Life changes for all of us, sometimes slower than we'd like it to. But the big changes, the seriously major impacts usually happen very fast. Sometimes that change is precipitated by a split second decision, like diving into water and breaking your neck on a sandbar.
|X-ray showing the damage from the impact to the spine.|
Meet Zane Conroy, a young South African who did just that. The accident left him a paraplegic, with day-to-day living costs that are truly horrific. Most people would be depressed, bitter and angry at being dealt this hand. (Hell, I still sulk when my leg acts up.) Zane still acts as inspiration and touch-stone for his friends and family, and they are raising funds for him by doing a 4000km bike ride across Australia. Now THAT's love, people - and when I did this interview with him, I understood why.
|Zane and Glendon, before the accident|
1. Let’s start with the easy stuff – coffee or tea? Beer or wine? Chocolate or meat? Horror or comedy?
Comedy - Do the above answers give it away? :)
2. Give us your top three phobias?
I've never been asked that before. Ha, but if I had to answer I'd say:
1. Drowning (which I nearly did on the night of the accident - luckily faced that fear).
2. Bad driving.
3. When someone moves something in my bedroom/home without me knowing...then going to use it and it's not there. I'm a bit OCD like that haha. But I believe - "A place for everything and everything in it's place".
3. And the good stuff – top three dreams?
Yay! I like this interview.
1. Walk again!
2. Walk again!
3. Walk again!
But if I had to give another dream, it would be to live long enough to have a gathering of every single person I ever met all at one place :)
|Zane and Eddie|
|Amaal and Zane|
4. Your mates are raising funds for you, you suffered devastating injuries in a freak accident a few years ago. What can you tell us about yourself and what happened to you?
I'm a very easy going guy, adventurous and usually up for anything. I really enjoy to laugh and smile - it sounds cheesy but it's truly natures best medicine. I'm enjoying regular doses of it to this day. I'm loyal I'd say, woof :D No seriously, my friends may or may not know, but I actually adopt them as family. Being an only child I think has a lot to do with that, but what I know in my heart, is that these friends/family members love me very much, and knowing that is truly an invisible feeling more valuable than any currency that exists or that will ever exist - I mean just look at what they're doing!? Its two syllables - Awe-Some!!
My injury has been physically devastating. Not only can't I walk, but I don't have the use of my hands either, they're also paralyzed. Not being able to grasp an object, walk around or even do the simplest of tasks like shower, eat or get into bed can take a toll on one’s mind. But, that's the very thing I'd like to be completely grateful and joyful for - I still have my mind. Not sure if you've seen the movie "Ray"? About Ray Charles' life? Well, he learned when he lost his sight, that his hearing improved dramatically as well as his sense of awareness. The same applies with me. Upon losing my physical ability to walk etc., I've found my mind has amplified a whole lot more! It sounds corny but I truly do observe so much more and wait for it, the finer things in life :)
|Gathering of friends - Good Times!|
5. What is it like experiencing such an injury? During the accident, during recovery, and now in every day life?
What if I told you that, the injury itself as it happened, allowed me to experience "relativity"? That's rhetorical don't worry :)
You know Einstein's theory, sit on a hot plate it feels like hours. Go on a date with a hot guy/girl, feels like milliseconds by the end of it. The same happened to me. As I broke my neck I knew I was paralyzed. I then realized while I was face down in the water, busy drowning, I couldn't flip myself over and was going to die unless someone flipped me over. My Brother (friend), Amaal, did in fact flip me over and saved my life. All of which happened in the space of about 30 seconds - this, felt like an eternity! The most profound thing was, that I was ready to go. I had no regrets and was actually smiling at the notion of going right there and then. My entire life was analysed and scrutinized by my brain, mind and thoughts - it was as I said, relativity. Pretty cool huh. Well, I thought it was. Look I'll level with you, by no means am I ok with being so badly hurt or being disabled for the rest of my life, but it has taught me how strong a person can be and what true determination is. What insane levels of love and friendship that exist in this world - & by insane I mean amazing, awesome, genuine, moving and uninventable (yes I just made that up).
Recovery is extremely slow and limited. It can be disheartening to get a twitch in your toe after two years and see that as progress! But, it gives me reason to train hard (physiotherapy), dream big and open my mind to the unimaginable.
Everyday life is, to be honest, fun. I've discovered a new passion of mine which is to be outside in the garden, growing plants and veggies. So I get ready, exercise, work outside, research/read, eat, listen to music and best of all laugh with friends and family :)
6. The team is riding across a large part of Australia by bike to raise funds for you. Are we talking bicycle bike here? What does this mean to you?
Indeed we are! I say to people my friend Alex is CYCLING or riding his BICYCLE from Perth to Sydney! The expressions are priceless! It's 4000km over a month or so. He has to average around 130km per day - it's seeerious going.
But, if I know Alex, it's that he has an incredibly strong and focused mind. I've enjoyed many a chats with him about the "unimaginable realm". We spoke of this ride over two years ago, and it was at that moment, that Alex gave me inspiration beyond his own understanding. Good thing I was sitting in a wheelchair else I would have fallen over! It was an incredible moment that I had shared with him and if Alex ever gets to read or hear this interview, he will very well know that his courage to achieve the unimaginable has etched INSPIRATION into my soul for all eternity... I will be forever grateful and am still completely amazed he has taken on this mammoth task to also raise funds for me and my wellbeing. I'm truly honoured to know him.
|4000 kms ON A BICYCLE. OUCH!|
|Zane - never stops smiling.|
7. What do you think the challenges will be on the ride, and how will the guys cope?
Challenges will be the heat, no doubt. The sitting in the saddle will become very uncomfortable. Hydration and correct food intake will be tricky too. But after having spoken with Alex about it, I know in my heart he has the ability to push past the physical realm and achieve whatever his mind and heart desires. Of course, I feel I can sleep extremely well at night knowing that our Awesome Sickpunk friend Eddie (that was a term of endearment hehe), is trailing behind him in a motor home with supplies and probably beer - knowing Eddie, I know Alex is in very safe hands.
8. Where can people follow the team during the ride? (twitter, Facebook etc.)
There is a blog that will be updated during the ride. It's actually on the website itself:
Glendon can provide invites to "Like" the Facebook page I'm sure.
9. How can people help? (links, donations, supplies)
Help would be hugely appreciated by donating on the website at:
Other ways can be to spread the word of what the incredible power of friendship has :)
If I may, just end off by saying a massive thank you to the other awesome people involved in this amazing story of friendship, family and down right, love of/for people. Glendon Evarts, Simone Daniel-Watkiss, Jonny Morris, Eddie Silver and of course Alex Watkiss, what an incredible bunch of people. Thank You! & check them out at:
As for you, Janet, thanks for your time and effort to ask me the questions and take an interest in the story, cheers!
Then, a BIG thank you again to Chris Niarchos, your support has overwhelmed me, my friends and all my family back home in South Africa, cheers!
As for everyone who knows me, who has donated or who has been involved in this in any way... Thank you!
lol (lots of laughs) :)
It's not often I post an interview with a lump in my throat, but this one has done it. Zane, you inspire me. May all your dreams come true.