Motivational speaker, Hector Picard, gave a very inspirational talk to staff, students and friends of Every Child Counts School on March 21. Mr. Picard is a double arm amputee born of Cuban parents and raised in Florida who says he loves to come to The Bahamas.
He was here to compete in the Family Fitness Weekend, held at Treasure Cay for the third year.
Mr. Picard lost both his arms and the top of one foot in an electrical accident when working for a power company. He walked between two transformers and touched a live one which sent 13,000 volts of electricity through his left arm and out from his hip. He was literally on fire and woke up 30 days later in hospital in terrible pain with second and third degree burns over 40% of his body. His entire right arm and half of his left arm had to be amputated.
“God, why me?” he asked.
He remained in hospital for two months and then underwent six months of rehabilitation, learning to do things all over again like a baby, but without hands. During this time he decided that he had to be there for his one-year-old daughter and so began looking at his challenges as “just an obstacle to be overcome. Life is more difficult but interesting,” he says.
He wanted to get the students thinking about how difficult it would be to carry out everyday tasks without arms so he asked for two students come forward and take a little test. They were asked to make a fist with both hands and then socks were placed on their hands so they could not move their fingers they then had to put on a shirt, hat and glasses.
Following his rehabilitation Mr. Picard met with a prosthetist who told him he could not expect to do much in life.
“I could either take his advice or prove him wrong so I chose to prove him wrong,” he said.
First he was fitted with a hook for a hand with which he even built a room in his garage. He now has a prosthetic arm with a hand on the end which he says is very heavy but very functional. He is able to twist his wrist around 360° which the children found very fascinating.
He learned to change his baby’s diapers and then began coaching a Little League softball team. He was so successful that parents started asking him to teach their teams. “If I can do this I can do anything,” he decided. He finds different ways to do things and make himself happy and even plays videogames with his feet.
Mr. Picard likes sports and in 2009 entered his first triathlon. On August 11, 2012 he entered his first Ironman triathlon and was the first double arm amputee to finish an Ironman race. The Family Fitness Weekend in Treasure Cay which he was due to enter the following day would make his 89th triathlon.
These triathlons are not easy for him but he has worked out ways in which he can compete. In the water segment he swims on his back using his legs. For the cycling segment he needed a special bicycle. A bike mechanic he went to told him it couldn’t be done but he saw this as a challenge and created a bicycle himself out of $100 Huffy. He finds it rather hard to steer and stop but does so by slipping his prosthetic arm into a cylinder on the handlebars and applying brakes with his right knee.
He also finds running difficult due to having lost part of one foot which causes him pain but he deals with the pain and pushes through it.
His advice to people is, “Believe in yourself and find something in life that makes you happy. He admits that he has run into his share of bullying but he has always met his goal. He raises money for charities and says that, “As long as God has given me health I will press on.”
Following this very inspirational talk the students asked many thoughtful and interesting questions such as; “How do you scratch your back?” Mr. Picard said that this was the first time he had been asked that question in the 40 years that he had been physically challenged.
When asked how he manages to wash himself and write he says that he uses whatever he can and sometimes writes with his feet. When asked how he changes his bicycle tires he said that again he uses anything he can and at first it was quite difficult but now he has succeeded in being able to change a tire in 11 minutes.