Learning how to walk again


Sunrise over Trinity Beach Oct 20th 2002

I took this photo 17 years ago today. Sunrise over Trinity Beach just north of Cairns in Queensland, Australia. I remember the exact date because I made two decisions that day that changed everything for me.

The first decision I made was that I wanted to be a photographer, full-time. I'd spent the last few years exploring film photography (digital cameras were still insanely expensive and produced low quality photos), I remember sitting on the rocks watching the sun rise and taking photos and thinking, I want to do this all the time, I want to find a way to make a living from doing this. It took some time, but in 2009 I went full-time.

Oct 20th 2002

The second decision is a less great one, we were travelling back to Brisbane, stopped in at Mission Beach and I decided to climb a coconut tree to pick some coconuts (not the first time I'd done this). While at the top of a rather tall coconut tree my shoulder dislocated and I suddenly had zero strength in that arm... the arm that was keeping me in the tree. I fell about 7.5 meters to the ground, hitting the trunk of the tree on the way down and broke my back in two places (L1 & T12).

I don't really remember anything after coming away from the tree, the people I was travelling with said I "bounced" after hitting the ground. My first semi-intelligible words were "help me up, I'm just winded", luckily they had more sense than I did and they had already called the ambulance. I was taken to Tully Hospital and then transferred to Cairns Base Hospital.

The first doctor I saw very casually told me I'd never walk again. I told him in no uncertain terms that I'd walk again and that he could leave the room. My poor mother and sister flew up to Cairns to come see me, I remember being far more worried about how Mum was going than what I was going through (probably the pain-killers they had me on). Meanwhile Dad was back in Brisbane juggling his business, running a church and daily calls to us.

It took quite some time to get to a point where I could sit up again, then many months of physio / rehab to learn how to walk and even just stand without falling over. 17 years later my back still gives me grief and there is a fair bit of nerve damage, I can barely feel my feet most days. It feels like I'm wearing 3 or 4 pairs of thick knee high socks most of the time, on a good day it drops down to just the 1 pair.

I'm grateful for the support of my family through that time and every single day I am grateful that I can walk, especially considering my favourite photography projects are getting out hiking in the mountains (with a good dose of snow please).

Anyway... that's a little of my story, hope it prompts you to be grateful for the little things we all tend to take for granted and ignore (myself included).

The photo was shot on film and scanned as a negative.


Visit my website for more: paulmp.com

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All photos posted are copyright Paul Pichugin unless otherwise stated.


Comments 12


Seems like the perfect day

Bad luck is never enough to ruin your mood man. keep it up!

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have an epic one

20.10.2019 00:08
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20.10.2019 00:19
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God bless you for your determination and strength to overcome the obstacles presented before you on a daily basis as you continue to do the things that bring you happiness! @paulmp 🙌

Your sunset landscape photographs are remarkable, and I especially like the complimentary colors in first image!🌅

20.10.2019 00:51
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Thank you :)

20.10.2019 01:33
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You're welcome, Paul!

20.10.2019 01:56
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Oof. That sounds painful. Cool story though now that you're alright.

20.10.2019 01:55
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Wow, awesome you overcame such a terrible injury, and can still go to these far off places and take these fabulous photos!

20.10.2019 04:26
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Thank you, I feel blessed to be able to do what I do :)

20.10.2019 04:51
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It was a tragic accident. So happy it didn't hold you back from following your dream.

20.10.2019 06:07
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Man this is such an inspirational story. I'm so glad that you had the power to over come those obstacles and not only that, then to live out your dream!.

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20.10.2019 07:18
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Wow what a story. Thanks for sharing.

Its amazing how something like that makes you appreciate your mobility. Something most of us take for granted .

21.10.2019 01:44
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