Bulletproof: Tim

Tim Young was on the trip of a lifetime in Canada when a snowboarding accident left him a tetraplegic. Ten years on, Tim’s found a soulmate, and his business designing educational games is taking off.

Tim Young was always a bit of a daredevil,bungy-jumping and extreme snowboarding at the top of his list. When he finished his bachelors in psychology at the end of 2008, he took a snowboarding trip to Canada to celebrate. On this trip-of-a-lifetime working holiday, he continued in his daredevil vein, shredding the slopes of the ski fields on Whistler.

But two days before he was due to return home to New Zealand, everything came to an abrupt halt. Tim misjudged the size of a jump and fell, “I did a speed check just before the jump, I knew it would be a bad ending. Tucked my head forwards and braced for impact. I broke my C5 vertebrae.”

The accident left Tim in the intensive care unit in Vancouver for six weeks, before battling to learn how to talk again.

Tim wheeling his wheelchair down a sidewalk.

Being on a ventilator for three and a half months, his family understands how serious the situation actually was, “in retrospect [they] realise I was pretty close to dying multiple times,”

His mother, Vivian says his determination took hold right from those early days, despite the fact he could not talk. Having flown to be with him in hospital, she recalls, “ I cried in front of him and he spelt on an alphabet chart, letter by letter by letter, there is no situation which getting angry will make any better, it’s just absolutely scorched into my memory.”

Tim’s positive attitude towards life even when he was struggling, saw him through his time in Vancouver, 14 weeks in ICU at Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital and 20 weeks of rehabilitation.

“Having a growth mindset means that you know that you’re abilities aren’t fixed and that you can get better.”

Tim is fiercely positive and chooses to engage with this mindset, “having a growth mindset means that you know that your abilities aren’t fixed and that you can get better.”

As soon as he could, Tim got himself out of his recommended power-wheelchair into a manual wheelchair, one of his main reasons for this he says was, “when I go to a restaurant with any potential ladies, I’d be able to fit under tables and have nice dates.”

This paid off as he met his now wife when they were studying masters psychology degrees together. Erica recalls meeting him and how she felt about his wheelchair, “the fact he was in a wheelchair definitely was a thing I had to think about in terms of pursuing a relationship.”

Tim wheeling down the isle at his wedding alongside his wife.

But Erica values Tim for his positive and outgoing nature,“I just wanted to be treated well and the fact that he was in a wheelchair didn’t stop him from being able to do that.”

Tim and Erica both believe his values have not changed since his accident, “he’s always been really positive and resilient and outgoing and funny and all those things I really love about him were the same 10 years ago” and Tim agrees saying, “I still feel the same as I did before my accident.”

Because Tim is a C5 tetraplegic he has carers to be his “hands and feet” for about 18 hours a day, but his father Phillip says “he doesn’t want people to feel sorry for him, he wants people to be proud of him.”

This is why Tim takes on every day with a positive attitude, ready to face whatever comes his way, as his friend Brian says; “It’s one thing to see your mate stuck in a chair, it just makes it a whole lot easier if he’s being positive about everything and is just able to be realistic and be excited about the future still.”