the independence he craves.
“Some things people look at as luxuries are necessary for me to be able to live on my own,” he says, explaining that he can order groceries from Peapod and get laundry services or other amenities from outside. The concierge helps as needed. Roy likes to shop at the nearby Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, dine at area restaurants, and cheer on the BU Terrier hockey team at the arena several blocks away.
“Boston is just such an awesome city,” she says. “Since my accident, people have treated me so well.” (On Oct. 20, 1995, just 11 seconds into the BU Terriers’ game, his first as a college player, Roy slammed into the end boards head first.)
Roy, 28, lives in a two-bedroom condominium and has home health aides who support him with basic needs but are unobtrusive to visitors. His home appears no different from that of any young professional man.
A collection of brightly colored race cars lines a shelf above a long parquet hallway, and a framed picture of Bobby Orr hangs on one wall. Items from Maine remind him of home, including a large model sailboat, a lobster trap coffee table, and a corner table that friends built with wood from a 150-year-old dam.
“I try to keep my place as normal-looking as possible, not filled with adaptive technology,” he says, explaining that many devices previously used to help disabled people are now mainstream.
Speakerphones, voice-activated equipment, and remote controls help him answer the phone, use a computer, and operate the television, which is often on and tuned to sports.
A self-described “sports junkie,” he says it’s fun to be in a “sports-crazed city.” He loves all sports, especially playoffs, which made the activity at Fenway this month particularly exciting. In fact, from the large, airy windows of his seventh-floor apartment, Fenway Park is visible to the right and the Prudential Center skyline to the left.
Roy redesigned his kitchen – renovated by a Maine neighbor – so he could maneuver his wheelchair easily and sit at the counter. Complete with Corian countertops and decorative green and white floor tiles, the kitchen also sports Henckel knives and All-Clad cookware.
“It’s nice having the right stuff,” he says.
He loves to cook, and while his injury restricts him to the use of his neck, head, and upper right arm, Roy directs every step while an aide or friend does the physical work.
“I give extra-thorough directions and basically cook it, except for physically stirring the pots and pans,” he says.
He recently cooked chicken Francoise, and he likes to make “the meals my mom cooked: pot roast, apple crisp, and fun things.”
When visiting his parents in Yarmouth, Maine, he tends to another interest, gouache painting. His art teacher places a brush in his mouth and holds the paints and water. Roy mostly paints still lifes and flowers. He and his teacher, Susan Myer Fahlgren, head of the fine arts department at North Yarmouth Academy in Maine, currently have a joint show at the school, which Roy attended. (Three paintings are on loan from his dining room.)
Roy also enjoys going to restaurants with close friends, including his former BU coach, Jack Parker, and Parker’s wife, Jackie (“I love both of them”), and friends from college and prep school days. Asked if he is in a romantic relationship, he answers, in characteristic good humor, “Just Effy,” his 14-year-old springer spaniel who lives with his parents in Maine and at their summer place on Lake Champlain in Vermont.
A motivational speaker with a bachelor’s degree in public relations, he addresses some 35 groups a year on “Travis Roy’s 10 Rules of Life,” which he devised originally for a high school presentation when he was 20. “These values are the reason I’ve been as successful as I have before and after the accident,” he says.
His rules, which include being yourself, never taking things for granted, and setting goals, appear in his book, “Eleven Seconds” (Warner Books), which he co-wrote with sportswriter E.M. Swift in 1998. While he is proud of the effort, he says he will write another book only “if there’s a cure for spinal cord injuries someday.”
He is closely involved with The Travis Roy Foundation, which supports spinal cord research and provides grants to victims of spinal cord paralysis. The foundation holds several annual fund-raisers. (Donations may be made through travisroyfoundation.org.)
Clearly, Roy has reinvented his life as best he can; yet he laments one major thing.
“I’m still in search of a passion,” he says. “I have found things I enjoy, but nothing to replace the love that I had for playing hockey.”