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Friday 2 December 2016

I won't let my paralysis define me, says student Jack about to set out on US adventure

Accident

Jack Kavanagh (22), from Dunshaughlin, Co Meath
Jack Kavanagh (22), from Dunshaughlin, Co Meath

AN Irish student has spoken of the moment he realised he was paralysed after a simple diving accident while on holiday.

Jack Kavanagh (22), from Dunshaughlin, Co Meath, was working as a lifeguard and windsurfing instructor when he went on holiday with friends to Portugal in 2012.

The Trinity College pharmacy student was on the first day of his trip when he and his friends went to the beach.

He was enjoying the water and diving into the waves all day, but on the last dive he hit a hidden sandbank and snapped his neck.

"I was very calm, I knew right away what had happened. I was so used to being in the water so I didn't panic at all," Jack told Ryan Tubridy on 2fm.

"It was very simple, very straightforward. All I felt was a little click and a bit of heat in my neck and my body just went limp immediately.

"As a lifeguard I had done training, and I knew all the signs and symptoms."

Jack is quadriplegic and has had to learn everything from scratch again. He currently has control of his shoulders and biceps and wrists, but not of his fingers and hands.

He was told by doctors when he was in rehab that he would need two people to help him to do anything.

"From the outset I just said, no, that's not going to be the way it's going to be," he said.

"We're going to do everything in our power to defy that and I'm doing a pretty good job so far."

Jack had been due to start his second year in Trinity and vowed to return to college just one year later to continue his studies.

"The first couple of months were a real struggle, but it gave me my life back," he said.

Before his accident, Jack had planned to go travelling with his best friend and found it difficult to watch his pals taking student trips abroad while he remained at home.

However, he has decided to make a trip to the west coast of the US with several friends, leaving on Monday, and has been seeking funding from the public for a film-maker friend to make a documentary about his journey.

"I have a different set of circumstances to my mates, but people in my situation have travelled the world before," he said. "I want to document it to show that limitations are only perceived. If you want something badly enough you can achieve it."

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