All things considered, I was very fortunate, many people who have had a similar accident find it very difficult to adjust to life afterwards.
It can blight people’s entire lives, making it nearly impossible to come to terms with the consequences of a random event that none of us have any control over.
Some of those who suffer accidents like mine are destined to be shunned by a society that seems incapable of adjusting to things it either can’t, or doesn’t want to understand.
When I was young, despite the natural inclination of some children to be spiteful and mean (like it or not, for all their supposed innocence, we all know kids can be little bastards to each other from time to time) I didn’t really register the fact that my accident made me any different to anyone else.
Maybe that’s an indication of how lucky I was, growing up where I did, or maybe I was just less sensitive to my environment at the time, I don’t know.
But whatever the reason, I made it through my childhood relatively unscathed by the sort of prejudice suffered by those whose accidents left them with more obvious disadvantages.
It was only when I reached my teens I think, that it occurred to me how hard it must be to deal with the simple business of everyday life, when the way people see you is dictated purely by an event you had no control over; something which, given the choice, you would probably avoid at all costs.
Of course all these years later, like most of us who experienced such accidents at an early age, I’ve become desensitized to something I’ve lived with my whole life, and now it only bothers me when I see others who have suffered even worse accidents than mine and are still coming to terms with the irreversible and sometimes horribly damaging consequences.
Depressingly, in recent times, the ones who suffer the most at the hands of the cruel and ignorant amongst us become bitter and disillusioned, in some cases withdrawing from society altogether, only to find that this also marks them apart from the rest and so begins the whole sorry cycle once more.
Name calling and bullying escalate into hateful abuse and physical violence, all because of an accident that befell a person just like me or you, years, sometimes even decades before, an accident none of them had any control over and which they certainly did not choose.
That isn’t to say that all of the victims of such accidents hide themselves away from society, indeed most of us interact with the rest of the world perfectly normally.
In the same way that there are also accident victims who turn on society for reasons of their own, justifying their actions with twisted logic and perverted ideologies, but we have the sense to see that they don’t represent the views of the majority.
Because your family and friends, the people you work with and the strangers you pass in the street, the bloke that cut you up on the motorway and the pretty girl you flirted with in the pub, the waiter that served you on holiday and the homeless man in the bus shelter, all of them had accidents just like me.
And like you too.
I’m a white European male.
My life is easy.
I don’t have to walk miles every day to get water.
My house hasn’t been hit by machine gun fire or a barrel bomb today.
I haven’t had to flee with my family from a land wracked by a war I don’t understand.
I’m not forced to work for little or no pay, just so I can live in a slum.
And I don’t live under the oppressive threat of arrest, imprisonment or worse, just for saying what I think.
Almost fifty years ago, I suffered the universal accident of birth.
I’m one of the lucky ones.