Chad Jassman overcame huge challenges to become Paralympic gold medallist

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What Chad Jassman Learned From His Accident

Chad Jassman is a professional athlete and a Paralympic gold medallist. He is a member of Canada’s National wheelchair basketball team and plays professionally for the Trier Dolphins in Trier, Germany, eight months a year. In 2004, Jassman was in a serious car accident that left him paralyzed below the waist. Here is his story as told to Meredith Bailey:

When I was 20 years old, I was on the career path to becoming a pilot. In the slow-flying winter months, I worked as a snowboard instructor at the Hidden Valley Ski Resort. One morning, on the way to the hill, the car I was a passenger in was cut off by farm equipment, a bale spreader. We hit it at 110 kilometres an hour. I was wearing a lap belt. 

At first I thought my legs were broken really badly. I couldn’t feel them — I could just feel crazy pain. Then I realized it was my back.

We were trapped in the car for about two hours. I can remember absolutely all of it. It was almost dreamlike. The people in the front seat had broken bones, but I was bleeding out internally, and I knew I was dying. 

I realized, if I lived, my life was never going to be the same. The pain was just too much, and, at one point, I didn’t know if it was worth it. I just wanted to go to sleep. But then I thought, no, I have to stay awake, I have to fight and see. 

Eventually, I was flown to a hospital in Calgary. I was in surgery for eight hours to repair the damage to my intestines and again to stabilize my spine. I have four foot-long steel rods in my spine that I’ll have for the rest of my life.

Life is precious, and it can be taken from you or completely changed in the blink of an eye.

I lived in the hospital for seven months. I had to learn to do everything again. It was like being a baby. But it turns out I can do everything I did before, just a little differently. 

I handled my emotional recovery pretty well, and I had good days most of the time. But it was definitely a tough struggle. I had to get my life back together and figure out what the hell I was going to do.

I tried wheelchair basketball early in my injury, and I fell in love with it. My goal was to play wheelchair basketball and win a gold medal. I was pretty naïve thinking that playing a sport in a wheelchair would be easier — it’s not. You’re an athlete, and you train like an athlete, and part of the equipment you use is a wheelchair. It took me four years to make the national team.

My accident helped solidify the idea that life is precious, and it can be taken from you or completely changed in the blink of an eye. The way you treat people should reflect who you want to be in that moment because you never know what will happen to change it tomorrow. I’ve always been pretty happy and easily content with things, and my accident helped solidify that about myself. I was always an outgoing person who took a lot of risks, and I still am. 

I would never wish what happened to me on anybody. I wouldn’t have gotten to where I am today without a lot of bad days and a lot of hard work. But, that being said, my life is pretty extraordinary. 

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