06 – Mike Shaw “Grateful Everyday”

Mental Stretch Quest

Level of Discomfort: 3/5 

The next stretch quest I have chosen to focus on falls into the mental category. It is a story about my friend Mike Shaw – a former freestyle skier and coach whose life changed when he was involved in a ski accident that left him paralyzed from the neck-down and wondering if he would ever be able to ski, walk or even enjoy life the same way ever again.

I find his story both inspiring and relatable, as I find myself going through difficulties both physically and emotionally in my own life.

For Mike, the day of his accident started out like any other; meeting his team, loading the chairlift and lapping the terrain park. As the day progressed the level of energy became heightened and Mike decided to join in with his athletes to demonstrate a trick off of a park feature. It was a trick he’d done countless times and was confident in doing; however, upon landing the trick he pitched forward onto his neck on an icy landing and at this moment his life changed forever.

Instantly Mike knew he was paralyzed and was immediately stabilized and brought to the hospital for assessment. He had underwent multiple procedures and the doctors couldn’t say whether or not he would ever recover.

After an intense year of physiotherapy and with the help an incredibly positive mind-set Mike was able to make a full-recovery and on the anniversary of his accident skied with the surgeon who performed the procedure.

For myself, I have found Mike’s story to be one of inspiration that I hope to use in my life as been dealing with injuries and the emotional stress that comes along with them.

Over the course of the past two years I have torn my ACL in my left knee and dislocated both shoulders – all three of which will require surgery and intense physiotherapy. It has been somewhat difficult to come to grips with it lately and I’ve had to re-evaluate my plans over the next couple years.

With any kind of struggle it is easy to fall into a negative spiral of anxiety and depression, but it is from Mike’s story that I find a lot of hope and inspiration.

In his video he talks about how life’s ups and downs are relative: “Being grateful for the highs, because you can’t have a high mountain peak without a low valley bottom.”

He also mentions how when we are at a low point it is about putting things into perspective, being grateful for the happy memories, trusting that we are going to get better.

My favourite point he makes is that “If not the old mountain peak, then perhaps a new one.” This idea captures a lot of what I have had to go through recently in my own experience with injury. As someone who used to be a high-level ski competitor and as a coach I have lost my ability to compete at a high-level and even coaching is putting a lot of strain on my body. I have hit a low point and realized it is time to think about putting my life as a skier and coach on hold, allow my body time to heal and focusing my energy towards my schooling and career as an Information Designer.

For more on Mike Shaw check out his documentary “Mike Shaw: The Healing Agent”



Author: Austin Coll

Student studying Information Design at Mount Royal University in Calgary, AB.

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