Editor’s Note: INSPIRED is an ongoing series where we feature uplifting stories of ordinary people overcoming unthinkable adversity by harnessing the restorative power of the ocean.
My friend was calling out, looking for me in the bushes. Straight away, I said, “I can’t move my legs.”
Waking up after surgery, the surgeon said that I’d had a car accident and wouldn’t be walking ever again — I closed my eyes and went back to sleep. The next day, the TV announced that Christopher Reeves had broken his neck and wouldn’t be walking again. I knew then, in my morphine stupor, that it was all a dream.
Denial was the first part of the process.
19 years ago, Pascale Honore was driving along with a close friend when she realized she was on the wrong side of the road. In a moment of panic, she yanked the steering wheel left, but in an attempt to get back over on the right side of the road, Pascale overcorrected. Her friend was left with a bruise from her seatbelt. Pascale was ejected from the car.
I was going to prove the doctors wrong. I’ve always been a rebel! I kept positive, picturing myself walking — in my dreams I was always running around. I’ve always been active, so I enjoyed the physio, gym, and pool. We had hours of practice sitting on a noodle; I have no feeling or movement from the chest down, no stomach muscles, so sitting in my wheelchair is like floating. It was fun. And not being scared in the water allowed me to find my balance.
After five-and-a-half months in the rehab centre, with therapy five days a week, I thought to myself, “What do I do in the meantime?”
Surfing was her and her sons’ shared passion. She spent countless days watching them surf, from her wheelchair tucked away safely in an overlooking position, enjoying her passion for her children and the ocean alike.
My aim then was to learn to live a different way, to get out of rehab and back to my kids. I always loved the ocean, and while I never surfed with a board, I did a lot of bodysurfing and swimming. And I always felt at ease in the water, putting my head under and being in a different world.
Living in a small town, home to one of the best waves in Australia, you just go up to the point and watch the surf — and dream.
Tyron Swan, a close friend of Pascale’s sons, noticed how engaged she was when he would join the boys for a surf. Using a roll of duct tape, he attached arms, legs, and torso to his. Then he paddled out, with her at his back.
Ty came up with the idea that he could tape me on his back and take me out there over a year ago. It was 18 years after my accident. That first wave was mind blowing: I tried to take in the color, the sound, the smell of the ocean. I looked up to this wall of water — I felt part of it. That first wave got me addicted, I just wanted to do it again. It was the ultimate connection, riding the ocean.
Until we caught that first wave my sons were a bit worried about the dangers of a bad wipeout; there were a lot of sceptics until it worked. I had an appointment at the spinal unit the day after we made front page of the Sunday paper.
The head doc of the spinal unit came out and simply said “Go for it girl!” with a big smile.
With Ty, I can share my sons’ passion. I’ve been surfing with them. I’m not only “mum.” Surfing is the most amazing, exciting, and positive thing that has come out of my accident. Instead of being confined to the wheelchair, I’m taped up and feel six feet tall. And very fit as well (with Ty doing it all for me). Surfing has shown me that we can make incredible things happen. It makes me look at possibilities, not limitations.
Surfing with Ty has been the highest high. For me, it is beyond a dream become reality, it’s miracle stuff. It has reminded me of the power of the mind. Of positive thinking. Of having dreams. Of never giving up.
The ocean and the beach being my favourite places on this planet, I find it hard to not be able to access them by myself — frustrated. But the other side of this is that I don’t take things for granted these days. I rejoice in every beach mission. I’m so grateful to have so many young people in my life willing to cart me around and let me share their fun.
Next is a barrel or two. And more, I hope.