|You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight. --Elizabeth Gilbert|
Blessing in Disguise--by Vik Shivdasani, Apr 15, 2013
Have you ever thought to yourself how amazing it is the way you control your body? We all know biologically how we function. But I mean the actual processes of your mind sending neurological signals to your arms and legs. It takes almost no time at all for you to take a step or raise your hand. You don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. Imagine the sparks of energy that start from your brain and then travel through your neurological pathways to all of your extremities in a matter of milliseconds, creating the result of you running or the intricacies involved in playing a sport. It has always astonished me to imagine the complexities of how we function with our bodies. On the other hand, what if things were different? What if those sparks of energy could not make it to your extremities? Imagine not being able to take a step, let alone stand. In almost an instant, this became my new reality.
At around 2:30 am on July 29, 2006, after a night of partying, I was home standing on my 3rd floor apartment balcony. I’d just gotten off the phone with my cousins, who were in a cab on their way over, and leaned over the railing on my balcony to check if I could see any headlights projecting to indicate that they had arrived. Next thing I knew, I was being awoken by my cousins, laying on the ground and unable to get up. I had just fallen off of my balcony and was lying on a patch of grass right next to a sidewalk and 6 inches from a sprinkler head. My T10 and T11 vertebrae were fractured, which compressed my spinal cord and left me completely paralyzed from the waist down. Now, I’ve been asked this question numerous times, and I’m sure many of y’all are thinking the same thing reading this, “But how did you fall off your balcony?” To be completely honest, I’m really not sure exactly how it happened. I have a few theories but truthfully I totally blacked out when it transpired.
I was only 22 years old at the time and was just finishing up my last few classes at the University of Houston before I could complete my undergraduate degree. The idea of being paralyzed didn’t align with any vision or plan I had for my life. The doctors only gave me a 5% chance to ever walk again and I was now in a rehabilitation hospital learning how to live my life in a wheelchair. I kept hoping it was all a dream. Every morning when I woke up I would think “$%^&! I’m still paralyzed.” All I could ever think about was what I referred to as “getting better”. “Getting better” to me meant returning to being a fully functional human being once again. And I wanted it to happen really soon because I felt like the longer I was in this situation, the more likely it was that I would accept it. I was angry, confused, and petrified all at the same time. And then came my next step in facing my new reality, after living on my own for the past few years attending college, I was moving back home with my parents in McAllen, TX.
Moving back home was tough to accept because I felt like my life was regressing. My plans were to graduate and then get a job like everybody else. Instead, I was back in McAllen researching potential avenues to get me walking again. I refused to live my life like this. I hated everything about it. My family wanted to make modifications to my bathroom to make it more accessible – I resisted. I didn’t even want to learn how to drive with hand controls. I felt that by doing these things I would only be giving in to my paralysis. However, eventually I had to give in because I was only making life harder for my family and myself. I was ticking off my cousins because they had to pick me up and drop me off every time we hung out at THEIR house. So there were a few battles I let my paralysis win on, but I was not going to let it win the war. I was doing all sorts of therapies, remedies, and exercises to help heal me. I traveled to different parts of the world to explore alternative treatments including homeopathic medicine, cold laser therapy, and even stem cells. Paralysis is a ridiculous situation to attempt to come out of because there is no cure or protocol on how to get better. Failed treatment after failed treatment, I kept persisting as I felt the more I tried God would eventually reward me for my efforts. I spent 3 years trying to find a solution to my problem, and my efforts were getting exhausted. I was sick of waiting for a miracle to happen. I couldn’t emotionally take any more disappointments in my life. Three years had already passed by and what did I have to show for it? I felt defeated, and I contemplated if life was even worth living anymore. I had now reached rock bottom.
When you reach rock bottom you have 2 choices; to live or to die. I had to contemplate every aspect of my life and figure out how I could move forward. To live meant to accept my situation and to not let it hinder me living life. To die meant to do nothing and drown in my sorrows. I chose to live. I was so attached to my life before my accident and now I had to reach acceptance and let it go. However, I realized that I only had to accept today, not forever. By accepting today I could live my life day by day, moment by moment. I have no idea what is to come in my future so why should I ever limit my possibilities? I also decided that if I were going to live my life in a wheelchair, it would be on my terms. My terms were that I was going to do whatever felt right to me, with clarity and conviction. I felt that because of what I had gone through, I felt free to do things I’d been wanting to do, things that would make me happy. Additionally, I was free of societal pressure and judgment because I wasn’t held to the same standards as everybody else. And if I was judged, I didn’t care. This new mindset made me excited to move forward.
I looked forward to all the things that I wanted to do now. One of the biggest things was that I wanted to play wheelchair basketball and other sports and activities. However, McAllen did not offer such activities. It became clear to me that I needed to move back to Houston to completely fulfill myself. This was going to be the biggest step of my life because I had never lived alone in this situation, but I was ready. I started applying for jobs, but we were in a recession and I had no work experience so nobody was going to hire me. Then came a conversation with one of my good friends about a post baccalaureate program he was enrolled in at the University of Houston to become CPA eligible. I didn’t want to go back to school for a long time, and this was only going to be 9 classes. So I thought this was going to be my ticket back to Houston and it was starting in 2 weeks! I talked to my family about it and they were tentatively supportive, but nobody was trying to stop me. And just like that in August 2010, I moved back to Houston, a city that I love so much. I was a little nervous in the beginning, but I knew that if I was accepting my situation this was the next step. During my first week in Houston I saw a billboard while I was driving that said “ABILITIES EXPO”. It was the largest disabilities show that covered everything from sports to wheelchair manufacturers to medical issues, and it just so happened to be going on in Houston for the first time ever the weekend after I moved back. I felt like everything was just falling into place.
Today I am on the verge of completing my CPA program this December 2011 and I am currently a Houston apartment locator. Life has been amazing ever since I took this plunge. I feel like I just know how to live life now. Because of what I have gone through, I am fearless. I have already been through the worst, there is nothing that could affect me nearly the same way; hence, I have nothing to hold me back. My mentality is all about going with the flow, not worrying about the future, forgetting about the past and just living every moment of every day. Since I’ve moved and been following my mentality I have got so much positive feedback from so many people. I cannot tell you how many people have expressed to me how much of an inspiration I am to them. Really? Me? It’s shocking to me because everything that I do, I do it for myself. I am not living my life for anybody else, but for myself. And it’s really an amazing feeling that I can affect others positively because of who I am today. This past July 2011 I celebrated my 5th year cripple anniversary. I fell off a balcony 5 years ago, so to celebrate, I fell off a plane. I went skydiving for the first time in my life and I highly recommend it to anybody who is interested. That’s what I’m all about, just living life. My life has taught me so much and led me to where I am today. I love my life and everything that comes with it. I now know that everything I have gone through has been a blessing in disguise.
Today, Vik Shivdasani is an apartment locator, an avid wheelchair basketball player, a comic in the Houston comedy scene, and has even done some motivational speaking. He blogs regularly at RollWithVik.com and you can hear him share his story at this event with author Neale Donald Walsch.
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