LIVING LIFE TO THE FULLEST – Whenever you really think your life is hard, and you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you just need to look at someone else who has really had a challenge, and then your life seems so much easier. For a while, I was that person you would look at.
In 1990 I had a series of accidents. It started in February when I fell into a creek ditch while snowboarding. I nearly severed my nose from my face. Multiple stitches later and a broken nose sewed back on, I was on my way.
In the middle of April, the helicopter I’m in crashes, and I suffer severe burns to my face, neck and wrist. The fate of my nose and left ear was questionable. I spent a week in the ICU and a month in the burn unit in Calgary. Over the next four years I go through numerous full facial skin grafts to put me back together again.
October comes around and I fall off a trampoline and shatter both elbows and break my wrist. Did I mention there were 500 people watching?
On Halloween I see a very skinny guy wearing a full plastic face mask, burns all over his neck and face, both arms are in slings, a cast on one wrist, and he can’t even wipe his own butt! Then I realize that I’m looking in the mirror. It’s Me! And, it’s not a costume! If ever there was a time to feel sorry for myself, that was it. Fortunately I didn’t want to and my friends and family wouldn’t let me.
I was one of the lucky ones. Why you ask? Firstly I was still alive. Some of my friends were not. Secondly, I have the best friends and family anyone could ever ask for.
I wore that plastic facemask for the next four years of my life. All day. Every Day. If that doesn’t feel like a lifetime I don’t know what would. The challenges I faced were difficult and relentless. People stared at me, asked me the same question about what happened, and lots of people treated me like I had the plague and it was contagious.
While I was wearing that mask, my friends always included me in the things they did, never once thinking to leave me out because I was wearing a plastic mask. They once told me that, sure, I had been burnt, but it still didn’t change the fact that I was going surfing with them. I was wearing a full head pressure garment to surf, so I looked like a bank robber sitting on a surfboard, and nobody would surf near me. It was great. I got to catch any wave I wanted.
I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me, or tell me how hard it must be. I knew that first hand. But, I also knew that sitting around and dwelling on my situation would never help me get better. If I wanted to continue with my life, then I was the only one who could do it. I surrounded myself with people and friends who wanted me to get better.
Doctors helped, but after they were done with their cutting and pasting, it was time to heal on my own. I spent hundred of hours imagining and visualizing all the skin on my ears re-growing, and for my nose to heal from its charred burnt-solid state. All the doctors told me I would lose my nose and ear, and they would build me new ones. I was furious with them since they didn’t believe I could heal myself, and told them I would just keep my own. It was much easier. By the way, I still have my nose and ear.
I realized one thing while I was healing, and that was the power of your own mind. I now know that if you think you can, you can!
I decided that I would be responsible for what I could do, and that being burnt was just a learning experience in my life, and that my life was going to continue just as it was before. By the age of twenty, I had more experience healing than most people would learn in a lifetime.
Sure my life has had a few a few ups and downs along the way, but I like what I am, who I am, and who I have become. I’ve learned how to read people by how they talk to me and how they look at me. I’ve learned thousands of different ways to help heal my body. I’ve learned what true friends are all about. I’ve learned that who I am is a combination of how I have dealt with what has happened to me, and the choices that I have made along the way.
My best choice so far was deciding that my life would go on, and having been burnt was not going to stop me from living my life the way I want to.
I’m pretty sure that my beautiful wife and two adorable little girls would agree with me.