Pain-2-Power Person of the Week: Robert Paylor
On May 6, 2017, during Robert Paylor’s sophomore year playing on the University of California, Berkeley’s rugby team he was paralyzed during the national championship game against Arkansas State. Rendered quadriplegic, he was told he would never walk, again.
The immediate aftermath of Paylor’s horrific injury meant he could not swallow or breathe independently. He lost 60 pounds. His lungs would fill with so much fluid that they had to be pumped every few hours.
But Paylor, 24, never gave up hope. And he understood, very early on, that his journey toward healing would one day inspire others.
His dream was to walk across the stage to receive his college diploma. Just a few weeks ago, he did just that, with the aid of a walker, accepting his diploma from the Haas School of Business, in front of a roaring crowd who gave him a standing ovation.
It had been 1,576 days since Paylor’s injury. Paylor stood up from his wheelchair, took hold of his walker and did exactly what he had worked for years to do.
Even during his darkest days, Paylor never gave up. He must have known that his power could come from his pain.
Aric Crabb, who writes for the Bay Area News Group, quoted these words from Paylor, “There was a time I was lying in a hospital bed and I couldn’t move anything. I couldn’t feel anything,” he said. “I’m fighting for my life and the thing that was getting me through that moment was the eventual dream that I had, to be able to walk across the stage and to be able to share this story with thousands — I hope millions — of people across this world . . . I hope when they saw me walk across that stage they saw themselves overcoming their own challenges.”
Exactly. Robert Paylor knew that when one person turns pain into power, that can kindle the possibility in many other people. We are moved—word choice, intentional—by the courage and commitment of others to manifest our own.
No one will ever be able to explain, scientifically, why one person’s heroic journey can inspire others to pursue their own dreams, but it happens. And just as no MRI of Robert Paylor’s spine after his injury could have found his resolve to walk, no MRI of anyone’s brain who was watching him take the steps to receive his diploma could reveal how that person may have been inspired to overcome challenges in his or her own life. The most powerful forces in the universe are the ones that can’t be seen or measured. Like courage, faith and love.
Paylor is going further to inspire others. He’s an inspirational speaker and has started work on a book likely to be titled, “Paralyzed and Powerful.” I’ll be buying it.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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