Welcome to Episode 3 of The Mastering Your Wellness Podcast.
On today’s show I was joined by Journalist, Author & Motivational Speaker, Paul McNeive.
I personally think Paul’s story is incredibly inspiring and he has definitely left an impact on me because of everything he has achieved in his life despite unimaginable difficulties he went through.
By that I mean when Paul was only 20 he was involved in a terrible car accident when the car he was travelling in crashed, went up in flames and Paul was severely burnt. He spent months in hospital undergoing skin graphs and operations before the difficult decision was made to remove both of his legs.
Rather than let it deter him, Paul had a successful career as Managing Director of what is now known as Savills Estate Agency, before becoming the first double amputee helicopter pilot in the world and author of not one but two bestselling books.
Make sure to stay tuned until the end of the episode for the weekly words of wisdom from myself and find out what books you need to get your hands on this week!
We started our conversation talking about Paul’s new book, The Manhattan Project . If you’re into fast paced thrillers then this one is for you!
The storyline is in a nutshell about the impact of antibiotic resistant bacteria and what happens when a terrorist group uses it against the population of New York City as part of their plot to wipe out thousands of Americans.
It really is a fantastic book that had me hooked from the start. Paul came up with the idea because of his own experience with antibiotics and how after years of using them they suddenly stopped working.
Pauls second book ‘Small Steps’ which we discuss in detail during the interview is available here
Below is a summary of the interview if you’re short on time! Hope you Enjoy!
Jayann: I actually can’t imagine what it was like to go through such an ordeal at such a young age and to be told that they needed to remove your legs. As a young man in the prime of your life, what was your thought process at that time?
Paul: I was extraordinarily unlucky to find myself in that situation but then again I was extraordinarily lucky at the same time because of what happened afterwards.
I managed to get myself out of the car which was upside down and on fire. I ended up on the forecourt of a petrol station which very easily could have went up in flames but it didn’t.
A man nearby who heard the bang went to his mothers house to check if she was ok and saw the flicker of the flames.
He luckily had a fire extinguisher in the house, can you imagine having one of those now let alone in 1982?
A taxi man driving past stopped when he saw what had happened and he also had a fire extinguisher in his car , how incredible is that? Both men managed to put out the fire, thank goodness.
I really shouldn’t have survived so in that case I was lucky.
The first few months were agonising and I was in the operating theatre most days.
I was given huge amounts of morphine every day in my spine to help ease the pain. Even when the news came in feb that was to save my life. I mean I was dying of infection.
When they ask you for your permission to amputate your legs you don’t forget that but I knew it was the only way to save my life because I was dying of infection.
After the operation I was physically much better. All of the infection was gone out of my body.
Within a month I was sent to rehab and early on you realise you’re on the right side of the draw. There were wards full of people who were paralysed or had serious brain injuries.
Losing a limb is probably a more easier thing to fix to some extent. After alI I should never have survived at all. The staff in the rehabilitation centre were incredible – so positive and always bringing you towards your full potential.
Jayann: In your book you talk about the power of small steps.
Nowadays we are all so obsessed with achieving numerous goals and sometimes can feel completely overwhelmed because the mountain seems so big to climb.
When you were in hospital you were told that in order to walk you had to bend your knee in a 90 degree angle. This would have seemed impossible at the time but you did get there and made incredibly progress, can you tell us how you managed that?
Paul: I had one leg amputated below the knee and one above and in order to walk I needed my knee to be mobile.
It was at that stage locked completely after months of operations and lying in a hospital bed. There was nothing else to do but focus on getting this knee to bend therefore my programme was very simple. I had to move my knee one degree per day.
Every day one of my physiotherapists would move my leg one degree and measure it.
This went on from March to April. A could of weeks after I started my best friend began gently pressuring me to go to his 21st birthday party. I hadn’t been out in months and said the only way I was going was on my new legs.
The very morning of his party, they had new prototype legs and I was able to stand up and wobble around.
This process went on for hours but I was making progress. Soon I was able to walk down the hall on crutches and I was so impressed. That very night I went to the party.
I got down the step on my crutches and had a dance. It was incredible. I had arrived into the rehab three months earlier in a wheelchair and in bits and there I was 3 months later dancing at my friends party .
It was only when I went to write the book that I realised what the rehab did for me. It was 90 days since I first entered rehab, and in 90 days I had successfully moved my knee 90 degrees or 1 degree per day.
That’s the power of small steps and it’s amazing how quickly it adds up to something incredibly powerful.
You almost couldn’t measure it its so small but the whole point is there is a movement forward which when put together day after day will make sure you get to where you’re going.
Been taught all of these skills at rehab like how to deal with adversity, positive thinking, small steps goal setting, helped me then and helped me later in life.
When I returned to work instead of simply going along with the flow and seeing what happened, I decided I was going to take control and organise what I wanted to happen at the end of 6 months.
I thought to myself ‘What is the little thing I need to do every day to further along my goal and before I knew it, great things started to happen.
I took this new found perspective on life and kept moving up the ranks and in time the trainee who started the job in the basement who lost both of his legs in a fire is now the Managing Director of the Company.
Jayann: Do you think you would have achieved everything you have achieved to date if the accident never happened?
Paul: I don’t think I would have. I was a very average bloke with average intelligence and I was very happy to be the guy down the back who would just see what happens.
I would never take the initiative on things but after the accident I felt that there was an element of second chance about this. I really had beaten the odds here and I was lucky to be alive. I wasn’t going to waste the potential that I now realised I had. Rehab taught me that I had the ability to make things happen.
When I was growing up as a kid I was obsessed with becoming a pilot. I was bombarded by model planes and pictures of airports and I really loved it.
But when I did my Leaving Cert I didn’t even think about applying to become a pilot or even try to. I thought this is just for the elite and I definitely wouldn’t be good enough.
Fast forward twenty years later and without both of my legs I decided to go for it. I put my plan of small steps in place, did endless hours of practice and qualified with my below average maths as a helicopter pilot.
I was honestly just doing it for fun but it caused quite a stir in aviation circles. It turned out I was the first double amputee helicopter pilot in the world! It was incredible.
But the most important thing to me was the change in my mindset. At 17 years old I was as fit as a fiddle, there was no reason in the world why I couldn’t become a pilot, yet I didn’t feel like I was good enough.
Now it’s 100 times harder, Im older, Ive lost both my legs and no one has done it in the world but I at that time really felt like I could do it and I did.
Listen to the full interview via iTunes here – don’t forget to subscribe to be the first to listen to lots more interviews with my fantastic guests!