James’ News & Progress – One Year On

As I sit here tapping away (albeit slowly!) I can’t help but reflect and review what has undoubtedly been the most life-changing, challenging and dramatic 12 months of my brief 30-year stint in this crazy little world we live in.

Even though I’m just at the beginning of what will surely be an incredible journey I am thankful for the inspirational people I have met, the unbelievable stories I have heard and of course the life lessons which will be with me forever.

I now know what real patience is and what it feels like to be truly vulnerable. Not the patience you develop from having to wait for a bus in the morning or how vulnerable you feel when your first girlfriend dumps you, but the patience you are forced to learn when you have to wait for someone to help you out of bed every morning and vulnerability you remember when you fall face first out of your chair and need two people to roll you onto your side let alone back into the upright position!

Persistence, which once was defined as asking for something two or three times is now spending 15 mins struggling to eventually put your seatbelt on or repeating a strengthening exercise every day for 6 months until your left arm finally responds!

Appreciation for some of the most basic human rights such as feeding or washing oneself has multiplied exponentially with every tiny improvement in functionality granting additional independence.

I have been exposed to a whole new world through living as a disabled person and only now feel that I can start to appreciate what numerous others are going through. Not just the select few who are lucky enough to be ‘let out’ into the community and are mildly accommodated by society, but the population that merely exist behind closed doors relying solely on machines or others to make it through each day.

I constantly remind myself, things could be (and were) a whole lot worse and therefore feel blessed when I look back and remember lying on the sand in Zambia, short of breath and with total darkness and motionless from my head down.

I realise that unfortunately, I am not going to wake up a miraculously one morning and be able to walk again and that recovering from a spinal cord injury is a game which combines aforementioned patience and persistence as well as, like many things in life, a touch of luck. In addition, given the randomness of such an injury, realistic goal setting or progress reports remain difficult.

Therefore,as you would expect, occasionally I sit back and ask myself –
where I will be in one, five or even ten years from now?
how long is this little ‘miracle’ going to take?
or even, how long should one pursue a goal such as mine arguably at the expense of ‘living’ life?
Time will surely govern the answer to these and many other questions along the way.

Most of all, this year I have been reminded that the human spirit remains stronger than ever, particularly illustrated by the support and generosity from family, friends and strangers alike which continues to overwhelm and surprise me on a daily basis. Just keeping up with thanking people is now a full-time job!

Looking forward to the numerous challenges ahead I am both excited and nervous as to where I will arrive in the future. Either way, there will be plenty to experience along the way.