Scott Doolan, 29, was an active 17-year-old when it happened. While riding his brother’s motorcycle, he collided with an oncoming car that left him in a hospital bed fighting for his life.
The teen from New South Wales, Australia, survived the terrifying ordeal, but not without consequence. He was left paralyzed from the waist down and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
As a teenager, Scott Doolan fell into a depression and his mental health declined as a result of a motorcycle accident that left him paralyzed.
“When they told me I’d never walk again, I’ve never felt so lost and unmotivated,” Doolan said in an interview with The House of Wellness. “I just remember there were days after days where I sort of thought, ‘What is the point?'”
It was in this haze of darkness that Doolan first fell in love with fitness. Committing himself to getting into the best condition possible gave him a reason to get out of bed in the morning—and a renewed vigor for life.
“I needed to find a hobby where I got back to enjoying something that I really loved doing. I started to go to the gym and people were actually saying ‘You’re an inspiration,'” Doolan said. “And that sort of clicked in my mind.”
The encouragement from others helped Doolan out of his depression. He started to see himself as an inspiration, not only to those who were bound to a wheelchair, but to anyone who felt like the odds were stacked against them.
Doolan was approached by one of his friends about climbing to Mt. Everest base camp. He saw it as an impossible challenge.
Incredible stuff! Meet the Newcastle duo getting ready to tackle Mt Everest, as Scott Doolan prepares to be the first paraplegic to do the climb with minimal assistance @nbnnews pic.twitter.com/o9mOGRim87
— Tahlia Sarv (@tahliasarv) February 5, 2018
“My first thought was no way, impossible, I can’t do that,” Doolan told AFP.
“However, after thinking about it and talking it through with the team, I thought why not, what better way to challenge myself and influence others to rise above doubt than to climb the biggest mountain in the world,” he said.
When the terrain was too difficult for his wheelchair to navigate, Doolan used a technique he called “wheelbarrowing,” in which he would walk on his hands while one of his teammates would hold his ankles.
Tunnel vision When I was doing this climb, my body was so fatigued and sore from training, it wanted to quit so many times. After I got to the top, I learnt something about myself that wasn’t as clear to me before but happens every time I train around my limits. At the point where my body wants to quit, I always try to push on, I’ve learnt that this is where my mind comes into play. I try to find that zone of shutting out the pain, my mind becomes focused, and that’s where I redefined my existing limits. The body is something you need to train and push constantly, but the mind is by far the strongest tool you can develop.
But just because he had a plan for success, didn’t mean everyone was on board.
“My mom was hell-bent she wouldn’t let me go. She was like ‘no way you’re doing that,'” Doolan said. “And then I sort of explained to her if I go and do this, it’s going to inspire and motivate a fair few people.”
Doolan trained rigorously for the climb to the Everest base camp, which sits at about 17,000 feet. During training he wore a mask that helped simulate the breathing difficulty he would experience at high altitudes. When the day finally arrived to begin the ascent, he was ready.
It took Doolan and his team 10 days to complete the climb with minimal assistance. The journey usually takes an average of 9 to 12 days to complete.
The trek was grueling, but Doolan regards it as an honor to be the first paraplegic to reach Everest base camp mostly unassisted.
“I was struggling to breathe [when I reached base camp] because I was walking on my hands but I just remember looking up and seeing a crowd of about 20 people,” he said, after completing his mission on March 25.
“Once I actually got there, they all started cheering and that was pretty damn humbling.”
“It’s going to be pretty hard to top this,”Doolan told the Newcastle Herald. “It was a lot harder than I thought it would be. But it was incredible.”
Doolan has now set his sights on competing at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
“You’ve got a choice,” he told the Newcastle Herald. “You can either sit back and dwell on what’s happened, or you can say ‘Alright, let’s take it on’ and still do your best and have the best life you possibly can.”