I am one of seven children. My six sisters and I were all born in a little country town in Victoria called Numurkah. Dad moved there with Mum to coach football after playing for Essendon in the early 1960s, under John Coleman.
At the age of three I was working on the farm with Dad and put my hand in a wheat auger and lost my left arm. I don’t remember much, mainly what Mum and Dad told me a couple years later.
When I went to stand up for the first time in hospital I fell over. My body didn’t know I had lost an arm.
As a kid I loved sports and the farming life. At the age of five I was driving tractors and trucks around the farm. I played AFL football, cricket, tennis, and swam competitively against my peers. Mum and Dad treated me with heaps of love but no privileges, with the view that I didn’t have a disability. If I went to make ‘an excuse’ about why I dropped a ball playing cricket, Dad was clear that it wasn’t on! He would say, “Find a way! Don’t cop out with that stuff!” So as a young boy I was challenged by this simple philosophy, but because of this, I don’t feel sorry for myself or buckle to the challenge of a lost limb.
I know people look at me and think ‘he’s only got one arm surely he can’t do that much!’ But deep inside I know I can find a way to do everything and more. But unfortunately you can’t tell or show everyone what you can do within the brief passing of the hundreds of people you interact with daily.
My story is one of many emotional and physical challenges. Surprisingly enough, the physical was easy and actually fun. You can adapt physically and train yourself to match others and excel beyond. I feel more competent and productive than many abled bodied people. What is the hard part is how to take on the world’s perception of you having lost a limb. Every day I meet individuals that think due to losing a limb I’m not capable of doing what they can. This is the one perception that has driven me since I had the accident. I am driven everyday day to dispel such beliefs. I see this reaction as a positive. If I had two arms maybe I wouldn’t have such a desire to succeed! Maybe I would go through life without really challenging myself and trying to be the best I can be?
So in fact, it has been a blessing to be challenged in such a way. You can identify quality people, who can see through your challenges, to be a big part of your life, as they are challenged in turn as they confront your situation.
Today I keep a balanced lifestyle and play pennant tennis in our local competition which keeps me alive with the enjoyment of competing, and the belief I can win. This is an important part to my makeup, to have a challenge where I can win and achieve respect for myself and from my peers.
I think it is important to realise every person who has lost a limb will have different passions and areas they are good at. Mine is sport, but others will excel in other areas of life maybe academically or through helping the community. It is important you find your passion for excelling in something to nurture your self-respect and to give you confidence in life.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story and good luck with yours.
Find your mojo by Paul Byers