Scott Crowley grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, and spent his early childhood in Adelaide and Auckland, New Zealand. As a teenager his family moved to Vancouver, Canada and that’s where he graduated high school. Being a teenager in Vancouver is where his love for skateboarding and snowboarding began. After high school, he moved back to Adelaide to study a Bachelor of Tourism and Marketing at the University of South Australia. Half way through the degree, he took off on what was meant to be a years ‘working’ (snowboarding) holiday back to Canada, Whistler. The holiday was cut short, as just three months in he broke his back out on the slopes.
What do you remember about your accident?
I remember the day of my accident being really overcast, there was fresh snow, and for whatever reason I was snowboarding with my credit card in my pocket. Normally I’d just ride with a bus pass and $5. Turned out it I’d be needing the credit card that day, the ski patrol who rescued me asked for $700 as soon as I got down the mountain. The next few days were spent in the Spinal Unit in Vancouver. I remember being in extreme pain. Before I was flown home, I had a twitch in my right leg quad muscle. I was starting to get some movement back…
How did you come to realise you might never walk again and what were your initial thoughts and feelings?
To be honest, it took a long time for this to sink in. But initially, I distinctly remember my mum talking on the phone in the hospital, and I heard her say to whoever she was talking too, that I was a paraplegic. When I heard a loved one say it, it really hit home.
What was involved with your recovery?
I had to learn to live independently again. Going through spinal rehab, all forms of dignity are lost. Having to learn how to get dressed, go the toilet, how to get around in a wheelchair, I was starting over. Majority of my time was spent with Physio, Occupational Therapy, gym, wheelchair skills, skin care, pain management, and plenty of time in front of the Playstation. One of the hardest things to deal with was the amount of downtime.
Were there particular people, moments or activities that had an impact on your recovery, good and bad?
I remember specifically being at the Spinal Unit in Vancouver, just days after my accident, and sitting up for the first time, and being wheeled through the spinal ward. I remember looking into the rooms, and seeing other people with more severe injuries than me, just getting on with it. During my rehab when I was battling with coming to terms with my accident, I’d think about what others were going through and tell myself.. it could be worse.
Another interaction that had a massive impact on me was at a BBQ organised by one of the state spinal authorities. I met this older guy, who had been a wheelchair for a long time (I had only suffered my injury a couple of months prior) and I distinctly remember him being negative about everything! After meeting him, I said to myself, I’m not going to be that (negative and angry) guy.
The people I met in my time going through rehab, had a great impact on me (I still keep in touch with these people). Some of them were wheelchair basketball athletes, some were also gold medallists! They showed me early on that travel and sport, was possible. I didn’t have to sit at home all day and do nothing, I could go out, get around, travel, just like everyone else!
Did you make a conscious decision about how you would move forward, what/how?
I didn’t make a conscious decision about how to proceed. I took everything as it came, however I still remember that angry guy and think about how my injuries could have been worse, I always remained optimistic.
Was there a particular aspect of your life you focused on?
After my accident, I took a year to get myself sorted, mentally and physically (physio, OT sessions, pain management etc). After my time in rehab, and seeing people in chairs playing sport, travelling etc, I saw an opportunity to get active again. Sport has played an massive role in my life since my injury. Team sports have bought friendships, fitness, and inclusion, which what was lacking in my life at the time. Sport has really bought countless opportunities; travel, friendships, cultural experiences, and sporting achievements.
Since Scott’s injury in 2002, he’s played wheelchair tennis at the Australian Open, wheelchair basketball for Australia and had the opportunity to live in Northern Italy and play a season of wheelchair basketball internationally. Most recently Scott is involved in Para-triathlon, having competed at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
What is it about travel that you love?
I love everything about travel…except the airport check-in. Due to the large amounts of luggage I travel with, I always worry if I’ll be charged excess baggage. I love experiencing different cultures, seeing the amazing sights of our world. Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
‘Life begins at the end of you comfort zone’. I was certainly out of comfort Zone when learning how to come to grips with my situation. However I had travelled extensively prior to my accident, I was studying a Tourism and Hospitality degree, and this was something that I was not going to give up. I had already been forced to give up my love of skateboarding, snowboarding and surfing, so travel and the amazing experiences that travel brings… I was not going to give up.
Knowing what you know now, is there any advice you would give to yourself to assist in dealing with your accident?
Knowing what I know now, my advice would be along the lines of:
You can only control what you can control, and you cannot change the past, however you can shape your future.
You make your own opportunities.
It’s so important to set goals and work towards then (regardless of how big or small).
And, surround yourself with good people… the inspired, the excited, and the grateful.
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