The Paralympics will be here soon and Steve Emt, member of the US Paralympic team and brand ambassador of ORORO Heated Apparel, is ready to win!
Stephanie from our team interviewed him some days ago and he told her why he prefers ORORO and how it has been helpful during training. Find the full interview below.
Interview with Steve Emt - February 2022 - Paralympic Curler
Can you first tell me when you first got your piece of ORORO Apparel?
Oh, six months ago.
And why did you choose ORORO over another brand of heated apparel?
We've had some other brands give us some samples and they weren't to my liking at all. One of the women's team, Team Sinclair curling team, Monica, who's in our team basically told me, "Steve, why don't you contact so and so, they're looking for athletes. And I think that their apparel is incredible." And so, I contacted you guys and rest is history. I mean, it's the best clothing I've ever worn without a doubt.
Fabulous. Now you have just the Classic Jacket, is that right? And mittens.
The Classic Vest.
… the vest, I use all the time on the ice. When I'm on the ice, I wear my normal curling gloves. The vest is the one I wear all the time.
And had you tried any other heated apparel brands before ORORO?
Yes. We had a heated vest. It wasn't an outer vest. It was an inner, so it's very thin. So, it's meant to be worn under other stuff. Just didn't do anything for me at all. I know one of my teammates liked it before he got his ORORO, but it just didn't do anything for me. Didn't keep me warm on the ice and didn't do anything for me. So that's the only other heated apparel that I have worn.
Okay. Tell me what was life like before ORORO?
On the ice, I would have to wear jackets and nine layers, and I would be freezing all the time for some reason. Some people are fine on the ice. I'm not. So, I'm cold out. My core is cold. My arms are cold. So, I'd have to wear a lot of layers and usually a jacket, a curly jacket, but still that's kind of cumbersome and bulky. So especially in the arms and the shoulders, so, it kind of hindered my performance. So, that was before my heated vest. It was me every day on the ice.
Okay. Now you said you perform better with ORORO. Can you tell me more about why that is? Just is the bulkiness in the upper arms?
Yeah. Yeah. I was first concerned just having a vest. I've never worn a vest on the ice before, so I was concerned about keeping my arms warm. I can understand keeping the core warm, but I didn't know if my arms would be warm. And sure enough, with the ORORO vest and maybe with any vest, I don't know, but with the heated vest, keeping the core warm, got my arms warm… So having that to freedom of movement, it helps out a lot.
Fabulous. Is being warmer on the ice, does it also help you get more in your Zen spot, more in the flow?
Oh, yes. Yeah. It's one less thing to think about first of all, one less thing to worry about. I know I can go out there with just say long sleeve shirt and my heated vest on, and I am no matter what, obviously with the three different temperature levels, no matter what I can crank it up or crank it down or not even turn it on at all. Sometimes, I don't even put it on and the vest itself keeps me warm. And not having to worry about it and not having to think about it allows me to get into my game mode a lot quicker and easier and with less effort, which is huge. Obviously, if you take away many of the variables out there, it'll make it a lot easier. So, yeah, it's definitely easier for me to get into that moment and get into the, like you said, the Zen spot. I like that. I like that a lot.
My wife wears hers every day. I got one for her.
Oh your wife has. Does she have a jacket or a vest?
A vest. Yeah. She wears it around the house… Melissa's not the only one. My friends, I mean, I've got my brother, he's an avid hunter. He loves it. My buddy, he's an outdoors athlete and he's got it on all the time. Every time I see him, he's got it on. So now they're a huge hit.
Thank you! What is your favorite thing about ORORO, Steve?
It's just how it keeps me warm. I mean, just heats right to the core. And we all know that if your core is warm, then the rest of your body, I mean, it works out your body, protects the core first when it's cold out. So, I'm amazed actually at how, just even without the battery on, how it keeps you warm. But then with the three different temperature levels and going out in the ice and depending on how I'm feeling, whether I have to turn it on and crank it up or not. I mean, it's the freedom of movement and how much it keeps me warm.
And if you used three adjectives to describe ORORO, what would you say?
User friendly, convenient. And I want to say something about the company because I was blown away. We, my curling team were blown away by the generosity of Mark Hu (co-founder of ORORO Heated Apparel).
Monica gave me his email. I emailed him, we talked the next day and he's like, "What can I do for you?" And I'm like, "Well, we got five people on a team." He's, "How about I send you 15 of them?" Right away, that hit me as obviously he believes, you guys believe in your product to go as far as helping out. It's a two-way street and we understand that, and I understand that, but he just, I don't know, family. User friendly, convenient, family.
So, if you would describe ORORO as an animal or an object, what would you describe it as and why?
First thing that comes to mind is a bear, because you see a bear and they're big and strong and bulky, yet they're obviously warm. The vest is all I know, again, I don't have the jackets, but it makes me feel like a bear. I don't know. I mean, it makes me warm. And I know it's bulky, I don't mean bulky as in, over too big and hanging over and all that, just mean as a presence.
Sturdy. Kind of sturdy. Is that what you mean?
Yeah. Yeah. Sturdy and strong and warm.
Okay. Tell me a little bit more... I understand that you had a very challenging car crash when you were 25. Can you tell me a little bit more about your background and how you eventually got into curling?
Yeah. Well, my background, I've been an athlete my entire life playing every sport imaginable. By the time I got done playing in my high school career, I was All-American soccer player. I was an Allstate basketball player, all conference baseball player. I'm a jock at heart. I went to West Point out of high school, and I played soccer and basketball there for two years. And then I left West Point. My father passed away in my freshman year, so I didn't deal with it the right way, emotionally, mentally. I took a couple days off from school and went back after burying my father and that was a big mistake. So, after two years at West Point, I resigned from there and came home from Connecticut. I enrolled at University of Connecticut where I walked onto the basketball team at the University of Connecticut for two years. Incredible two years of my life, playing basketball with a bunch of future pro NBA players.
And then on March 24th, 1995, is when I had my accident. I went out with two of my buddies. We met at a communal parking lot. We drove to a local bar and when I got into the bar, the bartender, the waitress all recognized me as being a former UConn basketball player. So free drinks, everything's comes on the house, help yourself to everything. And we started drinking and one drink led to another, got out of hand pretty quickly. I remember when we left the bar, we drove back to the communal parking lot where my truck was. And I remember getting into my truck. I remember putting keys in ignition, I remember driving away, and that's the last thing I remember. Well, I was told I was traveling about 85 miles an hour when I passed out behind the wheel of my truck, and I went off the right side of the road. I hit a ditch and I rolled and flipped my truck about 75 yards off the road and rolled.
The truck came to rest on its roof in a ditch on the side of the road. Obviously, all the sheet metal was gone, the windows were shattered, the tires were blown out, it was on its roof. And I was fallen next to the truck. So, I didn't have my seatbelt on which obviously was a terrible decision at that point. The way I was found, a police officer happened to be driving the other way on the highway. He turned around, he got to the scene. He found me lying next to the truck, which means obviously I rolled with it the entire way. 75 yards being tossed around the cab of the truck. He thinks I got thrown out the back window and I'm 6' 5", probably about 240 at the time. So, I'm a big boy and got thrown out the back window. Obviously, my clothes were torn off me.
Blood cuts all over the place. Blood coming from my nose, my mouth, my ears. He called the hospital. Hospital sent a helicopter, helicopter got to me, put me in. They flew me back to the hospital, performed two surgeries on me and cut me open from pretty much my chest down to my navel. Massive internal bleeding, broke my back in three places, broke majority of my ribs. I blew up both my knees. I had a head injury. I ruptured my spleen and they had to take that out, because I ruptured it. Now I get sick rather easier than others. But most importantly, I severed my spinal cord. And because of that, I am paralyzed in the waist down. I was in a coma for two days where I was hooked up to a machine that was keeping me alive. I had a respirator in my mouth that was breathing for me.
And the way I woke up from my coma was I had this dream that I was at my old house growing as a kid and I was in my old bedroom, and it was a spring day, and it was really warm outside, but it was kind like a rainy misty going on outside. And I remember I was in my old bedroom and the window was open, and I saw a cloud of mist come into window. I leaned forward into that cloud of mist because it was warm out. And all of a sudden, that cloud of mist threw me out on the corner of a closet, started spinning me around real fast in a circle. And as that was going on, I saw a beautiful, bright skeleton of a person. Beautiful skeleton, features, bones, everything of a beautiful person in front of me. And then all of a sudden, boom! All those lights came together, the bright lights came together at one point, and I woke up from my coma.
Now, everybody I've talked to from here to California, to Florida, all the religious people, and I'm not a religious person. You are, that's beautiful, personally, I'm not, but everybody has said the same thing. Probably my guardian angel or my father said, "Hey, you know what? Steve, it's not your time yet. Get back down there, do something with this. You messed up, you made a terrible decision, take responsibility for it. Get back down there, share your story with others, listen to others, because they got stories to tell also, but get out there and impact people's lives." And that's what I do now. I'm a public speaker and I travel the country and I speak to high schools. I speak to middle schools. I speak to corporate. I speak to groups, and whoever.
And I just share my story hopefully in hope of impacting people's lives to make better decisions. So, when I woke up from my coma, I was on a bed looking straight up in the air, all the bright lights, just like you see in the TV shows. And I had wires and tubes coming out to every part of my body. My hands were handcuffed to the bed. I had a respirator in my mouth and the first person that I saw when I woke up in my coma was the doctor that had performed a surgery on me just two nights prior. And she walked up to my body, and she looked at me in the eye, and she said, "Steven, you've been in a bad automobile accident. You will never walk again." And she left the room.
Talking about bedside manner, man, I'm like, "Wait, wait wait a minute. I'm Steve Emt here. I'm the All-American high school athlete. I'm the West Point cadet. I'm the Yukon basketball player. I'm the man. I'm invincible. No, somebody wake me up, this is a horrible dream.” And then my mother came over to my body… Now remember, I'm paralyzed in the waist down, so I can't feel anything, but I'm pretty much numb from the neck down, from all the medication I'm on, because it did so much damage to my body. My mother leaned over my body, and I saw the tears in her eye. And one tear dropped, Stephanie, from her eye and it hit me on my face, and it rolled down my face. She said, "Steve, I love you." And she kissed me on the forehead, and she walked out. "What have I done to my poor mother?"
I'm the baby of the family. I have three older siblings. I'm the one where my father was alive, that he had a picture of me on his desk. Not my brother, not my two sisters. I'm the baby, I'm the star of the family. I'm the one that went to West Point and U- Conn and all this stuff. And the hell I put my mother through and my sisters and my brother and my girlfriend at the time, my family, my loved ones for those two days. The waiting room was packed with supporters of my family wondering if Steve's going to wake up, hoping, praying, whatever it is and hearing the conversations of between the doctors and my family, with the doctor saying, "We don't think Steve's going to make it through the night. You better start making arrangements."
And seeing the priest go into my room to read me my last rights, and all that stuff. And my poor mother. And that's what I always go back to, my poor mother. I mean, she just buried her husband of 37 years just six years prior, and here I am now her baby fighting for his life, because he did something really, really, stupid. So that's my accident at 25. Normally, people are set in their ways with as far as career, they just finished college, maybe grad school, they got their future ahead of them. They're settling down in a relationship. They're talking marriage and dog and house and white picket fence. And here I am now being told I'm never going to walk again and what the hell do I do next? And literally my accident flipped my life upside down.
And so you must have had many dark nights of the soul after your crash.
I did. I did. I'm a competitor, I'm a fighter. Get me out of the hospital as quickly as possible, get me on with my life. I didn't accept what had happened. And that's key to recovery, is acceptance. You go through five stages of love, grief, denial, anger, and all that, and I went through them all. But the one that I was stuck on was the acceptance and I wasn't accepting it. I was in denial. I was, "No I'm going to be fine. I'm Steve Emt. I'm going to wake up someday and I'm going to walk." This didn't happen. And that went on for weeks. But then when I was in a rehab hospital, one day the nurses, they wanted to get me out for some exercise. So, they were carrying me from my bed to my wheelchair and they dropped me, and I landed right on the tire of my wheelchair with my tailbone, and I bruised my tailbone.
And that is something that can kill somebody in a wheelchair if you don't take of it, because we're sitting all the time. It literally could kill you. So, for two days, two straight days, I had to lay in bed on my side with my butt cheeks taped wide open through the window. Fortunately, I was on a second floor. That's when I hit rock bottom. Those were the darkest two days of my life. And that's when all that I allowed. And the keyword here is allowed. That's when I allowed all these negative thoughts to come into my mind, "Who's going to take care of me for the rest of my life? Who wants me? I'm a vegetable. Who's going to want me? Maybe this world's a better place without me in it."
And I thought about taking my own life. Two straight days, the doctors and nurses and therapists would all come in and offer their assistance, and I would swear at them and yell at them and throw stuff at them, "Get the hell out of my room. I don't want you effing around anymore. Just leave me alone." But then something great happened. I healed up. The nurses at the time carefully, put me in my wheelchair. They brought me down to a swimming pool and they put a life jacket on me, and they put me in this chair that slowly lowered me into the water. And as the water sit in my feet and my legs, I couldn't feel it. I remember thinking to myself, "This is weird." It's just 26 years ago and I remember it like today. "This is weird."
And this water's coming up my legs and I can't feel it, "What's going on?" All of a sudden, it hit my hands and my chest and my face. And again, religion, it was like I was born again. It was like that water hitting me was like just the most invigorating, powerful thing. One of the most powerful things I ever felt in my life. And I had a decision to make right there in the swimming pool. I'm flow on a swimming pool in my rehab all by myself and I'm thinking to myself, "Do I want to be like this person I've been for the last two days? Do I want to go forward in my life and be this negative dark person and allow all these negative thoughts and feelings to come into my body and my mind? Or do I want to go back to who I was before, the stud athlete. The life of the party. Be a public speaker, put me in front of thousands of people on stage. That's my environment. That's what I love."
So, I had a decision right there to make in the pool. And I decided, "No, I'm done with being this negative person. I'm done with this. I'm going to get out of here as soon as possible. I'm going to go to rehab. I'm going to listen to the doctors, listen to the nurses, listen to therapists, listen to my support system. I'm going to rely on people. I'm going to accept what had happened." And that's when the healing process started. So that was probably about six weeks after the accident that I finally accepted what I had done, I took responsibility for it, because I denied it at first.
I think I remember telling people a deer ran out in front of me or whatever. No, no. I was a drunk driver and fortunately lucky, Stephanie, I am lucky to be paralyzed today spending time with you and sharing a story with you, because I should have been killed. I should have been gone. So, blessed. I'm blessed. I'm lucky be alive. "Get out of that swimming pool, get me out of this hospital. Let me get on with my life and lead a successful life." And that's what I've done.
It's a miracle story and it's great that you're sharing your story with high school kids and college.
What is your biggest dream in life and does ORORO play any role in it at all?
My biggest dream in life is just to lead an impactful life. To impact people, to be a good person and impact people. And as far as ORORO, I mean, not directly, but I know when I'm out on the ice and I've got ORORO Apparel on, I'm comfortable and therefore I am outgoing and pleasurable to be around on the ice when I'm teaching. If I'm cold all the time, maybe I come across as a cold person to somebody that's starting the sport out new. Especially being an athlete with a disability and trying to promote the sport of wheelchair curling. When I started eight years ago, there were maybe 10 of us in the country.
Now, there's about 50 or 60.
So, we're all out there doing that. So, in a way, yeah, indirectly, I'm comfortable on the ice. I'm coming across as being comfortable. I'm coming across as being fired up and maybe that's going to change somebody's life that just had an awful accident or has been disabled since birth or whatever it might be. It might save their life like this board has changed my life. So, I just want to impact people's lives. And I want to empower other people to do the same because life is beautiful. We only got one of them and it's important to impact people's lives.
And you're an author as well. Correct?
I am. Yes. Published about 18 months ago. Yeah.
What's your book title?
My book title is You D.E.C.I.D.E. The subtitle is a six-step action plan to becoming a hero of your own life. It's on Amazon. You put in my name in there and it probably pop right up. It's just part memoirs. Half of it is my life, which some of it you heard today, but other things I've gone through in my life, some tragedies, some great thoughts, some bad stuff. And the second half is literally a six-step action plan that I came up with for people to make some decisions in their life. We have decisions every day and some are huge, some are small. So many people are stuck right now and they're looking elsewhere for empowerment, they're looking elsewhere for help to get through stuff. But we are so powerful as individuals and human beings that we can do this. We can do this ourselves.
Yeah, it's going to take some work and it's going to take some passion and some art and all that, but I know. So, one of my passions when I speak to my audience is to empower them like, "You can do this." When I was growing up, Larry Bird was my hero playing for the Boston, Celtics, basketball. I loved the sport. But when I was 25 years old and I was told thatI was never going to walk again, Larry Bird wasn't going to help me through it. The doctors and nurses, the therapists, my family support, they weren't going to get me through it. Ultimately, it had to be me, and we all have that. I get asked all the time, "I don't know how you do this, Steve, you lost both your parents, your nephew was killed in the car crash. A brother-in-law died.” "Steve, I would've killed myself if I were you." No, no, no, you don't know. Until you actually get put in a position, you don't know how powerful you are. So, I try to empower people ahead of time. And that's what my book's about. It's just, "You know what? Not you can do this, you will do this with a plan, and you put it in your heart, you put it in your mind, and you breathe it and you are passionate about it, you will do it." And that's what my book's about
Awesome. And the human capacity is huge.
It is so huge.
It's huge. And people don't give themselves enough credit talking about my book. You're going to fail. Absolutely. And you don't look elsewhere, you don't look at anybody else, you fail because of you. But the flip side, you're going to succeed. And when you do, you need to congratulate yourself, give yourself a pat on the back. That's not cockiness. That's being a good player. That's confidence. That's huge. And too many people are stuck right now. And I get a lot of feedback on my book and thanking me and, "Get out of my own way." And "I will get through this," and, "I will get the promotion." It's not just bad things either, it's also your mind for promotion or deciding, "Should I get married?" You will do it. You will do it.
Awesome. All right, Steve, thank you so, so much. This has been hugely helpful. I wish you a lovely time in China.
Yes. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I appreciate your time, Stephanie.