Adventure sport with tetraplegia (Bulletproof: Jezza)

* Hi. I’m Jezza. Um,… so, I think you will need to
know a little bit about me — why I’m
sitting in this lovely wheelchair. (DRAMATIC MUSIC) I’ve had an accident, um, in 2010,
and I broke my neck. (DRAMATIC MUSIC) The body works its wonders,
and, um, I’m still here. Yeah. Still here and rockin’. (ADVENTUROUS MUSIC) Captions were made with
the support of NZ On Air.
Able 2019 (GENTLE MUSIC) I’d like to say I’m
from humble beginnings. I grew up in between Fairlie
and Geraldine on a sheep
and cattle farm. Probably one of the luckiest
upbringings you can have anywhere
in the world, you know? We have mountains on our doorstep.
We have rivers on our doorstep. There’s huge amounts
of outdoor activities. He was just a very busy,
out there, full on kid. Most babies are born with their back
of their head facing. He was born
face up, face out. You know, ‘Hello, world.’ (CHUCKLES)
‘What you got out there for me?’ (CHUCKLES) And that was pretty much
how he lived — full on with a grin
on his face. Every day after school, if it wasn’t
going down to the river, it was cruising over to the climbing
wall — to Beautiful Valley, this
limestone rock — to play around. And I got an addiction for pushing
the limits, and the limits were
right there on my doorstep, so I definitely got
amongst it real early. (GENTLE MUSIC) When I left school, I was definitely
not knowing what I wanted to do. I was like, well, I can go play
for a year and then work out
what I want to do. So, I went and did the outdoor
recreation course. And it sort of
opened my mind a little bit. And then I got into the rafting.
So I was rafting, and then
I was ski patrolling. And… then I got this real feeling
of travel, and I was like, ‘I really need to get out there
and experience the world.’ And I was lucky enough to score
a job for Swiss Adventures
in Switzerland. I put my kayak on my shoulder and
went over to Europe. My dad was
like, ‘I’ll see you in a week.’ And then, boom, I didn’t go back
to New Zealand for five years. Morning, Karen. (BIRDS CHIRP OUTSIDE) Morning. Sleep well? You know, a lot of people,
they break themselves. Good old Jezza… (CHUCKLES)
Tetraplegia, complete. (CHUCKLES) Having a severed spinal cord at this
sort of level means that everything
below runs on autopilot. So, things like my bladder,
my bowel,… it works, but I have to make up
systems for it to work properly. Pretty much from the top of my
shoulders, I have function of my
shoulder muscles. Not much. You know, like the back of
my shoulders. My— I don’t have triceps,
and I don’t have my wrist
flexors and no hand function. My body doesn’t know when I’m hot.
It doesn’t know when I’m cold. So I have to be very aware of
my environment so things don’t
seriously go wrong. In the morning, we normally get up
at around 8. We’ll just do some
stretching for Jezza’s feet. He gets ready. Brush his teeth. I am dependent on the help
of others for a lot. (ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH BUZZES) (ELECTRIC TOOTHBRUSH CONTINUES) (TOOTHBRUSH STOPS) Jezza is a very practical person. He’s got his own idea
of how things are done. I really appreciate Karen, cos
the main thing about Karen is she
puts her all into it. It’s awesome. Awesome. So, the more practical the person,
the easier my life is. Looks good. Well, the job wasn’t anything
that I was expecting. In the interview with Jezza, I was
like, ‘Well, you know, shouldn’t be
too hard. I’ve been a live-in nanny. ‘I’m really good with kids.
You’re probably just a kid with,
like, bigger body parts.’ We didn’t really have a very good
start, didn’t we? You need to have a rapport with
your carer, so you need to get on
with them. The energy is very, very important. Having people that are very
positive, um, that have similar
interests. That was the major reason why
I hired Karen in the first place… Was it really?
…is like, yeah, boom,
she’s a paraglider. It was? Was it really?
Oh. Oh.
Yeah. And I think we’re quite similar
in a way that we’re super stubborn. And then we’re smart enough to
know each other’s mind games.
Mm. So, we, kind of, like,
fight against each other…
Mm. …mentally.
Now we kick arse, eh?
Yeah. Once I know what I’m doing. (CHUCKLES) Once you know
what you’re doing, yeah.
(CHUCKLES) (METAL GUITAR MUSIC) After quite a few years —
I would’ve been about 33 by now —
I decided to go back to Switzerland. I got back into the
canyoning scene over there. In Switzerland, with the amazing
ancient valleys, you have these
massive granite gorges, and they’ve made these insanely
beautiful canyons. Smooth rock. But all the waterfalls end up
in beautiful potholes, and you approach every descent or
every waterfall when you get to it. And then that’s the beautiful
time when I had my accident.
26th of September, 2010. (EERIE, FOREBODING MUSIC) (WATER RUSHES) It was just another day.
Another day at work. And that day, I remember
I was with my great mate Steve,
and we were heading down. We had, like, probably,
seven clients. We’d just
finished the rappel, so I was cleaning up the ropes while
Steve took the clients down to the
pullback jump, the next jump. And I just rocked up to that jump —
as you do every day — threw the
ropes down to Steve, and then went to check the pool
and just did a big jump out. That day, instead of doing what
I thought I was gonna do,
I just slipped. And, um, instead of flying out over
like I should’ve, I didn’t quite get
the distance I wanted to. And, yeah, hit my head on
a rock on the way down. (EERIE, FOREBODING MUSIC) Boom. Game changer. (POIGNANT PIANO MUSIC) I remember lying face down
in the waterfall and seeing my
hands go in front of my face. I— I’m not stupid. I know what
happened. Um, and I pretty much
accepted it right then and there. Bugger. (POIGNANT PIANO MUSIC) (SKYPE RINGTONE) Stevie, good to see ya.
Hey, bro. Yeah. It was obvious
what had happened. And it was just, right, OK, let’s
just try and stabilise, as much as
we can, His neck. (CLEARS THROAT) And Jezza said to me, he says,
‘My life’s changed.’ He says, um—
He says, ‘It’s changed.’ Yeah.
Good work, Steve-o.
Thanks for saving my life, buddy. You’d do the same, bro.
You’d do the same. I had so much, like, kind of, guilt.
Jezza will probably tell you
afterwards. And I’m thinking, like, you know,
Jezza might be angry with me for—
For— Oh… Saving my life. Yeah. Pretty much. Because I know
how much of a full love-for-life
dude you are. And just to have that and then to—
It brings a tear to my eye. (SNIFFS)
Oh, bro. (CHUCKLES)
(INHALES DEEPLY) Oh. Crazy. (EXCLAIMS) (AMBIENT MUSIC) Once we went to the hospital, I had
a whole bunch of mates come in.
I remember that bit. And then I see the doctor come in
with a great big bag, and that’s
the last I remember for four weeks. Just scary. Um… Totally overwhelming. Feeling of absolute…
really, of helplessness. Yeah, this kid that was all muscle,
and he was so covered in tubes and
beeping things. They did an operation on the front
of my neck and one on the back
of my neck. And then my lungs filled with
fluids. Near drowning, it’s called. And I also got sand on my lungs. So, my lungs failed seven times. His lungs were in a really bad
state. So, it wasn’t just the fact
that he’d broken his neck. It was kind of, like— It was a bit
touch-and-go with his lungs and
stuff as well. So from that point on, it was
obviously a pretty long road. He would never have thought,
‘I can’t do this.’ Um… That’s not really his character.
His character is, OK, yeah,
I made a bit of a boo-boo, but I’ve gotta live with it,
so let’s get on. It was all about getting
myself back again. * I got told I do not understand
the severity of my situation. And I’m like, ‘Well, you don’t
really understand me.’ I got back to New Zealand.
I had to start my life again. I decided to buy a house. So, as you come through, this area
here has got my lovely herbs… (CLEARS THROAT) …and obviously grapevines, cos
I live in Waipara, and Waipara’s
all about wine. Then through here, nice little
section where I can smash out a
hot tub whenever I feel like it. ‘I had to find my whole new riff. ‘I had to find new ways to entertain
myself, really, and keep my life as
exciting and as busy as possible.’ I grow as much food as I can. This is just new —
my new raised garden. Believe it or not, I’ve got a
bunch of veggies growing in here,
but they’re taking their time. The beautiful greenhouse which is my
lovely tepee. Yeah. Great storage. And, of course, it’s always a work
in progress, just like my life. Um, so, next little bits,
we’ll be putting a tank up on the
greenhouse so I can have pure water. (AMBIENT MUSIC) Having a place where I feel real
comfortable is really important
for my well-being. You absorb your environment. Every year I sort of take on a
project to make it a little bit
more Jezza-friendly. Yeah. It’s been a process
to get this far. If I go through a day without
achieving one small thing,
then it frustrates me. I have to always achieve something. When I was in rehab in Nottwil,
in Switzerland, I thought about
my future, you know. Now living as a tetraplegic,
it’ll be really important
to carry on doing what I do. I looked into the industry to
see what was available for people
in my situation in the outdoors. And I was quite blown away
at the lack of infrastructure. And so I took it upon myself
to open up an industry, and I started Makingtrax
pretty much from the word go. Adventure is the most awesomest
thing that anybody can do. It’s the only time in life when you
go and do something without planning
or knowing what’s gonna happen. So what Makingtrax does is
I go into outdoor companies,
I look at their product, and I make it possible through
education, adaptation, cooperation
and training. Inclusiveness of the actual
adventure tourism is what we’re
growing with Makingtrax. (BRIGHT MUSIC) I’ve always thought
in the back of my mind, it would be awesome if I could
get all the adventure companies
to come to the party. And I’ve also got a really awesome
body that can prove a point. Cos if this body can do it,
anybody can do it. (AMBIENT MUSIC) It’s impossible to make rivers
paragliding accessible. It’s not gonna happen.
But that’s not what inclusive
tourism is about. Inclusive tourism is about people
willing to help and be helped. (AMBIENT MUSIC) It’s not about being disabled;
it’s about a human, you know? The word ‘dis-abled’ is really…
Yeah, of course I’ve got a
disability. But I’m not disabled, you know?
I’m really abled. I can do a lot
of stuff. (AMBIENT MUSIC) What we are doing is going around to
companies and helping them develop
their product so that they can run their product
to the best of their ability, to the
best of the ability of the client. Kia ora. Haere mai.
Kia ora, Emma. Nice to see you again.
Nice to see you.
Come in. Kia ora, Karen. Nice to see you. The business managers are gonna
dial in, and we’ll catch up with
them all. It’s more about having the
information and then marketing it and being proud of being
an inclusive company. Once Jezza’s talked about Makingtrax
and what it is that he’s wanting to
achieve with our experiences, I’ll then go around each of you
and get you to talk about the
experiences that you operate within your businesses and if you’ve
had any thoughts already about how
you could make it inclusive. Sure. We have, sort of, three main
experiences at the moment, and,
really, the first one is a valley walk, so
walking up the Waiho Valley riverbed to experience the front of the
glacier, so that’s more of an
interactive walk. And there’s plenty of opportunity
there to customise those trips. A lot of you guys have already done
activities for people with different
abilities. But there’s no real whole…
information and everything
put in one place. Um, and a lot of people are
unaware and unsure of what
the possibilities are. So it’s understanding the
possibilities from your end
of what you can do to make it as inclusive
as you possibly can for all. It can be challenging in
the environment that we work in, but there is definitely things that
we are doing and that we can still
improve on in this area. I mean, one of the suggestions that
Craig had talked about — and this
might’ve been what you did with the customer that had
cerebral palsy — was creating
the tracks for the wheelchair. So, actually creating the tracks for
the wheelchair up on the glacier and
actually pushing around. Oh, with ice axes and…?
Yeah. And doing that. And then the challenge was
around weight. So it was fine if they were
smaller and a bit lighter. But the heavier they became,
the more challenging that became
as a solution. About five years ago, I went on
a tandem paraglide with a buddy of
mine, Deano, down in Queenstown. And it was, kind of like,
(PUFFS) this is pretty easy. I was never a paraglider before
my injury, and then I was like,
‘I think I could pull this off.’ So I came and worked with Melrose
and asked them kindly if they’d like
to help me out. When I thought about making a buggy,
I wanted somebody that understood
exactly what good welds are with all the little bits and pieces.
So, again, I called old mate Phil. And, boom, we came up
with this baby. (GENTLE MUSIC) Yeah, basically got a few plans
and stuff from Jezza here,
which was the frame. And it had the suspension
and the wheels that he wanted. And, yeah, I came up with ways of
mounting some of the machine parts. The suspension — If you have it
in certain places, it weakens
the whole back end. And it’s like an aeroplane,
you know? You come in quite
hard when you land. So it’s knowing all the angles and
everything, which is probably the
most important piece. Because, as you can understand,
you know, if you come in on the back
weight, it’s gonna hit quite hard and your back and all your weight
on it as well. So that there was
the delicate part. He’s making all these dreams
happen for people with— Like,
rafting or jumping out of a plane, or jumping in one of these buggies
and that, and going down a hill
a million miles an hour in that. So, he’s making it happen for
our next generations and that and not wrapping them up
in cotton wool and going,
‘No, you cannot do that.’ And I’d rather be out there doing
what I do than sitting around going,
‘I can’t because…’ Because that just would not work for
this mind. It would be impossible. * (SLOW, BRIGHT MUSIC) I’m the only licensed quadriplegic
paraglider in New Zealand. It’s been a process of about five
years, but it gave me my licence. So that means I can fly whenever
or wherever I like but to a point,
you know? I have to be a lot more on to it
than average Joe. One, two, three. Let’s go. There’s certain things that you can
do if things go wrong when you’re in
the air. Things like pulling in your
big ears, which makes the canopy
half the size, and it means you can come down fast. A speed bar or trimmers that roll
your wing forward so you can
penetrate the wind faster. And, of course, reserve that you can
throw if things go wrong. The last three of those things
I don’t have, so it’s all about just being one with the air and
reading my limitations and what
I can do perfectly. It’s the whole thing about using
your mind to do something that makes
you feel satisfied. (CLICKS TONGUE) And that’s what this
is all about. And independence.
Independence is huge. Although, I’m quite
dependent like this. Karen, can you, uh, tighten up my
groin, these ones here, please? I had a tremendous amount of respect
for Jezza right from the word go. So I was really impressed by his
attitude. His attitude to get there,
do it and beat it at all odds. (GENTLE MUSIC) There was a lot of hoops and hurdles
that we wanted to get through just to see that he could fly,
so we did a lot of groundwork. He flew with me in a tandem,
and I got him to run the controls, so he knew what to expect
when he was flying. I was, like, looking at the ground
going (EXCLAIMS). And I couldn’t control my arms
cos my arms were stuck in behind
my head and stuff. And I was, like, holy shit.
This is awesome. You know,
I’m back in that realm. (GENTLE MUSIC) I made wrist loops for my wrists.
What that means is I don’t have to
hold on to the lines. So, when the canopy goes up,
it pulls my arms up, yeah? So we hope that it is always up. So all I’m doing, in reality, is
I’m just feeling my glider and I’m
pulling it down with my shoulders. So it’s about feeling
everything through your body, and then just going with
the thermal, going with the wind. There was a lot of trial and error
in order to work out, from our point of view,
the correct way to launch him. In the end, we decided with
two instructors, one on each side, and having a helper like Karen
helping to pull the buggy down,
that was our best bet here. It is probably one of the most
magic moments of anyone who has
learnt to fly is that lifting air and going up. I can totally understand
why he wants to fly. His moment of freedom
is when he is flying. (UPLIFTING MUSIC) (UPLIFTING MUSIC CONTINUES) I think anybody that has
an ability like mine is limited
by their imagination. It’s all about perspective. It’s important for people to realise
that mindset is everything. Taking life as what it is —
something that’s extremely precious. It’s all about using exactly what
you’ve got to run it as best you
possibly can. You know, I don’t admire him
in parts. I admire the whole,
complete person. It’s about being able to grow
physically, mentally, spiritually
because of a hurdle. You get slowed down a little bit
by an injury like I’ve got, but…
(CLICKS TONGUE) it doesn’t really change me
for who I am or what I do. (BRIGHT MUSIC)
Copyright Able 2019 Attitude was made with
funding from NZ On Air. (BRIGHT, AMBIENT MUSIC) The Attitude Awards celebrate the
success and achievements of Kiwis
living with disability. (CHEERS, APPLAUSE) Employees, athletes, talented youth and people who display
incredible encourage in the face of their challenges. (WATER SPLASHES) Nominations are now open.
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14 thoughts on “Adventure sport with tetraplegia (Bulletproof: Jezza)

  1. Absoulutly awesome and inspiring Jezza, will be sharing this..Im working with someone with a relativly new injury..will show them whats posssible..

  2. Merci pour cette leçon. Votre moral et détermination sont ce qui manque a bien des hommes. Je vous souhaite encore d'innombrables aventures.

  3. Incredible Jezza! you are an inspiration! sharing your story like this is wonderful example of how life after a spinal injury can be if you push hard enough!

  4. As a new wheelchair user this has given me some more ideas of what is possible and some more ideas on how to get back into the outdoors again : )

  5. Just awesome Jezza, thank you, I'm an SCI of 30 years, C5-6 very similar to you, earned a Masters in a manual chair and now a licensed therapist here in US, also working with SCI folks which is very rewarding, I have a LOVE of flight and you have made me want to step beyond RC planes and FPV drones, thank you! Good luck with your business sir! Love from USA NC, Be well, protect those shoulders man!:)

  6. From a 65yr old mum, nanna, your got a inspiring story. Will be taking off to explore this country of mine in the future. I believe we can do anything within reason. The term “don’t say no I can’t. I work with older people pushing them to believe in their capabilities. Things they thought they couldn’t do, they are achieving. We don’t let walkers stop them doing what they would like to be doing. Something as simple as pushing a walker up the plank way to get on a boat. The joy this simple task brings. The boat owners see by changing a little d sign they have many new customers. Sorry for rambling, but guys like you I admire big time. Pushing the boundaries. I car for my dad. At 95years of age , he pushes himself to achieve so,ugh. Guess I get my inspiration from him to help people with their set goals. Anyway, keep on keeping on matey, take care, Joanne from Australia xxxx

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