Spirit stays strong
A Cooloongup man has recalled the moments his life flashed before his eyes — an experience he believes can inspire others living with disabilities.
In November 2018 Danny Westwood became a C6 quadriplegic after a car racing accident in Japan.
The 27-year-old was living a Hollywood fantasy, racing in Tokyo, until it all went horribly wrong.
He was drifting — a technique where the driver intentionally loses traction, while maintaining control of the car — at the Ebisu Circuit in Fukushima.
The site is one of the world’s best drifting-based tracks — but it was here that Mr Westwood lost control and his vehicle rolled.
He broke his neck and vertebrae and damaged his spinal cord. He was paralysed from the chest down, with limited movement in his arms and ended up in an intensive care unit in a Japanese hospital.
Mr Westwood told the Sound Telegraph getting back to Perth after four weeks in hospital in a foreign country was a “big relief”.
“Overall the experience was as good as it could be, Japanese people are some of the friendliest in the world,” he said.
“The language barrier was a huge issue. It took a day or two for them to get Google Translate working, but even then it was only good for the basics.”
Although left with severe and lasting physical injuries, Mr Westwood said his biggest battle had been dealing with the mental impact from the accident.
“PTSD, anxiety and depression are always knocking on the door, but I do my best to keep them out,” he said.
“My accident has resulted in many perspective shifts though; small things I used to take for granted are now among the things I am most grateful for.
“Physical recovery has been less complicated. I just strengthen every muscle that still works.”
In his new podcast Spinal Strength, Mr Westwood has opened up about the moment he crashed, his hospital stay in Japan and how his journey to recovery has played out so far.
“I remember most of it, I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not,” he said. “I’ve heard people say before when something like this happens time slows down and that’s true. I felt like I was flying through the air for about 10 minutes.
“I remember grabbing on to the steering wheel, holding on for dear life. I landed upside down and my knees fell down to my chest. It was the strangest sensation and probably about three seconds later that’s when my hands stopped working, I let go of the steering wheel and sort of flopped down on to the roof of the car.
“That wasn’t my biggest worry at the time, all I could think about was the car is still running … it’s going to burst into flames.
“That was terrifying to me. I’ve never been more scared in my life.
“I don’t really remember that much else until I got to the hospital and they did a CT scan to assess the damage.”
Mr Westwood said he decided to start a podcast as a form of self-therapy.
“Sometimes I can get discouraged,” he said.
“Looking back helps me to see that I have made continual progress since day one.
“Another reason is that I wanted to be able to use my injury to do good in some way, maybe help to educate people on disability.”
Mr Westwood’s Spinal Strength podcast is available here
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