On April 26th, I interviewed a man who broke his neck diving into a river. Just a year and a half ago, 29-year-old Uel Maree was the epitome of athleticism. Now, paralyzed from the neck down, he is committed to a lying on a make-shift chair for most of the day, or when he goes out, restricted to the use of a wheel-chair. The incredible and awe-inspiring thing about Uel- he is adamant that he’ll not only walk again, but get back to his previous health and fitness.
Uel’s description of his experience when he dove into the river is one that has stuck with me most. He said, “When it happened, there was this incredible peace about me- like a peace I’ve never experienced before.” He related it to God, and how everything just “fell in to place”. He didn’t experienced no anxiety whatsoever, as one might expect to happen. Instead, he reassured himself of his friends that were on their way to pulling him out the water. He even recalls telling his friend who pulled him out, “Hold my neck like this”, without any prior knowledge of how to treat a seriously injured person. He told me that had he known the day before that this was going to happen, he would’ve “freaked out”. Yet at a life-altering moment such as this, he says, “I’ve never experienced such a peace.”
The doctor’s told Uel, “You’ll never move anything from the shoulders down.” But 2 months after his accident, he started to get some feeling in his biceps. He eventually started moving his wrists and hands, and even his index finger, all of which the doctors said was impossible for someone with his level of injury (Uel broke five vertebrae from the skull). He has even recovered feeling in his abdominal muscles. Uel says, “I know that one day I’ll be back on top, because once you lose hope, you might as well dig your own grave and jump in.”
Uel recalls how he was busy 24/7, and therefore never had the chance to just sit and think about life. “You never think, whom am I, where do I fit in in this world, am I happy with myself?.. and now I’m forced to do that, and it’s actually not a bad thing. I’m discovering things about myself that I never knew.” His outlook on life has changed immensely, as he says, “If I knew then what I know now, I definitely would’ve changed a lot of the things…going to gym for 2 hours a day… and instead fill it with other things. It’s such a big world.”
One of the things Uel said that resonated most was that we live as though we have all the time in the world to do what’s important, and instead of doing what our heart tells us, we postpone things, often until it’s too late. “Spend time with friends; if you’ve got a problem with a family member, sort it out; if you’ve a got a friend you need to apologize to, don’t wait, because you never know what’s going to happen. I thought I was invincible, and one jump into a river has changed my whole life. Could be car accident , a disease, could be anything.”
I asked Uel if he regretted the accident. He responded, “What’s a couple years for learning such an important thing, so no I don’t regret it.”
I learnt invaluable lessons about life in that half and hour I spent chatting to him, and despite his youthful age, I consider Uel to be one of the wisest, if not the wisest people I’ve met. And now I constantly ask myself, “How long will I put off the things that are most important to me in life?”
I edited and posted the interview of Uel on Youtube. I highly recommend you watch this. Here is the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdBDthbaPe8. I also suggest changing to HD to get the best out of the video. Enjoy!