Inspirational Runner: Paul Ward
Running the Old Mutual Two Oceans Ultra this year will be a completely new experience for me even though I’ve completed six during the nineties.
I moved to London in 2001. In April 2010 I ran my first Oceans Half, but a few months later, I found myself in hospital.
Actually I didn’t quite find myself there because I was comatose for approximately 3 weeks, on life-support and hooked up to a myriad of machines, before eventually moving to an end-of-life (palliative) ward. All treatment was withdrawn, even water, and I was not expected to survive. I had meningitis.
Miraculously, I regained consciousness. I asked my wife where I was and her lips were moving but I couldn’t hear her.
I had lost all my hearing.
Both cochlear were destroyed completely. There was no sound at all; even my own voice cannot be heard. My balance was also very badly affected, and I couldn’t walk. I was devastated. It would be a long road of recovery.
First the rehab and physiotherapy to get me walking again. This was a slow process. Then the cochlear operations. I had two implants inserted. Both did not provide me with the desired outcome because of extent of the damage to the cochlear.
A last resort, an ABI (auditory brainstem implant). This operation was in March last year. This implant bypasses the ears completely and a tiny part of the brainstem is stimulated.
It gives me a semblance of sound, and I can recognise environmental sounds- dogs barking, cars, and sirens. It is an amazing bit of technology and it allows me to hear things completely independent of my ears. It is invaluable to me because it connects me to the world. Speech is difficult to comprehend but the implant helps me with lip-reading. Successful lip-reading depends upon the speaker looking at me, speaking clearly and a bit slower than normal, and in relatively quiet surrounds. Lip-reading requires a lot of concentration, and I tire easily.
I have recently started running again, first on a treadmill at home. I felt safe. At first I started walking, then slow running. Small baby steps. Initially, I also had to hold on with one hand, but eventually I started to take my hand off. Now I run in a beautiful forest close to home.
Why did I start running again?
It’s something I’ve always enjoyed, from my school days. I remember waking up early, joining my best running buddy Patrick at Boyes Drive Lakeside, then running up towards Kalk Bay, looking at the sunrise on a beautiful day, overlooking False Bay. Running the last few ks of a long run in soft gentle rain.
There are loads more memories. But that’s not the only reason. I run now because I can. I enjoy it, the freedom. I’ve been given another opportunity, and I dare not waste it.
So last year, when Charmaine, my wife told me she was missing her siblings and wanted to return to SA over the Easter weekend, I decided to join her. And while it was only December, I realised that Easter was Oceans Time!
I wanted to enter the Half Marathon, but entries were full, so I entered the Ultra instead! Training hasn’t been optimal but I’m giving it a go. I’ll be ok until the bottom of Ou Kaapse Weg. Then I will Beast Mode it all the way to the finish.
It’s going to be different. There’ll be no partaking in silly banter. I’ll probably feel quite alone in the presence of many. I’ve become used to that.
I won’t hear the shouts of encouragement from all the wonderful spectators, or the odd PAUL! from those who know me. But I can see, and feel.
And I’ll be running; and smiling.
And I will be thumbs upping with lots of fellow happy runners, a few of whom will be like me, and most of them like I was.
I wish all my fellow runners a wonderful day.