Janine Shepherd encouraged a crowd of almost 1500 APAC Forum 2016 delegates to be defiant.
The second keynote speaker of the fifth annual APAC Forum inspired the crowd during her presentation at Sydney’s State Theatre with her account of survival from a catastrophic accident. She said defiance was the key to her recovery.
“Be defiant in your attitude, because when you are it will allow you to defy insurmountable obstacles.”
Ms Shepherd, who is now a partial paraplegic, was a skiing contender for the Calgary Olympics in 1988 but was struck by a utility van while on a bicycle ride, close to Sydney’s blue mountains.
She suffered spinal damage and many broken bones, and lost litres of blood.
“For ten days I drifted between two dimensions – in my body and watching from above. After those initial days I made the decision to return to my body and the bleeding miraculously stopped”, she said.
Ms Shepherd then had to rethink her life, recognising her old one was gone.
“I knew this body could no longer serve me as an athlete.”
After nearly six months in hospital she was able to return home, and though initially very depressed at her loss, she focused on the next challenges.
“I realised how different my life was. I wanted to give up. I know that I had made a choice to come back to my body. It took every bit of concentration and effort. I couldn’t look back; all I could do was look forward.”
And look forward she did, deciding one day soon after leaving hospital that she was going to learn to fly, in spite of the obvious obstacles.
Her account of the process of passing a medical examination drew uproarious laughter from the audience.
“I don’t have a knee jerk reflex. But that’s a really easy one to fake.”
As well as her pilot’s licence, Ms Shepherd went on to get a commercial pilot’s licence and also became the first person to be accepted into the Air Force Reserves after having suffered a spinal injury.
She gave birth to three children despite being told this would be impossible, has written a book, and now travels the world as a motivational speaker.
And as for the man who hit her with his truck? He received an $80 fine for careless driving – but Ms Shepherd has long since forgiven him.
“Things don’t happen to us, they happen for us. The power of gratitude is that it creates meaning about what you’ve been through. And when you create meaning, you transform it,” she said.
APAC Forum 2016 delegates gave Ms Shepherd a standing ovation.