My name is Patrick and I’m a 26 year old Computer Science student from Finland.
In 2005, I was in car accident. I was only 15 at the time. As a result, I got severe injuries all over my body. My spinal cord was damaged and left me with paraplegia. My left leg also got severe tissue damage which led to amputation.
I was in hospital for 2.5 months after the accident. During that time, I was devastated because I didn’t know anything about rehabilitation, or how I could possibly carry on with my life. I assumed I would always have nurses taking care of me. As I was just a teenager, I was frightened I would lose all my friends. I was sure no one would like to be friends with me, as I believed I was just a burden to everyone.
After getting out of hospital, I went to a rehabilitation centre in Helsinki. There, I slowly learned how to move with my wheelchair, how to dress and all the basic stuff which changed because of my SCI. As I learned more and more skills, I started to get my confidence back and realised that I could have fun and live life like any other teenager. In the rehabilitation centre I received a lot of peer support from different people, most of them who had been in a wheelchair many years before me. My physiotherapist, Sarianna, helped me so much. Aside from teaching me the skills I needed to adjust, she is the reason I kept being positive throughout this rehabilitation period.
During those first couple of years, I had rough times with my back. There was a long round of surgeries and complications but I was determined to see the bright side of life. I wanted so much for these complications to end, and for better times to come. And they did!
After adjusting to the changes, I've moved on and met some awesome people. In many ways, I have had a fun-filled life and some adventures along the way. I had a couple of relationships which also helped me get through those bad times and that is just one of the things for which I am grateful! My great friends were always there for me and so was my family. My mum, dad and six siblings did more than I could ever ask for.
Sports was a major factor that allowed me to further accept the new me. For fun, I played wheelchair basketball for a couple years. Now, I have a hand bike which is especially fun during summers! I also go to the gym, and this never fails to help me get fit and feel great! I'm really into watching football (soccer) and my favourite team is FC Barcelona. I also spend some spare time playing on the PC, hanging out with my friends, going to the pub to watch football and having passionate discussions. I want to stay active in both body and mind. I love cooking too, my speciality is Lasagna!
One of the other things I absolutely love is to travel, experience new cultures and meet new people. I am of the belief that the wheelchair and SCI isn't an obstacle. If you are determined, nothing can stop you from going out there and having new experiences! For me, it's important to focus on what you are capable of. Usually there is always a way to do something which you originally thought was impossible.
My last travel destination was Barcelona which, in my view, is heaven for wheelchair users! Accessibility there is really good, food was amazing, even when you leave the centre of town. Getting lost was one of the best parts. I loved watching life in the neighbourhood go by and seeing the real Barcelona. My future destination is still unknown. However, I look forward to travelling to many other places including Lisbon, Praha, Amsterdam, Seville, Rome and Paris. I definitely want to see Australia and New Zealand too. To be honest, the list could go on. The one thing I want to achieve is to travel all major continents. I want to experience, see and get to know new food and cultures. There is so much out there!
In the end, I believe that ALL my experiences-good and bad-have made me into who I am today. Even after everything I've been through, I think I've had more experiences than what was taken for me.
To all of you out there who may be struggling: I would like to say to never give up and be positive, even if the positives may be difficult to see at times. Through my journey I have found that the only true disability in life is a bad attitude and that the human spirit can overcome anything.