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Wednesday 29 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C
Tedx/Youtube Jack Kavanagh

Paralysed three years ago, Jack Kavanagh is about to embark on the original American road trip

“When you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything – that’s what all this is about.”

THREE YEARS AGO then 20-year-old Jack Kavanagh had the world at his feet when fate struck him an incredibly cruel blow. Now, he’s about to show us what a truly indomitable spirit is as he embarks on a road trip along the west coast of America.

August 2012. Having just finished first year Pharmacy at Trinity College, the windsurfing lifeguard was holidaying in Portugal with friends while he contemplated what came next.

Sometimes there’s no allowing for what life has in store for us. Diving through a wave, as he had been doing all afternoon, he collided with a hidden sandbank and was instantly rendered quadriplegic – paralysed from the neck down.

“I was very calm, I knew exactly what had happened being a lifeguard. I was the only one out of my friends who knew which is kind of ironic,” Jack, now 22, told the Ryan Tubridy show on RTE’s 2FM today.

I felt a bit of a click, some heat, and then my body just went limp immediately.

TEDx Talks / YouTube

Jack went through 8 months of intense rehabilitation immediately following the accident. But rather than being cowed by his predicament, he vowed to get back to college and continue with his life.

I promised myself I’d get back to college, and there I was, 12 months later, living away from home and back studying. I was told I’d never walk again, that I’d need two people’s assistance for the rest of my life, but who wouldn’t want to defy that? I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that’s not how it’s going to be.
The first couple of months back at college were a real struggle I can’t lie, I would be so exhausted by day’s end I wouldn’t be able to get into bed. But then, slowly, I got my life back.

A key part of Jack’s rehab was a stint with Prime Physio in Cambridge, UK.

.LtoR Dale Messenger who was Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland Jack with Dale Messenger and Mark Pollock in 2014 Leon Farrell / Photocall Ireland / Photocall Ireland

“They showed me the bread and butter is still there, all the muscles and skeletal structure, I just had to learn how to reassociate with my body once more,” he says.

And now, the world has come circle – Jack is about to hit America. It’s a remarkable turnaround from someone who is quite frankly a remarkable person.

“Well, it’s three things really. I had made a vow with my first year room-mate Dave, that we would travel the world and make stories we could tell our grandkids about. So I followed up with him and immediately Dave said he was in,” says Jack.

The two immediately set about putting the fundamentals for the trip in place, and a matter of months later the trip is about to begin.

It sounds simple, but an incredible amount of planning has gone into this.

Jack’s PA from college will be travelling with himself and Dave, as will another good friend who is apparently “quite proficient as a cameraman”.

Jack3 Support for Jack Kavanagh / Facebook Support for Jack Kavanagh / Facebook / Facebook

The road trip will see him take in the West Coast of the US, from San Diego through Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Yosemite National Park, San Francisco, and Lake Tahoe, before flying home from Vancouver.

I’ve had so much support over the last few years, and really I just thought I was getting on with my life. But for a while now I’ve been thinking about giving something back to the people who have been so good to me.

Jack met with Alex and Gary from Snackbox Films who immediately told him his story and the road trip is one they would love to document.

We’ve fundraised to make this happen, and it is really, really expensive, particularly the editing and sound parts of the film.
But that’s the final thing. My circumstances are a bit different to my mates, but people in my situation have travelled the world before. By documenting this, we’re showing that limitations are only perceived limitations.
I don’t think we’re nervous, there’s so many challenges with a trip like this, but we said we’re gonna make this happen, we made a promise and I want to fulfil that promise.
If you put your mind to it, you really can achieve anything. That’s what this is all about.

Jack and friends depart for the US this Monday. The very best of luck to a properly inspiring person.

Donations to Jack’s American trip can be made here. Further information on Jack is available at the Jack Kavanagh Trust.

Read: Ireland was asked to help this little boy have an early Christmas. Ireland responded.

Read: ‘We live always knowing we’re going to die, but we don’t think about it’

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