(Pete Coghlan, 2019)
This article tells the story of a man known as Pete Coghlan. When I first met Pete, it was at a gym in Joondalup several years ago now. We were both pursuing our fitness goals and recovery at the time. Pete saw that I was swimming with resistance gloves and asked to try them on. I happily obliged his request and we started introducing and talking about ourselves.
At the time I was on the mend from a work accident in which I fell 3 stories onto scaffolding and was still recovering from a recent car crash. This was a challenging ordeal, both mentally and physically and I still possess some worldly limitations. But I am lucky to be alive and in the scheme of things, I am doing remarkably well. Although my health was improving, times were still very difficult, with ongoing pain, chronic fatigue and the mental flashbacks and night terrors still haunting me. On top of all typical problems of life and my previous experiences, some moments were very tough to say the least…
But when I heard Pete’s story, things were put in to perspective and made me have a greater appreciation of life and brighter expectations for the future. Pete has come so far and overcome so much, truly inspiring those lacking inspiration and we are blessed to have him spreading his great work.
Pete once had an ordinary life: he possessed a house, a full-time job and a partner, all the things in life that so many of us take for granted. Things were going quite well for the rifleman-military man. He was always a dedicated soldier and was known for having a heart of gold. But on one unfortunate day, Pete suffered from a stroke which changed his life drastically. As a result, he found himself one day waking from a coma paralysed lying in a hospital bed. He was unable to see at all for the first 24 hours upon waking. Pete recalled hearing at this time that he may require a regular peg feed, the thought that he may not be able to eat through his mouth again was very scary to say the least. Initially he could only move his eyes upwards and downwards, he also suffered from double vision for countless weeks, saying “there was 2 of literally everything.” He retrained his vision, improving the range of motion of his eyes by “staring at the ceiling, moving my [his] eyes left to right from corner to corner”. A simple task like staring was proving to be a very complex task. As Pete was not able to breathe properly, a tracheotomy was performed which allowed him to breathe through his neck. The only body movement or sensation he could consciously perform was blinking and hearing for a considerable time.
Pete once stated, “it was like having a camera in a teddy bear… you have no control over your body, nothing.” Times were so challenging for Pete that he seriously wanted to die, back when he was unable to drink water and found himself regularly laying in his own faeces due to the effects of the medication that he was prescribed in the intensive care unit.
When Pete was in the intensive care unit, medical specialists told his dad that he may regain some movement over time, but he most certainly would never walk again. Well that all changed, due to Pete’s hard work and desire to overcome what many called the impossible. He wasn’t going to quit until he was able to talk and move again, no matter what it took. For a while, Pete would drink milk-shakes, every day, counting and performing 150 swallows per day, in order to help him improve his swallowing ability and drink water again, as drinking water was a very difficult task at that time. Pete also used a swimmer’s nose clip to help regain his ability to speak. I asked how exactly this swimming nose-clip benefited him, and he simply said, “the nose clip was used to stop air from my lungs leaving through my nose, redirecting the air through my mouth only, allowing me to say a single word per breath… hardly any air was coming out so saying that one word was quite an effort.”
One day when Pete was vigorously trying to move his body, he felt a twitch-like sensation in his thumb. Moments like these led him to the hope and realisation that he could overcome Locked-In Syndrome and regain his ability to both walk and talk.
Truly inspiring! Since then, Pete has regained all his movement, as well as the ability to talk and carry full conversations. But he has not physically reached his limits, and he plans to keep training to improve his strength and mobility. Pete also would like to help other patients suffering from paralysis and Locked-In-Syndrome. He has given speeches and been featured in many articles discussing his amazing journey and how he has triumphed against all perceived odds. Another great achievement of Pete’s is that he is the first-known man in history to work in the Disability Department as a support worker. This piece is just a glimpse into the remarkable man Pete really is and how incredible his story truly is.
Pete feels that the Disability Discrimination Act written and implemented from the 1990’s is deeply letting down members of the public that are in dire need of support and intervention. In particular, he is disheartened by the fact that there are no gyms that accommodate disabled people. I do agree with this, and I feel it could be easy enough to create some space in a gym and provide equipment targeted specifically for people whom possess disabilities, so if they are able and want to exercise to try to improve their condition, then at least they have that opportunity and inclusion. He feels that this is discriminating against those who are not able-bodied and require extra resources and support; rehabilitation can take a very long time. I too believe this is a very fair request and members of society whom possess disabilities do need a greater level of support than the current amount that is provided.
If you would like to read Pete’s full story, he has a book available on Amazon, as well as several other platforms. His book In the Blink of an Eye – Reborn can be shipped worldwide. Thus far I have read a few sections of his book and I will admit that it is truly sensational. If you are interested in reading more about Pete’s story and checking out his book, I would recommend doing so. It was very inspirational, written excellently and is certainly an eye opener.
Pete can be followed and spoken with on Facebook if you have any queries about his story or Locked-In-Syndrome. He is quite the spokesperson and a great disability ambassador in Western Australia. On top of that, he is easy to talk to and quite the character, always up for some banter and to have a laugh. So, check him out here if you want to find out more, or even just for a chat with a really good guy!