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Nick Vujicic: From No Limbs To No Limits
Nick Vujicic (pronounced Voo-yee-chich) was born 28 years ago in Melbourne, Australia, the first child of a young Serbian couple.
When his father, Boris Vujicic, a Christian pastor, saw his new son, he was so upset he left the hospital room to be sick. His mother, Dushka Vujicic, a nurse, refused to take her infant son into her arms, and couldn’t bring herself to hold him for several months.
Without any medical warning, Nick had come into the world with no arms or legs. He appeared to be otherwise a robust and healthy infant.
Nick’s parents were devastated. Their son was born with an exceedingly rare congenital disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome, which is characterized by the absence of all four limbs. The term comes from the Greek “tetra-” for “four”, and “amelia”, meaning the failure of an arm or leg to develop before birth.
Nick’s mother and father bravely took their new baby home. But a torrent of questions and worries began, and didn’t let up for years. How did this happen to us? And why? What did we do wrong? How would little Nick ever take care of himself? How would he, or could he, achieve a normal and happy life?
Dushka, a nurse, had known what to do during pregnancy. And she had done everything by the book. Yet, she blamed herself. Boris, a man of God, was wracked by questions of faith. Was he being punished? What sins had not been forgiven?
But this resourceful, and loving, couple, came to some very important, far-reaching conclusions. They would do everything in their power to raise Nick as normally as possible, given the extraordinary circumstances. This seemed to be the best way to a future for Nick with some chance at happiness and independence.
“It was so hard for them,” Nick said years later, “but right from the start they did their best to make me independent. For example, my dad put me in the water at 18 months and gave me the courage to learn how to swim.”
Fortunately, Nick was born with a small, toeless foot extending from his right hip, and a slightly larger one on his left hip, ending in two small, but strong and functional toes. This foot is the key to many of his abilities. “I call it my chicken drumstick and I’d be lost without it. When I get in the water I float, because 80 percent of my body is lungs. And my drumstick acts as a propeller.”
These feet appear to be little more than “flippers” – yet as the years progressed, Nick learned how to hold small objects with those two toes, and move around independently. From the outset, even as an infant, Nick was able to “stand” and balance on his own, and learned to walk around, with a sort of rocking motion. He learned to lie down, and get up again. And he could accomplish some degree of climbing up or over objects using his considerable body strength, leveraging with his head and neck, and relying on his excellent flexibility.
His mother created a small plastic device that fit over his toes, allowing him to firmly hold a pen or pencil. So Nick learned how to read, and to write as well. By the time he was 6, he was learning how to type using his toes. He also learned to throw a ball, and play drum pedals, how to get a glass of water, brush his teeth and comb his hair, and even answer the family phone. Nick’s dad, also a computer programmer, taught Nick to use the computer, and Nick eventually achieved 25 words a minute on the keyboard, using a special “heel and toe” typing technique.
It was his parents’ decision to send him to regular schools instead of special schools, part of their decision to raise Nick as normally as possible. But when Nick reached school age, the laws in Australia still didn’t allow kids with physical disabilities to attend mainstream schools. However, those laws changed while he was still young, so Nick soon became one of the first disabled students integrated into a mainstream school.
But it wasn’t easy, for all of those involved. It was tough for teachers to accept the change in their teaching dynamics, and some kids were distracted by Nick’s presence – he literally “stood” atop his desk, handling papers, pencils and pens with his toes.
Inevitably, some kids taunted and bullied this very different little boy. It became so depressing that when he was 8 years old, Nick considered suicide. At 10, he literally tried to drown himself. But before the deed was complete, he realized he couldn’t go through with it – the love of his family overwhelmed his depression.
One day, when he was 13, Nick’s mom showed him an article about a severely disabled man who struggled to rise above his disabilities and also to help others. It was a turning point for Nick, and his life began to change.
“It was so inspirational to me that I decided to use my life to encourage other people and give them the courage that the article had given me,” Nick said. “I decided to be thankful for what I do have, not get angry about what I don’t. I looked at myself in the mirror and said: ‘You know what? The world is right – I have no arms or legs. But they’ll never take away the beauty of my eyes.’ I wanted to concentrate on something good that I had.”
In grade seven he was elected captain of his school and worked with the student council on fund-raising events for local charities and disability campaigns. And from there on, Nick has been a non-stop fireball of activity trying to help others. Nick started a non-profit organization, Life Without Limbs, that helps disabled people.
At 21, Nick graduated from Griffith University with a double major in Accounting and Financial Planning. Since then, he has become a hugely popular motivational speaker, particularly on teen issues. To date, Nick has addressed an estimated three million people in over 24 countries on five continents.
Videos of his presentations to high school kids have achieved countless views on Youtube, the popular social media site. One of them, for example, has been watched 5,387,130 times in just the past two years. Kids absolutely adore this man’s presentations.
Nick loves to get his audiences going by playing complex drum beats on a set of electronic drum pedals. But then he shows them – quite graphically, because Nick actually falls over onto his stomach on the stage – that no matter how “down” they might feel in life, they can always get up again, no matter how hard it might seem or how many tries it might take. And then he slowly, almost painfully, but in the end very inspiringly, gets himself back up on his feet. It leaves some of the kids in the auditorium with tears in their eyes.
Three years ago, Hawaiian surfing champion Bethany Hamilton taught Nick how to surf. Nick says it was terrifying at first, but with Bethany’s help he got the hang of it, and eventually managed a triple 360-degree spin on the board, something no one has ever done on a surfboard before.
Bethany Hamilton had her arm bitten off by a shark when she was a teenager. But she was back on a surfboard within three weeks, and has since become immensely popular as an inspirational speaker as well as a champion surfer. Bethany was the subject of one of our Novus Newsflash articles earlier this year.
Nick has had quite an effect on his home country of Australia. In 2005 he was nominated for the “Young Australian of the Year” Award. Last year, Nick moved to California, where he published his first book, an inspirational autobiography titled Life Without Limits: Inspiration for a Ridiculously Good Life (Random House, 2010). Nick markets presentations on DVDs from his website, LifeWithoutLimbs.org, and has appeared in several TV shows and short films.
Last month, Nick announced on his FaceBook page to his many thousands of fans that he has become engaged to marry his girlfriend of several years. The announcement was met by an immense outpouring of love and support.
“I have found the purpose of my existence,” Nick said recently, “and also the purpose of my circumstances. There’s a purpose for why you’re ‘in the fire’.”
Nick says he believes there is a purpose for our struggles, and that our attitude toward those struggles, and our faith, can be the keys to overcoming those challenges. Through his own actions, Nick has shown us what it means to “never give up.”
At Novus Medical Detox Center, our clients work hard at getting out of the fire, as Nick would say, of the situation they have got themselves into with substance abuse. They have changed their attitudes and are facing those challenges.
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