Category Archives: Feature stories

Guest Post: Matt Drake, Paralyzed UK Commando, Shares Life Post-Military

In the midst of December 2016, I was in Bahrain training local soldiers in a sandy, blisteringly hot military base. It was satisfying being able to use my experience from the Royal Marines to help develop and teach these enthusiastic soldiers. At the time I was informed that I had just received promotion to sergeant and I felt on top of the world. Within two weeks, I was paralyzed from the chest down from an accident in a dune buggy in the desert. I went from the peak of my military career to becoming a T4 complete paraplegic.

In the coming months, I went through my initial rehab programme at Oswestry Orthopaedic Hospital in the UK. I felt like I accepted my life changing injury early on and decided to just get on with things as best I could. This, however, was not the case. It is three years on now and I have started to realise that perhaps I haven’t fully gotten to terms with everything still. It feels like I have gone from one extreme to the opposite.

But, I have been focusing all of my energy on moving forwards in life. There have been many, many stressors to negotiate; as there are for everyone in life, especially people trying to adjust to living with SCI. As time moves on, the stresses that I am having to deal with are very slowly becoming less and less. Some of the things I felt were impossible at the beginning have become possible and getting used to bowel and bladder routines and managing autonomic dysreflexia have got a little bit easier.

One of the next biggest obstacles for me to conquer is getting medically discharged from the military. In the time since being injured I have done my best to be as productive as possible. I decided to re-skill into IT as it is something that I don’t mind doing and the pace of technology developing is something that I appreciate and find interesting. Becoming a commando was my boyhood dream but I have started to discover that fulfilment in life can be achieved in multiple ways for each person. I think that for many people, knowing a specific subject extremely well and priding yourself in being excellent within your chosen discipline can bring fulfilment regardless of what job you do.

In the past year of 2019 I managed to achieve two IT certifications and have worked part time in an IT company learning ‘on the job’. I have found that the best way for me to move forward mentally has been to actually take action and get out there and do things, and not to fear failure as a result of trying.

Guest Post: Injured Pilot Jay Davis Reflects on Change

I’m going to start this article with my punchline because it’s important in understanding who I am: Appreciate everything you can while you can. I’ve always been that kind of person who would be on a hard bike ride and look down and think, “Thank you legs, you’ve brought me on some amazing journeys.” I would stop driving home from work just to watch a gorgeous sunset. I’ve always liked to appreciate the little things in life, but sometimes I would be so wrapped up in them I would forget the big things, like my overall health.

I sustained a spinal cord injury two years ago in a small plane crash. Flying was something I had worked hard to enjoy my entire life. Since my accident, I learned quickly that life is still possible with an SCI and that these things can be enjoyed again. Very few things will look the same and obstacles in life may appear different, but enjoyment is still there.

The only thing for me that has truly felt the same post-injury is flying. The first time I got back into the air with a friend at the controls I suddenly felt right. One hurdle I have to overcome to fly solo again is my medical certification from the FAA. Because of the SCI and other health issues this is one I haven’t been able to overcome yet. I’ve only been able to enjoy this feeling a few times in the last two years, but I know my health and the joy only flight can bring me are important enough to still fight for.

With no effort I can still enjoy a sunset. To fly again, I need to modify a plane with hand-controls and get my medical certification back. Both are hurdles, but they are ones worth putting in the time and effort to get that feeling back. Flying with hand-controls has been the easy part, it’s not much different from driving with them.

To circle back to my punchline – find the things that bring you joy regardless of your injury – once you’ve found those things, appreciate them big or small. Equally as important is to fight for the things worth fighting for. This applies to everything from personal relationships and simple things like a sunset, to the big things, which for me is flying. An injury isn’t the end, its just change, and if I’ve learned one thing in life, it’s that the only constant is change.