- England Sevens squad meet Henry Fraser
- Fraser was paralysed in swimming accident, aged 17.
Henry Fraser has many mottos in life, “accept what it is and adapt” is one.
Fraser was a fit and healthy 17-year-old when a swimming accident left him paralysed from the shoulders down and changed his life forever.
While on holiday in Portugal he did something that he had done many times before but would never do again.
He dived into the crisp, clear sea water without a care in the world, a bang on his head later and his mind was confused, his body was lifeless.
Fraser recounts the moments that followed that accident with amazing clarity and incredible calmness: being rescued from the sea, airlifted to hospital, having tubes and bolts inserted into his head and body. He jokes he resembled Frankenstein’s monster, describes the moment he was told he would never walk again, the day he first spotted his own reflection and hardly recognised the person staring back at him.
He recalls the joy at seeing his family for the first time, being able to choose his own food and breathing fresh air without the aid of a tube. Things most of us take for granted.
'RESILIENCE AND POSITIVITY'
Every day is a challenge for Fraser, but one he is relishing. He has turned his misfortune into an opportunity, another one of his mottos is: “resilience and positivity”.
Great work today, very humble about everything you have been through! Truly inspirational. https://t.co/L3pyG2qNMc— James Rodwell (@James_Rodwell) February 16, 2016
Fraser, who was a promising rugby player as a teenager, met with England’s Sevens squad this week and said he hopes his experience and philosophy off the pitch, can be applied by the players on it.
“Accept the situation and adapt,” said Fraser. “Whatever obstacles are there, there is always a way around it.”
The Seven’s squad have their own key messages around accepting and understanding and Phil Burgess said Fraser’s talk had proved “inspiring” calling his positivity “mind-blowing”.
'ADAPT OR CHANGE'
“We talk about adapting all the time,” added Burgess. “Henry was saying, you are dealt the hand you are dealt but it is all about how you deal with it. That’s the situation, adapt and get the best out of it. Ultimately that’s what he is doing.
I can only physically use tiny muscles in my back. This is 55kg.— Henry Fraser (@henryfraser0) February 10, 2016
Photo in video is me 6yrs ago, unable to breathe. pic.twitter.com/EfJ4NTxtlS
“If you can’t do it, try harder or find something else, it’s not a case of moping around or feeling down. Adapt or change.”
Fraser has another motto: “the greater the challenge, the greater the opportunity”.
Since his accident he has constantly defied the odds. He has proved doctors wrong by refusing an electric wheelchair and instead pushes himself around using just his shoulders. He sees a personal trainer every week to make the tiniest of progress in strengthening what little muscle he has left in his back, neck and shoulders. “Little, big things,” he calls it.
THE HOLY TRINITY
However, Fraser, whose talk was part of the players’ RPA Personal Development Programme, has also discovered a unique talent – painting.
Using just a stylus in his mouth, he has produced works that have sold all over the world for thousands of pounds. His art work and talks have seen him meet some of the most famous sportspeople around. Fraser, a life-long Arsenal fan, has met his hero Thierry Henry, as well as David Beckham and Jonny Wilkinson. He calls them the holy trinity. “The greater the challenge, the greater you can become,” he adds.
In six months Burgess and his team mates will hopefully embark on the greatest sporting challenge of all – the Olympic Games and believes Fraser’s message can help in their quest for sporting greatness.
“It’s incredible to think how positive his mind set is and how that psychological edge can be so driving,” adds Burgess.
“He spoke about those small goals he has had throughout his life to ultimately get to his position now and for us we need to be exactly the same. We need to hit our little processes and goals for every day to be a good day so that when we get in a position in six months’ time we are sitting in a position where we can perform.”
Fraser is quick to point out how important family and friends have been in the six years since his accident, his final message is just as powerful as the first: “A team are people you can depend on, they will always stand by your side”.
Henry Fraser's talk was organised through the England Sevens RPA Personal Development Manager Caroline Guthrie. The RPA Personal Development Programme is designed to individually support, guide and assist its members in their personal and professional development, providing them with the opportunity to fulfil their potential and successfully make the transition to a new career following retirement from the game.
Programme initiatives include career exploration, support with education, welfare initiatives and personal and professional development seminars such as today’s talk from Henry. For more information on the RPA and the Personal Development Programme visit the RPA website on www.theRPA.co.uk.