Excerpt of article by Erin Maloney | Bay News 9
A new graduate student at University of South Florida is sharing an inspiring message with classmates as he fights a debilitating disease.
Sam Bridgman, 24, is living with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a neurological disease that causes loss of coordination from the toes to the fingertips. The progressive disease can also cause heart failure and premature death.
Bridgman made headlines in 2013 when he ditched his wheelchair and walked across the stage to receive his undergraduate diploma at the University of Portland.
Bridgman was diagnosed when he was 15. Symptoms started when he was 12, and he noticed them most while playing the sports he loved.
“I would be running into the outfield to catch fly balls, and I couldn’t track the baseball. I would slip and fall,” Bridgman said.
After he was diagnosed, the then-teenager could still walk. But once he hit college, the wheelchair was a must.
But the disease won’t keep Bridgman from being involved in sports. He chose USF’s MBA program in Sports and Entertainment Management to realize his dream of one day working for a professional sports team. He already has an internship with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bridgman says it wasn’t only the MBA program that drew him to USF. There is also a close-knit community in the Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA) that he wants to be even more involved in.
“I also want to join a few drug trials if it’s possible in my time at USF,” Bridgman said. Although, he says, it will depend on his school work.
As for graduation at the Sun Dome?
Don’t be surprised if he walks again for his diploma.
Thanks to Erin Maloney for writing the article; Bay News 9 for committing its resources to the article; ABC Action News for creating the video; Google for helping me find the article and video; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture, video, and text in this post.