As I see it: No limits with no legs 3



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“I met a man with no shoes and felt sorry for him. Then I met a man with no feet” – Anon

October 3, 1973, is the day I lost both my legs above the knee in a horrific train accident.

Recently I have been reflecting on this traumatic time in my life. I have always held the belief that attitude is everything… I did then and I still do now.

I was 21, six foot tall and bullet proof. I loved the outdoors, ran, cycled, played my fair share of sport and did pretty much what most young people of my age did.

I had taken a job working on the railway, shunting trains. It was dangerous work, but well paid. I had decided to make some “real money” as I was getting married in 17 days on October 20.

At 4.20pm on that fateful Wednesday afternoon, my world came crashing to the ground, literally. I had started work at 5.30am and was asked at smoko if I wanted an extra shift that afternoon. Not wanting to turn down the dollars, I said yes….

As I was being wheeled into the Accident & Emergency Department at the Hospital, the nursing team swung into action, cutting away my trousers. It’s funny where your mind wanders… I remember my mother saying to me on many occasions. “Dear… make sure you always wear clean underwear as you never know when you might be run over by a bus! A train’s not quite a bus, but still, I was glad I heeded her advice.

I could hear the bits of scoria being plucked out of my mangled legs and dropped in the sterile kidney dish. Finally, after what seemed an eternity, the morphine took control and I began to drift into a state of numbness…

I married in hospital on the 22nd October and was home just eight weeks after the accident. Totally unheard of – it just did not happen! It was, I believe, all to do with my attitude, a totally positive attitude. It still is now! I also believe there is such a thing as a second chance at life and I’d just been granted it.

As the years rolled along, so did life. I tried the artificial legs (prosthetics, to be politically correct) but for me, they were never going to work, they were cosmetic and cumbersome, and in my opinion a complete waste of time. I was very much a “What you see, is what you get” kind of guy.

A couple of years later my first son was born. This surprised more than a few people, as they thought this totally impossible! Comments like, how can you have children…you’ve got no legs? A couple of years after that and my second son was born. Growing up with a dad with no legs posed no problem for either of them, just me. They knew how far they could go, or so they thought. We were no different to any other young family really.

I guess I’m a “glass half full” kind of guy. Somewhere in these early years, I was fortunate enough to be able to change careers and do something that I loved by fulfilling my dream and  becoming a broadcaster. I hold a belief to this day that when you lose something it is always replaced with something better.

To this day, I am still involved in the industry as a Broadcast Journalist. Over the years there have been many memorable and some not-so-memorable moments, wonderful friends and colleagues, sadly too many have left this mortal coil.

Life goes on and now that I am in my mid 60s, I think I’ve done OK. Two very successful sons in their own right, two fantastic granddaughters and a beautiful loving partner. I haven’t jumped out of an aeroplane or climbed a mountain, or crossed a desert, I’ve just lived a normal life in a normal way, albeit without legs.

I recall when I returned from an extensive tour of the Middle East and Europe, people asked how I managed and was my ‘carer’ able to manage? I had to laugh to myself. I travelled on my own. I met some truly inspirational people and I was reminded on a daily basis, as I still am, that there is always someone worse off than me! I thank God for the gifts he has given me and I trust that I have used them well thus far.

A dear friend left me with this saying many years ago and I have never forgotten it: “I met a man with no shoes and felt sorry for him. Then I met a man with no feet”. Life for me changed on that fateful Wednesday some 40 odd years ago. It changed for the better and to this day, it has “no limits.”

Brian Portland

Broadcast Journalist.. Australasian Correspondent FSN Washington & London. Speech Writer..Motivational Speaker.. Production Voice Specialist.. Creative Writer.. (Speech, Print, Radio & Television) Double above knee amputee.. Motivational Speaker..(Available for any speaking engagement..)

  1. life is what you make of it. i have a son who is a diabetic. he had a hypo & fell off the platform as the train came in. lost his right arm at the shoulder ,right leg above the knee left leg below the knee. tried arterficial legs prefered using a wheelchair . he has spent the last 15yrs in a nursing home . he was lucky it is only 2 streets from my home plus he knew some of the people who work there. he has a good sense of humour & is always joking with the older residents says i lost my limbs but there are people worse than me.

  2. hello Brian, I read your article and am so glad you’re an optimist and not only turned your life around after the accident but for the better too. There is one thing puzzling me though, you say you consider artificial legs a waste of time, so how do you get around because wheelchairs, even if self-propelled can;t get up steps or do you have metal peg-type supports? All the best, Susan Gabriel.

    1 REPLY
    • Hi Susan.. Thanks for your comment… No! for me, it was far easier to get in and out of my car without prosthetics… much easier to drive…I used to bounce up steps etc. Of course I had ramps at my house and it was accessible, but I bounced up one and a half flights to my office, pulling my chair behind me… No big deal… Unfortunately today, I feel people make a mountain out of a mole hill… Sometimes I refer to it as “Bigger than Ben Hur”… I don’t find access too bad… busses, trains etc are pretty good…

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