Inspired by Accident, or Accidentally Inspirational

Pyramid in EgyptDo you inspire people? You might well do so, but without ever having considered yourself to be inspirational in any way. In fact most people that inspire others probably never actually set out to, yet others still gain inspiration from them.

I’m pretty certain that Gandhi for example never directly sought to inspire people in the fashion he did, but rather lived his life in a way he saw fit and that others ultimately found inspirational.

What inspires one person however doesn’t necessarily inspire another. Inspiration is deeply personal.

Inspiration also comes in many shapes and forms…

Autobiographical Inspiration

James and I

My son James (12) inspired me to write this post as it happens. During a recent shopping expedition we found ourselves in a music shop which had a selection of biographies of various musicians and artistes on display. One particular biography caught my eye, that of the Canadian teen singing sensation Justin Bieber. Both my son and I found this mildly amusing as the kid is only seventeen; hardly old enough to have a biography (a detailed account of a person’s life) you would have thought!

It was at this point that my son suggested I write my autobiography. “Why on earth would anyone want to read about my life?” was my initial response. His reply wasn’t entirely surprising considering my personal circumstances, but it was certainly uplifting and made me think. Whilst I can’t remember his reply verbatim, it was along the lines of: “…because of what you’ve done after your accident.

The Accident in Question

The accident that my son refers to occurred on a Summer’s evening in July 2000 when I dived into my next door neighbour’s swimming pool, misjudged the dive and hit the bottom. I dislocated my neck at the third/fourth vertebrae (C3/C4) which left me paralysed from the neck down.

Following my accident it took me a long time to fully come to terms with things and accept that life was now completely different. Fortunately I did eventually manage to pull through and get on with life. I don’t dwell on the past anymore, I’m looking forward not backward and I’m still me, I just can’t move around as much.

Cape PointIntensely Personal

I’ve never written such a personal post on my blog before, as that’s not what my blog’s about, plus I’ve always thought who’d care anyway. My blog’s about other things that I want to say or share with others, not about whining on about how unfair life can be. I don’t feel sorry for myself, so I certainly don’t expect others to feel sorry for me; it’s just not a big deal, I’m still here after all.

Inspired to Inspire

My son isn’t the only one encouraging me to write about my post apocalyptic experiences to “inspire” people however. A close friend of mine Jay, is a freelance journalist and has also suggested that I should consider writing a book as an inspirational piece for others. My full time carer (of nine years now) and constant companion Sue, also seems to think that this is a good idea; they’re ganging up on me! Now whilst I’m not completely dismissing the idea out of hand, I just don’t really get it. I’ve just got on with things (eventually), as I suspect most other people would have under similar circumstances, so where’s the inspiration in that?

Inspirational Achievements?

Family at PhD GraduationIf my son and my closest friends think that I could be inspirational to others, then I guess some of the things I’ve done after my accident could be considered inspirational, or perhaps rather, considered inspirational under the circumstances in which they were achieved.

So, what have I managed to do after my accident that may be worthy of consideration for such an accolade? Something I find extremely difficult to answer really as I’m far to close to it all to have an objective view, but I’ll have a stab it and you can make up your own minds:

  • Completed my PhD in LASERS
  • Travelled to Greenland, Iceland and Norway on a cruise
  • Travelled to South Africa for a month’s holiday
  • Called up as an expert witness in a high court case in Ireland
  • Visited the pyramids in Egypt (a bucket list goal of mine for a long time)
  • Elected Chairman of my local village Parish Council
  • Helped a friend set up a gardening website (attracting over 10,000  visitors every month)
  • Set up my own advanced home network
  • Raised over £1,000 for charity via a 17 mile sponsored trundle around Rutland water
  • Recorded and produced podcasts and radio plays with an actress friend
  • This website

I also pootle about developing the odd website, it keeps me off the streets and gives me something to do; a therapeutic/technical challenge, which is the most important thing, to prevent the mind from turning to Swiss cheese.

Luckily, prior to my accident I was (still am I suppose) a Chartered Engineer and a Member of The Institute of Engineering and Technology (MIET). The IET have a benevolent fund that have been incredibly generous to me. They have helped me with the purchase of my bungalow and bought me a specially adapted vehicle that allows me to travel, plus they give me an annual holiday grant.

Wheelchair Ramps up StepsTravelling Again

After my accident I never even considered the possibility of travelling again, certainly not of travelling abroad. Thanks to my carer Sue who is willing to tackle these things, she encouraged me that it was actually possible, since which I’ve achieved trips abroad that were beyond my wildest dreams after my accident.

Travelling away is always a bit of a mission for me due to all the associated paraphernalia that I have to take, especially when travelling abroad. My trip to the Egyptian pyramids for example required a huge amount of planning and military style logistics. Luckily it all worked out on the day, but not without a few hiccups along the way. Definitely an adventure that would have made entertaining viewing on reality TV. So if Michael Palin ever needs a travelling companion, just let me know!

Personally I don’t find my achievements particularly inspiring, but I am pleased even proud of some of the things I’ve done after my accident. If you find me, or anything I’ve achieved inspirational in any way, then I am deeply flattered and honoured to be considered so, but I have also only managed to do so with a great deal of assistance and support from others and in my defence, I never meant to be inspirational, I just did what I did; mitigating circumstances were at play.

Footnote: If any of my friends are reading this, then please share your comments below, you see it all from a completely different perspective to me and have also been part of my journey, for which I sincerely thank you.

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Comments

  1. Cornelia F. Davison commented

    Richard,

    You are too modest, you are a wonderful person and so much fun to be with.
    Our holidays together are the best.

    You may not know it, but you have helped me to be more compassionate and understanding. You have also pointed out and made me realise how opinionated I am, which I am now working on, I thank you for showing this to me.

    Richard I am so Proud of you, you have also become more understanding of people and have helped lots of younger people, like Simon with his maths, Henry with his drums, he has not forgotten the beat, and others that you have helped including Sue & myself with calligraphy, and I know there are others.

    You are more then willing to help anyone. I know sometimes, not often, but you have low days but you don’t say anything about it.

    Richard you are a wonderful man, thank you for touching my life.

    Love
    Cornelia

    • commented

      Thank you ever so much for that Connie, that actually brought a tear to my eye, everybody wants to be loved I guess. You and John have been true friends over the past 10 years and have also had a significant impact on my life.

  2. Simon Hancock commented

    Richard – write the book! I don’t think you realise how inspirational you really are. You wrote that you thought most people would just get on with things in the same way you have. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there in similar circumstances who can’t see a way forward and I think it would be a great idea to share your story with them.

    • commented

      Thanks Simon, I guess I just see a project like a book as being quite significant and time consuming for such a small potential market when I have so many others things I want to do – after all let’s face it, it certainly wouldn’t be a best seller :-)

  3. Gareth commented

    i concur with simon mate. i’m not sure others would have got on with life in the way you appear to, but hearing your story might show them what is possible. dead impressed you went to egypt by the way !

  4. Piers commented

    Hi Richard, wise words and even though you don’t know it, you’re very inspirational. I often wonder how I would have coped in the same situation and quite honestly find your achievements outstanding. Piers

  5. commented

    Richard, I certainly think you are an inspirational person, just seeing you and being around you has made me realise what an inspirational person you are!
    You have helped me in times of need as well because I look up to you and I think if Richard can have hope then I most certainly can, I know it is on a different level though whereby yours is physical rather than mental but I do really admire you as a person and I think you are such a lovely person who has lots to offer people in their lives.

    I think you should definately write the book, I would buy it and I am sure others would support me in saying the same! You are a dedicated person Richard and I wish you all the best with your idea and James must be proud of you too :) xxxxx Kirsty xx

  6. commented

    Great bio maybe I should write my own… I think your son was right. I think every persons bio would make a cool story. There just isnt enough time to listen to every persons story so we really only watch and read about people who are in the spotlight.

  7. commented

    Richard, you are totally inspiring. In just a few years you have already achieved more than most people will ever do in a lifetime and I bet there’s a whole lot more on your list. I agree that your experience could really help other people who find themselves in a similar situation to move forward. Don’t stop doing what you’re doing and let me know when the book is available! By the way, I think Sue is pretty inspiring too.

  8. Bronwyn Bernhard commented

    Well done, Richard, on all your accomplishments. I met you briefly at the update manual handling course, with Sue- the two of you certainly just get on with life, from your aspect, and all credit to her for taking the trouble to make your life as quality as possible. may your son continue to inspire you and nudge you forward – Life is a gift – and you certainly respect that.

  9. Gerald commented

    Ha ha….where you gonna find the time to write this book, you’ll have to give up a few hours sleep per night. I’d listen to your son, who better to have an opinion on its importance. We often play down our resilience and strength trying to avoid pity. The reality is that stories such as your own are a measure of what we are truly capable of. It is of value not only to others in challenging positions but to those who have lost the ability to affect positive changes in their lives. I for one look forward to reading it…..in about 20yrs ha ha

    • commented

      Good point indeed and one that will probably put me off due to the effort involved, unless anyone knows of any publishers that would be interested and could guarantee that it would get published. Otherwise, sounds like I could waste a lot of time for nobodies benefit.

  10. Richard Tang commented

    Hi Rich,

    I guess you probably don’t realise it but you have been a real inspiration to me for many years. Most people, including me, could not begin to imagine the challenges you have faced, and yet you have come through it all as one of the most positive people I know. In my world, you set the reference for what is possible. You are truly an inspiration and you have my friendship always.

    All the very best to you and to Sue too, who I’ve also thought is an amazing person for many years.

    Rich

    • commented

      Hi Rich,

      Very kind of you to say, but I also don’t think you realise what an inspiration you are (which is kind of the point of the post). You’ve built up an incredibly successful business through your single-minded determination and many years of hard work, yet you’ve kept your feet on the ground are still the same guy I met at university all those years ago. You show what’s possible if you apply yourself and you haven’t let success go to your head.

      I deeply value your friendship as I know it’s truly unconditional.

      Rich

  11. Glorianne commented

    Richard, you and Sue have inspired each other in a way that I find amazing. And you both inspire others. What you have overcome is in no way ‘what anyone would have done’. You are incredible, what you have achieved is remarkable and the little I know about you and have interacted with you – you are also a remarkable person. I look forward to one day meeting you! A great read! :)

  12. Tania Jonas commented

    Hi Richard,I met you a few years ago when I visited England and was introduced to you by my dear friend Sue. (Yes, I agree that she is one in a million!)You clearly have no idea what an inspiration you are and are one of those people that I think about when the thought of a moan or a whine enters my mind.The world needs more people like you to inspire others.The fact that anything is possible when you put your mind to it.Many will agree with me that life’s little challenges that we experience can sometimes easily get us in a mood for a “pity party”.I agree whole heartedly with James, that it’s about what you achieved after your accident.Not saying that it was easy for you,but those struggles are what makes a bio appealing and is something that we can all relate to at some point in our lives.I personally would rather read any bio of someone who has overcome any major obstacle in life that that of the likes of Justin Bieber.I guess he’ll appeal to a different crowd.Me excluded.So, please, please write the book…………Take Care …Tania Jonas-South Africa :-)

  13. Praveen commented

    Hi Richard,

    I’ve stumbled upon your blog quite accidently. But for sure your story is truly inspirational.

    Absolutely agree with your statement
    “What inspires one person however doesn’t necessarily inspire another. Inspiration is deeply personal.”

    Wish you all the best.

    Regards,
    Praveen

  14. Ed Crunkenhorn commented

    Richard, You helped me pass both Physics and Maths GCSEs, That in itself is an achivement worthy of some kind of award. My head is a round hole, Maths and physics are square pegs but somehow you got them to fit together just in time. :)

    I trust all is well and hope i get to see you guys again soon!

  15. Beverley Williams commented

    HI Richard
    Just ‘googled’ you and found your blog, what an inspirational story who will help others enormously. I’m so proud of you and your achievements to date.

    I hope you remember me from the good old days of 3M Gorseinon. I was made redundant in 1996 and I was actually working at Swansea University (Materials Engineering) when you completed your PhD but of course, neither of us knew that at the time.

    Do you still visit Swansea, if yes, how about us meeting up for a coffee. (

    Bev xx
    PS: Ian and I still live in the same house in Gorseinon if you are passing

    • commented

      Hi Bev, Thanks for your kind comments, and yes I certainly remember you, how could I possibly forget you? You and Barbara were very kind to me at my time with 3M and I remember you both fondly. I don’t get back to Swansea very often unfortunately, but if I do make it back sometime I will make every effort to come and see you and Ian again. Richard x

  16. Emma Enfield commented

    Hello Richard

    I was your OT when you had your accident ;-). You must remember me – I measured your bungalow to see if the fridge would fit it!

    I think OFTEN of you. I loved seeing the picture of James on here. It made me realise just how long ago it was.
    I would read your book. I would love to do so. Where do you think it would start? Would you include the story of when I came round one day and you said’ hello, what on earth have you done to your hair’? Such a charmer ;-)

    Take Care

    Emma

    • commented

      Hi Emma,

      Of course I remember you and you were very helpful and supportive at quite a stressful and difficult time for me. If you’re ever in the area, or passing by, please do pop in; it would be lovely to see you again.

      I don’t know where I’d begin to start with a book to be honest. Re the hair comment, at least I noticed, how many men don’t even notice! :-)

      Richard

  17. commented

    Richard, I don’t really know you, but what I do know is that you have made it to the other side of a completely life changing experience. That in itself is pure inspiration.

    I cannot even begin to think of the emotional turmoil such an accident would have on your life, let alone the practical day-to-day basics.

    I urge you to write. If not for yourself, then for others. Share your story of how you found the strength to carry on. We all have so much to learn from you.

    • commented

      Thank you for your kind words Sam.

      Yes, I have made it to the other side, but it took two years or more and not because of any conscious decision on my behalf, it happened slowly as I suspect it would for most people, so I wouldn’t see that as being hugely inspirational. It’s a grieving process, grieving for the life you had and what could have been and that takes time.

      Emotional turmoil it must have been I suppose, but for a long time it was denial, I had to believe that it was temporary (as occasionally spinal injuries can be just bruising), but eventually reality prevails. As for day-to-day practicalities, yes there’s an awful lot of that that goes on behind the scenes but it is amazing how we adapt and it just becomes the norm.

      As for learning from me, I’d prefer to teach people about podcasting and technology, physics and the world around us, that’s what fires me up, rather than getting all introspective. I feel going the other route is dwelling on the past a bit. I want to be an active part of society and not go harping on about my condition, that seems a bit negative somehow; not sure if I’m explaining myself clearly though, I’m sure you can understand.

      Richard

  18. commented

    Yes I can understand your desire to move on and look to the future. Well, the key thing is momentum – and that is what you have shown in spades!

  19. Simon commented

    I remember when it happened. One day you were in work, came back Monday you were gone. Its amazing how quick things can change in ones life isn’t it… The shock to everyone at work was immense but not as great as the impact it had on you. As one door closes others open and I’m glad to see you didn’t just sit in the doorway, and chose to head straight through. Well done mate, you’ve accomplished a lot and you should be rightly proud! More than that though, how you’ve handled life, kept fighting and grown as a person is by far your greatest accomplishment to date! Well done bud………… :)

    • commented

      Thanks very much for your comments Simon.

      Very true; Life can change in an instant and indeed did for me. I hung around in your metaphorical doorway for a few years before eventually passing through. :-)

      We should catch up over a beer sometime.

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