On 15th May 2006, after forty days of climbing, Mark Inglis of New Zealand (aged 46), became the first ever double amputee to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. While acclimatising at 6400 meters, a fixed-line anchor failed, resulting in Inglis falling and breaking one of his prosthetic legs in half. It was temporarily repaired with duck tape, while a spare was brought up from base camp. How do you stop a guy like Mark Inglis? What makes him different from you and me?
Murray Hambro, 33, is also a double amputee. In December 2010, Hambro was serving as a Lance Corporal in the Second Royal Tank Regiment in Afghanistan when his tank drove over a 65kg roadside bomb. Hambro, who was at the top of the tank in the turret, was sent flying by the force of the explosion. His injuries included breaking all the bones in his feet, his pelvis, six fractured vertebrae in his neck plus a ripped liver and spleen. Within forty-eight hours of getting to hospital he was a double amputee. Determined to walk again for his August 2011 wedding, Hambro applied mind over matter and took his first steps in February, just three months after the amputation. He was back on the road on a newly modified motorbike by April of that year, against the advice of the surgeons. In the same year, Hambro managed nine weekends of club racing before securing a place in the season’s Triumph Triple Challenge. In 2012 he slid into a tyre wall at 80 mph, but has continued his motorbike racing career with more determination than ever. He has “LEGLESS” embroidered on the back of his race leathers and “NO FEET” on his personalised number plate.
What about the Paralympians? Australia has sent delegations to the Summer Paralympics since the first games in 1960. In 2012 our team of athletes, presenting with multiple mobility disabilities, amputations, blindness and cerebral palsy took home a total of 85 medals (32 gold).
One of my greatest inspirations is an Australian called Nick Vujicic. Nick was born in 1982 in Melbourne, without arms or legs. He has two small feet, one having two toes, attached to his pelvis. After bouts of depression in his childhood years, Nick figured out how to live a full life without limbs, adapting many of the daily skills people accomplish without thinking. He writes with his two toes. He uses a computer and can type 43 words per minute using the “heel and toe” method. He can throw tennis balls, play drum peddles, comb his hair, brush his teeth, pour a glass of water, answer the phone and shave, in addition to participating in golf, swimming, soccer, surfing and sky-diving. He was elected school captain during secondary school and worked with the student council to raise funds for local charities and disability campaigns. At age seventeen, Nick became a public speaker and founded a non-profit organisation, ‘Life Without Limbs’. Nick graduated from university at age 21 with a Bachelor in Commerce, with a double major in accounting and financial planning. He is a profound motivational speaker, travelling internationally and focusing on teen issues. He has addressed over three million people in over 24 countries. Nick was married in February 2012 and became a proud father in February 2013.
The power of the will is an amazing thing. When rightly directed it can change the entire chemistry of the body and mind. There are literally hundreds of chemicals and compounds that can be produced in our bodies depending on what is going on in our lives. Take adrenaline for example. In a scary situation, under the influence of fear, adrenaline will be pumped through the system providing super human strength for a short period of time. It is the same with all the other neurotransmitters. We decide how we will think or react in any given situation. Each thought then produces a series of chemical changes affecting both brain and body. Those who learn to effectively manage their emotions and thoughts become masters of their own destiny.
My father had a serious motorbike accident at age of 24. He spent months in hospital and was told he may never walk again. One of the carotid arteries to his brain had to be permanently tied off and he was left cross-eyed for several years. Through sheer determination he exercised his legs and eyes every day until sweat poured from his brow. He went on to have four children. He become a phenomenal snow skier and one of Sydney’s leading electrical engineers. He developed osteoarthritis in his damaged hip during his later years and eventually decided to see a Specialist. When the doctor saw his X-Rays he declared that it was impossible for my dad to be walking. Dad explained that he was still playing competitive squash every week. The doctor called him ‘The Bumble Bee’. According to aerodynamic law, based on wingspan, body weight and revs per second, bumblebees cannot lift off. They cannot fly. The problem is that nobody has told them.
We are all bumblebees if we want to be. We are all capable of far greater achievements in life than most of us believe. Try a little exercise this week. Expand your preconceived self-related possibilities and plan to do something BIG. You can be fitter and stronger than you have ever been. You can enjoy life more than you ever thought possible. You can overcome any health challenge. You can harmonise relationships. With a little mind over matter you can align yourself with providence and experience the high places of life.
This article was first published in Why Fitness Magazine.