Lukáš was born in Ústí nad Orlicí. “I’m glad I grew up at a time when the Internet was in its infancy. I used to spend all day outside with my friends and not come home until it was getting dark,” he says, reminiscing about his childhood in Letohrad. At elementary school, his main interest was sports – he played floorball and ball hockey, and he joined the Scouts and Sokol (‘Falcon’, a long-standing Czech gymnastics association). “At Sokol, a trainer singled me out and said I was talented, they were short of players, and asked if I wanted to try floorball.” Then a friend once brought Lukáš along to a ball hockey practice and it got him so excited that he ended up playing two seasons for the youth team (U12/U13).
Growing up, Lukáš was often putting his health at risk, suffering various injuries. “I broke my collarbone twice – first in kindergarten, second when I flipped over an electric fence on my bicycle. I had a concussion when a friend tripped me up at the after-school childcare center and I bumped my head on a stone. I also severed a tendon in my right thumb once,” he adds with a mischievous grin. “I wasn’t the most well-behaved kid – then again, nobody was – but I was never a serious troublemaker.”
After elementary, Lukáš began an apprenticeship as a locksmith at the secondary vocational school (SOU) in Letohrad, where he would travel daily from Žamberk. The year was 2007 and some big changes were in store. Lukáš’s mother found a new boyfriend from Brno and after Lukáš finished his first school year, they moved in together. In the summer, Lukáš left to spend the holidays by the Seč Dam (Sečská přehrada) with his sisters, his father and his father’s new wife. “The first couple of days, the weather was awful, nonstop rain. We couldn’t go anywhere and were stuck inside.” As soon as the weather cleared, they went to the shore. Lukáš immediately took off his T-shirt, ran and jumped in the water. “It happened to be my first jump and also my last. My head hit the bottom, a chill ran down my spine and it was over,” he continues. The impact broke his fifth cervical vertebra and left him floating motionlessly. His sisters who were in the water with him in that fateful moment thought he was just joking and diving. After about two endless minutes, his whole life flashing before his eyes, his dad pulled him ashore. “I almost drowned so I don’t remember much,“ he adds. An ambulance was called and a helicopter transported Lukáš to the operating room at the hospital in Pardubice. About three weeks later, he was transferred to the spinal injuries unit in Brno where the doctors explained the gravity of his injury to him. “They were completely frank with me about the serious permanent impairment and it dawned on me that it wasn’t just a broken limb.”
Another two months had passed before Lukáš was transferred to the rehabilitation center in Košumberk. “In rehab, I started to realize what condition I was in thanks to other patients with similar stories. I began relearning everything from scratch. Not just things like personal hygiene, excretion, and wheelchair use, but also the different needs and stimuli pertaining to my body that had been fundamentally changed by the injury. The hardest part was to learn to ask for help and reconcile myself to the fact that I would need somebody to be following me around all of the time. After rehab, I spent some time at home,” he adds. With his family at his side, they reflected on what to do next.
It was quite clear Lukáš would not come back to his former field of study. Eventually, he started to study at the F. D. Roosevelt Secondary School’s (a school for pupils with special needs and disabilities) business academy on Kociánka, where daily personal care and rehabilitation were also taken care of. “At first, I just wanted to get out of there, keeping to myself and seeking solitude. I didn’t keep it up for long, though. I saw a lot of clients who were much worse off than I was, and that motivated me to not give up. Soon enough, I found a great circle of friends and began to enjoy my time at Kociánka. I consider finishing the business academy my big personal success. Before the injury, I would not dream of studying a school like that.”
At school, Lukáš met a trainer who suggested that he try Boccia (a Paralympic sport for athletes with severe disabilities, similar to pétanque). “I like sport in general. Not being able to play floorball or ball hockey anymore, I decided to try throwing balls.” One practice got Lukáš so hooked that he soon started competing. “I have been playing Boccia for 11 years, on and off, but I haven’t had a lot of success. I get awfully nervous and don’t showcase my skills as well as I can at a practice.”
“At the moment, I’m trying to work really hard on my skills. I’ve always been a bit of a loafer, but once I take something on, I’m all in. I found out about ParaCENTER Fenix from my mom. I regularly come to do rehabilitation work and learn how to be as self-reliant as possible. I reached a major milestone by moving out: I became independent and I live alone now,” Lukáš remarks. He works from home doing administrative work for a company supplying equipment to schools. “My role is to search the Internet for public contracts awarded by schools. If I come across such an opportunity, I download the documentation and forward it to my boss. He prepares a quote and sends it to the school. I used to do similar work before, searching for public contracts for accounting audits.”
“Looking back, I have to say my priorities have completely shifted since I had my accident. Health and self-reliance are at the top of my list now, along with surrounding myself with good company and accepting my condition. I must not stop learning to ask for help. And I must keep it together and not lose my shit.”
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