Humans of Success - Fight for Life
After I turned 20 my life changed in a way that I couldn't possibly have ever imagined. In an instant I went from having the craic on the beach with the lads, to having one of those moments that you hear people talking about where your whole life flashes before your eyes.
- Name: Jack Kavanagh
- Age: 25
- Hometown: Co.Meath
I had an accident doing something simple. Something I'd done so many times before that day and every other day that Summer. I ran down to the beach, dived into the water and didn't anticipate how shallow it was. When I hit the bottom, I broke my neck.
As a result I was paralysed from the armpits down and left dependent on a ventilator to breath for weeks with only 15% muscle functioning remaining. When I say all that it seems like a pretty dire situation, and the reality is that it was. At that time I had my independence stripped from me in an instant and I now had the fight of my life on my hands to get back to something that looked like a life. But I also had something that anyone in a bad situation can choose to have. Hope. And a vision for something better.
Barack Obama said it perfectly: "Hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us...as long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working and to keep fighting."
My vision at the time was to make it back to college and that was the driving force to learn all the little things I needed to do to be as independent as possible. Find your driving force. Really that was big vision to have considering I was told in rehab that I would never walk again. I could use my shoulders, biceps and wrists but I had no finger function or movement below my armpits. But I had a vision and a hell of a lot of determination. 13 months later I was back in College, living away from home with support of a personal assistant and once again surrounded by friends and stimulated intellectually. The impact of having people around you making life that bit more normal again was huge. It all sounds like a massive comeback but in reality I was struggling massively just to get up and make it through the day, The challenge was huge so I just took it minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day and then all of a sudden it was Christmas. I had survived my first term back. It is important to recognise those little steps that result in a massive achievement. It made my family and myself wonder what else was possible and we started to think bigger and better.
It was never easy but over time I stopped just surviving and started thriving because I choose to keep going when the going got tough.
It is now 5 years since my accident and while I still require the support from a personal assistant to get up in the morning, after that I'm good to go. Looking back some amazing things have happened and while I sometimes wonder what things would be like if I hadn't had the accident I have had an amazing time and done so much that I don't see my "disability" as something that will hold me back. It just forces me to think differently about how I navigate the world, to have a different perspective and when used correctly it is a powerful thing.
I have now graduated from Trinity College with a Pharmacy degree. I am completing my Masters in the Royal College of Surgeons. I travelled down the West Coast of America making a documentary called "Breaking the Boundaries." It has been shown on National TV, won International Film Festivals and is available to view on Amazon Prime. To hear more of my story check out my TEDx - Fearless Like A Child on Youtube. I have continued to speak, travel, exercise, study, drive and work - you can too.
The lowest points we face in life can actually be viewed as places of strength. Think that when you are low, from there you can only grow, learn, come back and know yourself better. If you can, think of it as a place of opportunity.
I really believe in the "attitude of gratitude." When we are going through a tough time it is easier to focus on the things that aren't going our way, the challenges and what we don't have. We are putting ourselves in a weak position when we do this. Your reality becomes what you focus on so chose to focus on the good things in life, develop an attitude of gratitude.
Over the past few years I have become fascinated with the area of personal developments as a tool for allowing us to create our better selves. Firstly, setting and reaching Big Goals. Big Goals are only achieved when small actions are consistently taken. In order to achieve a Big Goal I think it is best to Think Small. Break a big goal down into smaller, more achievable steps that allow you to feel that you are winning all the time and then make it easy to get back on track if you have a setback. Good Luck!
One more think - Be Good to Yourself, you are doing better than you think