16 April 2009

Quadriplegic conquers the Pole

Thunder Bay lawyers spent two years devising equipment suitable for the journey
April 14, 2009

The most accessible parking spaces are often reserved for the disabled, but now so is one of the world's least accessible slices of real estate: the North Pole.
Over the weekend, David Shannon, a resident of Thunder Bay, became the first quadriplegic to reach the North Pole.

Almost 100 years to the day after Robert Peary claimed to have planted a U.S. flag on the spot, Mr. Shannon, 46, planted a wheelchair access sign at the northern end of the Earth's axis.

"This sign represents all peoples who have faced challenges or adversity in their lives and have dreamed of overcoming them. If we as people, work together in our homes, our cities, our countries and in our global village, there is no dream that cannot be realized," Mr. Shannon said, according to a post on the expedition's website, teamindependence.ca.

Mr. Shannon reached the pole in a specially crafted sled, under the power of his own triceps and with the assistance of fellow lawyer and Thunder Bay resident Christopher Watkins.
The two men spent the past two years devising equipment suitable for the journey, training along the snowy trails in their hometown.

"It took about two years to work out all the planning necessary to get the technology together, remembering that David would be heading to the North Pole but he does not move from the neck down, so therefore the winter protection that he needed was quite remarkable," Mr. Shannon's father, Bill Shannon, 70, said yesterday in an interview from his home outside Vancouver.

As a member of the University of Waterloo's rugby team, Mr. Shannon was injured during a team practice shortly before the first game of the season and only a week after his 18th birthday.

An angled break across his fourth and fifth vertebrae left him with some use of his triceps muscles, but very little else below his neck. Despite his injury, Mr. Shannon rolled his wheelchair across Canada in 1997, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, studied law and human rights at the London School of Economics and maintains his own law practice in Thunder Bay.
Bill Shannon said news of his son's arrival at the North Pole brought a mixture of pride and fear. The trip across Canada led to two broken ribs and he worried that without feeling in his lower body, frostbite and infection pose a constant threat.

Mr. Shannon and Mr. Watkins both suffered injuries in the final stages of the expedition, but the two men are now safely recovering with a third teammate, Darren Lillington, in Norway.

No comments:

Post a Comment