After a three day 30 mile hike, he developed flulike symptoms that worsened over the next 16 hours. There were purple spots on his stomach, indicating blood clots. All were symptoms of meningococcal meningitis, a bacterial infection that causes swelling of the protective membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord.
Up to one in five people who survive meningitis can experience amputation, deafness, and brain and kidney damage. According to the National Meningitis Association, 10 to 15 percent die even with rapid treatment.
Springer was rushed to a hospital in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and then quickly flown to another in Springfield, where his organs began to fail and his blood pressure dropped to near zero. He was given a 10 percent chance of survival.
He was taken to a Manhattan hospital where he underwent amputations in a medically induced coma that would last eight weeks.
After waking up, according to the 2003 New York Times article, he said to his father, "Dad, I don't think I have fingers. I think I know about my legs, too." My wife and I looked at each other and said, “This is our new normal.” Because Nick is alive. He's still Nick. "
Springer refused to wear prostheses or use an electric wheelchair. And he played wheelchair rugby relentlessly.
"At a very high level, it can be very violent and that's what people like about it," said his friend Scott Hogsett. "Who doesn't want two people to collide in a wheelchair as hard as possible?"