Cross-country skier Janine Shepherd was Olympics-bound in 1986, with many thinking that she was a strong contender to earn Australia’s first-ever medal at the winter games. But everything changed on a training bike ride through the Blue Mountains of New South Wales. Shepherd was hit by a truck, and broke both her back and neck.
Doctors did not expect Shepherd to survive. And when she made it through surgery she received some jarring words.
As Shepherd recalls in today’s talk, filmed at TEDxKC, “The doctor came over to me and said, ‘Janine, the operation was a success … but the damage is permanent. They’re central nervous system nerves. There is no cure. You’re what we call a partial paraplegic and you will have all the injuries that go along with that. You’ll have no feeling from the waist down. At most, you might get 10 to 20% return.’”
To hear how Shepherd recovered, learning to walk again with only a slight limp, watch her incredible talk. As she explains, the key for her was realizing that she was more than just the circumstances of her body, and that she could create new dreams. For example: becoming a pilot. Shepherd took her first flying lesson in a full body cast, but within a year had earned her private pilot’s license. A commercial pilot license and instructor’s rating followed. Shepherd even went on to become the youngest — and only female — director of Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
Shepherd’s is a powerful story of recovery. After the jump, watch more TED Talks from speakers who beat their physical odds and learned about their own incredible strength in the process.