We are the new normal - Para swimmer, surfer, shooter Justin Jesudas on the secret behind his attitude
Disability can happen to anyone but with the right attitude and support, it need not become the end to life as one knew it. Justin Vijay Jesudas' story is a shining example of this. From winning medals at international swimming championships, rifle-shooting to now becoming a calendar model, Justin has not allowed disability to come in the way of his dreams, as he tells us in My Take.
In December 2009 I was working in Hyderabad when I sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident and became paralysed neck downwards. I became a tetraplegic - my shoulders are fine but I have partial power in my elbows and while my biceps are good, my triceps are weak.
Justin Jesudas is a researcher, swimming champ, rifle shooter & scuba diver
I was 29 years old at the time and my life was going great with a dream job at a bank. All that changed after the accident. I was told that spinal cord injury has no cure, and there were complications so the rehabilitation was not so effective. I lost control over my bowel movements, bladder control and my blood pressure dropped drastically.
For the first two years, until 2011, my complete focus was on trying to walk again. My family was very supportive but I realised I was focusing on something that I had no control over. Instead I decided to focus on body parts where I had control, like my shoulders and elbows. Before the accident I was an active and fit guy so after three months of working out, I was able to move myself from the bed to wheelchair, and then the wheelchair to the car.
I realised that for those one-and-a half years after the accident, my family had been through such a hard time because they were living my life and not their own. I decided that it was time to live my life.
I kept working out and eventually I decided to modify a car and drive. Since then I have driven over 50,000 kilometres. Modifying that car was to me a sign of freedom and independence. Now my family was dependent on me for traveling.
I decided to pursue wheelchair basketball after seeing some videos, but weakness in the upper limbs made this hard so I took up swimming. Since I was not a skilled swimmer earlier it was hard, especially now that my fingers were paralysed. But I persisted and in a month I was able to swim 750 metres at a stretch. I decided to take up competitive swimming and was able to swim one kilometre a day.
I won four gold medals in the state championship and realised that I was much faster than people in higher categories. That motivated me to work harder and I started weight training. I took part in the 2014 nationals and won three golds. I swam in the Can Am championships in Canada and won three golds and qualified for the 2015 Glasgow championships, where I finished in the top 15. The Can Am event was expensive and my school friends helped me to participate by raising Rs four lakhs in a week’s time.
Before my accident I was a shooter. I decided to pursue this too and won golds in the state level and national level. In the nationals my score 619.4.
I believe that as human beings we are intelligent creatures and have the ability to adapt to any situation. All we have to do is drop this attitude of "why me", and things will be a lot different. The most important thing to do is to live our lives. Come out of your confines and believe that you can be independent. What we are is the new normal.