Yesterday I had a patient that was having a medical issue that was not critical. He was a pleasant 54-year-old man that was a quadriplegic.This means he did not have use of all four limbs. He did not look his age and appeared to be much younger. Curiosity got the better of me and while we were on our way to the hospital I asked him what had occurred to result in his current physical state. He did not mind talking about it and told me his story. Four years ago he was riding his mountain bike on a busy road to work, as he had done many times prior. He lost control of his bike (cars were not a factor in his accident) and went head first into a fire hydrant. This resulted in a cervical spine break.
The call ended and he was safely in the care of a major hospital that evening, but I went on with my shift still thinking about him and his current life. He seemed happy but I’m sure he lives a drastically different life than he had 4 years ago.
This experience made me think about my own life and the opportunities I am fortunate enough to have. A large part of my time during a race is spent thinking about gratitude for those opportunities, experiences, and people in my life. I could not help but wonder how I would feel if my life suddenly took such a drastic turn like he did.
I am often asked the question why I am so busy and active in my daily activities. Why I run so much and race such distances on regular basis. I feel there are so many reasons I do what I do and it depends on where in my life I am at to answer that question properly. Many times the answer is related to the fact that opportunities and abilities are there and I don’t want to miss out on them. I cherish each experience when I race or train and am grateful for all the different experiences I have been able to have. From watching a sunrise to finally having some water when I did not bring enough with me and I became dehydrated. It’s not always about the glory of crossing the finish line but the journey to it.
This was an unfortunate accident to this man but I’m sure there is a lot of good that came out of it. I have to remind myself that if I was in a similar situation that I could still very much live as he is. He had full use of his mind and heart and that can go such a long way. The relationships and friendships I have developed would still be a priority and nurtured. Love and excitement still there to be had. I don’t think a disability has to hinder a person’s spirit. I have no doubt they must go through tremendous challenges and I don’t claim to understand the strength it takes to handle them. I do feel that I can honestly say I live my life to the fullest right now and today. I don’t let opportunities slip away for the most part. I love deeply even when there are risks and challenges. I work hard to make a life for myself and the ones I love. I train hard to enjoy the journey and all that it has to offer.
It is easy to fall into a rut or routine of a mediocre life. I see it all the time with people around me. I encourage you to step out of the box and pursue happiness in whatever form or challenge strikes you. So many great memories and lessons can be achieved if we take more opportunities that come our way rather than say “that’s too hard to do or try”. If running is hard for you, as it is for all of us at times, then start walking. Do walk/run intervals until you are able to run a mile and see how you feel. If swimming or kayaking is your interest then get out there and do it. Don’t forget to appreciate each step of the journey that you are fortunate enough to have. You may make new friends along the way like I have that can have an impact in a positive way on your life. Or you may have some experiences that are not so positive but teach you a good lesson in the process.
I wish this man happiness and strength as he goes through his life. I am sure he did not realize the impact he had on a stranger that came to offer medical help yesterday but he did. I had heard that I have been an inspiration for people that I was not aware of and it is a good feeling. You can be and probably are too. Go live it up when opportunities cross your path.