Living on Purpose: Paralyzed, but not stuck
Vail CO, Colorado
“I want to become a cop again,” he said when I asked about his career ambitions. Less than two years ago, Marco was completely paralyzed and on life support, unable to talk, eat or breathe.
Marco had Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS), an autoimmune disorder that strikes one in 100,000 people. Usually kicked off by a virus, the immune system mistakenly attacks the nerves and can paralyze its victim. Although there is a 90 to 95 percent recovery rate, the process can take years.
With the help of family, friends, doctors and therapists, plus Marco’s own determination, he now walks with a slight limp. His progress has been amazing … and slow. Released from police work a year ago due to his physical limitations, his profession of 15 years is on hold.
“How did you get into police work?” I asked.
“I always wanted to be a cop. But I thought I was too short, too old, and couldn’t get a job without a degree. So instead, my father and I started a business,” he explained. “But I knew it wasn’t my passion. After a few years, I could barely get out of bed and go to work. I felt stuck.”
He continued, “We finally sold the business and I realized I still wanted to become a police officer. But I was even older now; I wasn’t any taller and I had no experience. It was scary.”
“What was stopping you and how did you finally move forward?” I asked.
“The only thing stopping me was my fear. I finally got enough courage to apply for the police academy. I knew I’d made the right choice because I felt inspired, challenged, scared … but excited about the possibilities,” he answered.
“Let’s take those traits in relation to what’s happening today. You’ve been away from police work for two years,” I said. “Where are you inspired, challenged, scared and excited?”
Marco replied, “I’m excited to wear my police gear again; regaining full use of my legs is still a challenge; I am scared about re-integrating into the department. But I can’t help but be inspired about taking my dream off hold.” He continued, “Only a few people go from being completely paralyzed to walking again. I remember what paralysis feels like and I am not willing to be paralyzed again ” not physically, not mentally.”
“What did you learn the first time you got into law enforcement that will keep you from being paralyzed in your career pursuit now?” I asked.
“When I was physically paralyzed, I felt helpless,” Marco said. “Physical therapy helped me regain small movements, which helped me gain strength. I was stuck in a wheelchair and now I’m able to walk. I will pursue my career in the same way.”
“What will that look like, when will you complete this and how will I know?” I asked.
“Today I will stop by the police department and complete a volunteer application. I’ll schedule an appointment with the chief to let him know of my intentions, and by the end of the month I will do two ride-alongs. I’ll make sure they know that I want to come back.”
“What will you do if you feel fear and get ‘paralyzed’?” I said.
“If I feel stuck, I’ll sit in my wheelchair and push myself around the house,” he said. “I’ll then stand up from the wheelchair and walk downstairs to get my police uniform and look at the photos and articles I have hanging on the wall to remind me of how important this really is to me. I love being a police officer.”
As Marco walked out the door, I couldn’t imagine him going back to a wheelchair. He had made up his mind. He was no longer paralyzed.
Coaching Challenge: If you are facing a challenge in your life, reflect on past times when you have overcome your fears. Use the wisdom you gained from past experience to take you forward. First, identify a situation you have faced in the past.
Write down at least three steps you took to move forward. What did you learn? What successes did you have? What would you change? How can you take that knowledge to move forward in the situation you face today?
Sheri Fisher is a life coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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