Meet Adam Mate, an Aussie stroke survivor with a passion for skiing who had a stroke at the age of 11 and now suffers from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder which causes his muscles to contract and spasm involuntarily, an incurable condition. Adam inspires with his passion for skiing, and Aspen.
Where to start —– my stroke occurred when I was 11 years old, in my last of primary school (grade 6). I was a typical grade sixer, king of the kids, popular, quick witted, sporting and had just been to Disneyland with my parents and two brothers during the 1st term school holidays — what could be better —-what could go wrong —- I was on top of my game —– then —— STROKE —–my world was turned upside down – SHATTERED!!!!
After 12 hours in the operating theatre, weeks in a coma and intensive care, I was told how fortunate I was to still be alive — however my body did not feel the same, I could not speak, and I could not move – I was paralysed, in pain and very frightened. With a lot of support from the medical profession, the Children’s Hospital, and family – I faced the whole rehabilitation process as a challenge, always optimistic that I would fully recover. During rehabilitation you look for any small improvement as a win —-whether in speech, memory, movement, strength or just being less fatigued. After months and months of speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and more —– reality really hits hard when the medical specialists start to indicate that you have reached the limit of improvement, and that it is now time to adjust your life to your level of impairment and learn to live with how you are. For an 11-year-old, this is an extremely tough challenge.
This is about the time that friends stop visiting, and the support starts to fade away. Parents and family are still there, but the rest of the world has moved on, and it becomes very hard to accept that you cannot be part of “normal”. The pain, the frustration becomes anger and life is difficult —- you tire easier, the pain and spasticity slow you down, the lack of memory and slower reaction cause you to be ostracised and teased through high school and you feel uncomfortable and confused in crowds, and insecure in public. You come a spectator instead of a participator. Life is a CHALLENGE!!
This is when you need as much inspiration as possible, to help face these challenges, my inspiration came, in part, from my love of skiing —- I first started skiing at the age of two, and prior to my stroke I had progressed to skiing black/double black runs —- therefore my first challenge was to get back on my skis. While in the hospital, during my rehab when I was first able to stand (before I could walk), I challenged my physiotherapist to a ski race. I won that challenge then next year, so my next challenge became skiing black runs again. For extra motivation my parents said that if I could achieve this they would take our family on a ski holiday to any resort in the world, my choice. I chose “Aspen” – this was my inspiration – to ski at the number 1 best ski mountain in the world.
January 1990 – I was skiing Ajax Mountain, Aspen USA, black runs, jumping off cliffs, the lot (including breaking my wrist). SO thank you Aspen and USA for providing my inspiration. I returned to Aspen, January 2012 with my 5-year-old son Brayden (he skied his first black run at Snowmass) to watch the X-Games, and found Aspen bigger and better and still achieving the goal as the number one ski resort in the world.
Aspen – “Thank You” – keep striving to be the best and in-spiriting achievement.
So echoing the words of “Arnie” (Terminator) —– “I’ll Be Back” ~ Adam Mate
Adam is also a motivational speaker and an Adaptive ski coach & competitor. In July of 2015 Adam received his World Cup Classification for Australian Alpine Skiing.
Adam has tried every known treatment for his condition – including deep brain stimulation surgery where a brain pacemaker is implanted to send electrical impulses to the muscles. The ongoing challenge for medical research is to find cures for this and other conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, etc..
The single most important challenge for Adam is to have people recognise that people with a disability need to be given the same opportunities as everyone else – they need employment.
Visit Adam’s blogspot.
*In September of 2014 Adam became a certified StrokeSafe Ambassador and is working hard to spread awareness and help to promote disability awareness. Please support the National Stroke Foundation.