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Meet Mike Nemesvary.

"I knew exactly what I wanted to do 
with my life by age 15..."

That was the year I decided to become the world's best freestyle skier. By the time I was 24, I was within reach of my goal. Ranked third in the world, I had won ten Canadian, five British titles and three World Cups. I had natural talent, uncommon discipline and motivation.  I was even developing a nice sideline as a stuntman in European movies, including the James Bond flick, A View to a Kill.

It all ended in 1985 with a routine workout on my trampoline. My body felt good. As usual, it did whatever my brain told it to do. I catapulted easily through a  double-twisting, double back somersault but something went wrong -- I blacked out in mid-air and landed on my neck. When I woke up seconds later, body and brain had stopped talking to each other. The break in my spinal cord was high in my neck. In a split second, I became a quadriplegic. Accident Details

For a decade I experienced all the highs that go along with being a winner in the glamorous sport of freestyle skiing. I loved my fast-paced, independent lifestyle with all the trimmings: travel, social status and the attention of the media wherever I went. Most of all, I loved the thrill of flying high above the crowd, inventing and performing more and more difficult gravity-defying maneuvers.

Now, as a quadriplegic for sixteen years, I know what it's like to be dependent on others for the most basic of human needs. Many able-bodied people have told me they'd kill themselves rather than live with my degree of disability. But, if they'd look past the wheelchair they'd see that my life is still full of goals and accomplishments, work and travel, friends and colleagues. It's a radically different life from the one I had in mind, and I'll never achieve my original goal, but it's still a life worth living. I broke my neck, not my spirit!

As an athlete, I knew the power of the human body. Since the accident I've discovered the power of the human mind to put things into perspective, and set new goals.  I focus on what I can do, not what I can't do.  Luckier than many, I can breathe on my own, I have enough use of my arms to drive a specially adapted truck, and skiing is part of my life again -- using a modified sled. There are freedoms I cherish, but more important is the freedom we all possess to say yes or no to life.

It was only after many bouts with depression that I made the decision to live.  Ironically, the qualities that had allowed me to succeed in my sport have also allowed me to tackle my new life head-on.  I was, and still am competitive, tenacious, intensely focused and fiercely goal-driven. The rules have changed, but the game goes on. Present / Future 

Since the accident I have enjoyed and achieved many goals -- large and small. My goal now is to drive around the world in order to raise awareness and much needed funding for spinal cord research.

Mike Nemesvary

The Accident.

Saturday, May 18th, 1985 started out terrifically. It was a warm, sunny spring day and I was lounging around my cottage in Bentley, Hampshire, 50 miles south of London, England. That morning I walked to the local store to buy some supplies as I thought it would be nice to have a barbecue with my friends later in the day.

My good friend and teammate, Donny Gordon arrived in the early afternoon followed by my new girlfrienc, Suzie, her friend, Pipa and her brother.

Later on, it was decided that we would all go trampolining and then return to my place for a barbecue dinner. We were off for an afternoon of sun and fun.

We travelled 10 miles north on the A-31 to Runfold, Surrey, to my friend's place. The Blowers owned a small farm and had let me store my trampoline in their barn for the winter. I hadn't had the trampoline out all winter and typically, the first bounce of the year always put my body to the test.

Donny and I went to the barn, uncovered the equipment and wheeled the tramp over to a grassy area of the garden next to the house. We unfolded the trampoline, set up the spotting decks and 15 minutes it was ready to use.

Being a bit of a show-off and wanting to give my friends a real thrill, I started bouncing again, rapidly gaining height. At the apex of my jump I launched into a full in-full out (a laid out double twisting, double back flip), but half way through the manoeuvre, I lost my orientation to the ground. A split second later I landed on the trampoline directly on the back of my neck.

After a few seconds the taut trampoline bed came to rest from its constant, rhythmic movement. With my limp body sprawled out across the course surface of the trampoline, all I could do was stare into the setting sun.

A few seconds later, I heard my friends call out, Mike, what's the matter, are you all right?" In a terrified tone, I replied, "I can't move." There was concern and panic in their voices as someone said, "whatever you do, don't move him" and then someone else took the initiative, announcing, "I'm going to call for an ambulance."

While waiting for the ambulance attendants to arrive, I was calm but scared. In the back of my mind I'd always known about the potential danger of my sports, but I never considered the possibility that it could happen to me. I was praying for the feeling to come back come back to my body, hoping that it was just a temporary condition.

As I lay there unable to move, I wasn't in pain, but rather, I felt a warm tingling running through my body. I also felt as if both of my legs were pointing directly up at the sky. In retrospect, that must have been my subconscious recalling the position of my legs at the moment of impact.

The ambulance attendants arrived 15 minutes after the call and were very calm and reassuring, but also very diligent. One attendant remained next to me while his partner and my friends went to look for some long planks of wood. They were needed to construct a bridge across the trampoline frame in order to treat me without moving the trampoline bed and causing further damage. Once the planks were in place from frame to frame, on either side of my body, the attendants managed to slowly and carefully slide a backboard under my lifeless body.

Next, they placed a hard plastic collar around my neck to stabilize my head and prevent any further movement and injury.

With help from my friends, I was transferred to a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance for the 30-mile journey to Guildford Hospital. In the emergency department, nurses cut off my shirt and shorts and then entered intravenous lines into my forearm. A short while later, a doctor rushed in and started pricking me with a pin and asked if I could feel anything. As he methodically moved upwards from my feet, the answer was consistently "no","no" and "no" again until he reached my upper arms and shoulders.

A tube was then inserted into my mouth and down my throat. I kept gagging and choking on the line ... it was all a horrible nightmare. I would find out later that I had to be placed on a ventilator since the initial paralysis prevented me from breathing on my own. Then, the nurses administered a strong sedative and I kept fading in and out of consciousness.

Later that evening I vaguely recalled flashing lights and the sound of a siren ... my only memories of a long, slow, police-escorted ambulance ride. As I found out later, due to the seriousness of my injury, I had been immediately transferred to the nearest spinal cord rehabilitation facility with available beds. It just happened to be the Stanmore Hospital in Middlesex, in the north of London.

I have no recollection of the next two days, including the operation on my neck performed by a neurologist and surgeon named Dr. Ian Bailey. The procedure, which lasted 10 hours, revealed that I had broken my fourth and fifth cervical bones and completely severed my spinal cord. I had never done anything by half measures!

The operation consisted of opening up an eight inch incision in the back of my neck, cutting off a small piece of my right shin bone and fusing it across the broken vertebras of my spinal column.

Realizing that I was a competitive athlete, Dr. Bailey dismissed the option of fitting me with a halo and keeping me in traction to allow the break to heal naturally. In my kind of spinal cord injury, if a patient is put in traction, they are typically bed bound for up to three months. Whereas, in a neck fusion, the patient wears a soft neck collar for three weeks before being able to get up into a wheelchair. Given my active lifestyle and lack of patience, I think the doctors made the right choice!

Two days later I woke up in intensive care. My head and neck were supported on all sides, and I was hooked up to life support equipment, including a nasal gastric tube for feeding and a ventilator to assist my breathing. I was unaware of my surroundings or the operation that had just taken place. Adding to my confusion and fear was the fact that, with the ventilator down my throat, I couldn't verbally communicate about either my physical or psychological state. The only method of communication was with my eyes and facial expressions, and my cues were frequently misunderstood. Sometimes, when there was something in my eye, the nurses misinterpreted my gestures and proceeded to wipe my mouth. On other occasions, I tried to indicate an itchy face or neck, and my arms were repositioned!

Directly following my injury, my mother and father were contacted in Ottawa, Canada. The following day they took a flight to England and were at my bedside when I awoke in the intensive care unit. It was very comforting to know that my parents were with me during this tragic time. Enduring the next two weeks were to be the toughest days and nights of my life.

Although it was late May, I vividly recall how cold I constantly felt. As I found out later this was due to the shock to my central nervous system and a lack of movement needed for proper circulation and warmth. I frequently requested extra sheets and blankets and then asked the nurses to pull them up high over my face.

I also felt continually dehydrated and my only relief, because I was hooked up to the ventilator, was to suck on an ice cube. I was so grateful for those simple comforts. Nurses would often come into the room to perform procedures under the covers. I never knew what they were doing to me nor, at that stage, did I want to know.

I had just been transferred to the spinal unit of the hospital when, less than two weeks after the injury, I suffered my first serious setback. My left lung collapsed and I was rushed back to intensive care for what is known as a "bronchoscopy". A long tube was put down my throat and into my lungs. Fibre-optic cables inside the tube gave doctors the inside "scoop" about what was going on while suction lines drained the infected lung. To prevent the risk of swallowing my tongue it was essential for me to be fully conscious the whole time.

Without doubt the bronchoscopy was absolutely the most difficult medical procedure I've ever endured. For over 45 minutes I felt like I was choking to death. Sweat poured off me as I struggled to keep from gagging. At times I felt like giving up but I drew strength from my Mum, the nurses at my side and, believe it or not, by dreaming about lying on a deserted beach and drinking ice cold Coca Colas ... seriously! When the doctors withdrew the bronchoscope and the choking sensation subsided, my relief was palpable. The procedure was successful, my lungs reinflated and I could breath on my own. A few days later I returned to my ward on the spinal unit where I would begin my long road towards recovery.

Mike's Life Today.

Now living back in Ottawa, Canada, Mike runs his own company, Mike Nemesvary and Associates, which markets his public speaking appearances and consultancy to companies and organizations such as General Motors of Canada, the Federal Government, and a multitude of non-government organizations.

Prior to taking leave to work full-time on the Challenge, Mike was Education Coordinator of The Disability Awareness and Prevention Program (DAPP) for the Ottawa-based Rehabilitation Centre.  The program offers presentations throughout the Ottawa-Carleton Region pertaining to disability issues and injury prevention issues. DAPP comprises of approximately thirty presenters all with varying disabilities, who provide testimonials as to their disabilities challenges and successes in overcoming their obstacles.

Mike is now managing the ' Round the World Challenge as a full-time concern to ensure its success.

Mike's Achievements.
1971 ONTARIO JUNIOR CHAMPION * (LACROSSE)
1976 ONTARIO WINTER GAMES AERIALS CHAMPION
1976 CANADIAN JUNIOR OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1976 CANADIAN JUNIOR MOGULS CHAMPION
1976 CANADIAN JUNIOR AERIALS CHAMPION
1977 NEW YORK STATE JUNIOR OVER-ALL BALLET CHAMPION
1977 NEW YORK STATE JUNIOR BALLET CHAMPION
1977 CANADIAN INTERMEDIATE OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1977 CANADIAN INTERMEDIATE MOGULS CHAMPION
1977 CANADIAN INTERMEDIATE AERIALS CHAMPION
1977 WORLD RECORD FOR MOST SKIERS PERFORMING BACK FLIPS
1977 ACT AWARD - MOST ACCOMPLISHED OTTAWA SKIER
1978 VERMONT STATE SENIOR AERIALS CHAMPION
1978 QUEBEC PROVINCIAL INTERMEDIATE OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1978 QUEBEC PROVINCIAL INTERMEDIATE MOGULS CHAMPION
1978 QUEBEC PROVINCIAL INTERMEDIATE BALLET CHAMPION
1978 QUEBEC PROVINCIAL INTERMEDIATE AERIALS CHAMPION
1978 CANADIAN INTERMEDIATE OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1978 CANADIAN INTERMEDIATE AERIALS CHAMPION
1978 ACT AWARD - MOST ACCOMPLISHED OTTAWA SKIER
1979 CANADIAN SENIOR OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1979 CANADIAN REALISTIC CUP OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1980 CANADIAN WORLD CUP INGRESS OVER-ALL CHAMPION
1980 3RD AERIALS - WORLD CUP GRAND PRIX
1980 CANADIAN JUNIOR COMPULSORY CHAMPION * (TRAMPOLINE)
1981 3RD AERIALS - CBS INVITATIONAL COMPETITION
1982 1ST WORLD CUP AERIALS - PASKAPOO, CANADA
1982 ITALIAN EUROPA CUP AERIALS CHAMPION
1982 1ST WORLD CUP AERIALS - LIVIGNO, ITALY
1982 3RD AERIALS - WORLD CUP GRAND PRIX
1982 EUROPEAN COMBINED CHAMPION
1982 BRITISH COMBINED CHAMPION
1982 BRITISH AERIALS CHAMPION
1983 FRENCH EUROPA CUP COMBINED CHAMPION
1983 FRENCH EUROPA CUP BALLET CHAMPION
1983 FRENCH EUROPA CUP AERIALS CHAMPION
1983 EUROPEAN COMBINED CHAMPION
1983 1ST WORLD CUP AERIALS - SQUAW VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
1983 BRITISH COMBINED CHAMPION
1983 BRITISH AERIALS CHAMPION
1983 BRITISH MOGULS CHAMPION
1983 SCOTTISH COMBINED CHAMPION
1985 EUROPEAN WATER RAMP CHAMPION * (WATER RAMP)
1985 PERY MEDAL - OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION TO BRITISH SKIING *
1986 1ST PLACE DOCUMENTARY - GOLDEN RING TV FESTIVAL OF EUROPE *
1986 2ND PLACE DOCUMENTARY - INT. FILM & TV FESTIVAL OF N.Y. *
1986 INDUCTEE - NEPEAN SPORTS WALL OF FAME *
1987 AWARD - CELEBRITY GUILD OF GREAT BRITAIN *
PLEASE NOTE THAT ALL VICTORIES AND CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE FOR THE SPORT OF FREESTYLE SKIING UNLESS DENOTED BY THE ASTERISK (*).

 

                  
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