When Warwick agreed to be one of my Inspirational Lemonade Makers we arranged to meet so he could tell me about his experience of acquiring his disability. We had not met before, but he has a natural way of making you feel at ease and so I began hearing about his experiences.
Warwick, by his own admission, was not academic at school but he did excel at sport. His sporting talents won him a scholarship to study in the USA. ‘It’s just like the movies’ he tells me. His daily routine would consist of ‘two hours of football, two hours of tennis and the rest of the time partying! The academic side of things just didn’t seem important at that point in my life’.
He had been over in the States for a year when he returned to the UK. He was invited to take part in a local charity football event. As many nineteen year olds would be in his position he was ‘keen to show off his new skills’ to his old team mates. In his own words he was, ‘a bit cocky’ so one of his team mates decided to teach him a lesson; it would be one which Warwick would never forget. During the match the ball came from a goal kick and Warwick called for the ball indicating he was going to head it. On heading the ball Warwick’s head was collided by the head of his team mate. The injury hurt a lot at first but he picked himself up and tried to continue.
He played on for a time but could not finish the match as he was ‘in too much pain’. For the remainder of the match he sat on the sideline with a cold wet sponge applied to his right temple, in an attempt to numb the pain. He went out with his mates after the match but left early. ‘Turned out, a cold sponge was no good for a fractured skull!’ Warwick tells me.
Warwick soon found himself in a coma having lost consciousness at a rate whereby even the hospital doctors didn’t expect him to live. He had to have his skull opened to remove a golf ball sized blood clot that had formed as a result of the fracture to his skull from the impact. ‘I have a scar’ Warwick tells me, but I replied that not being fully sighted I would not be able to see it. It turns out the scar is pretty hidden anyway so he can’t show it off like he would like! ‘You can feel it if you like’ he offers. I am a bit on the squeamish side, but before I know it I am feeling the side of his head and there is a significant dent.
He spent six and a half weeks in a coma with an additional week spent coming out of it. ‘This bit was not like the movies’ he tells me, ’you don’t wake up and spring into life. It was a strange time; realising that I missed a sizable period of time but only having flashpoints of recognition about the people who had come to visit me and some of the memorable things they had said to me in order to get a reaction as a sign of brain function.’
On regaining consciousness it was not known whether he would walk again or have impaired mental abilities. However, after eighteen tough months of rehabilitation he was able to walk after a fashion and could communicate again, even if with a slightly husky voice due to his Tracheotomy. It was soon apparent Warwick had come out of the accident without any cognitive limitations – a very rare thing indeed. These days Warwick walks with a stick and describes his mobility as ‘severely laboured’. He has a pronounced limp and his left side drags, similar to someone who has been affected by a stroke. He is prone to falling and when he does he is unable to get himself up, especially when his two young boys jump on him!
‘When you’ve been kicked in the privates’ he says ‘you have one of two choices….give up and spend your days feeling sorry for yourself or pick yourself up and get on with it. I chose to get on with it’.
Warwick returned to the US to take up the remainder of his scholarship. Without his sport to dominate his time he had time to spend on his studies and left with a ‘pretty good degree in law’. He continued studying law on his return to the UK and in his final year he became president of the law society at university. ‘Life is as much about who you know, as what you know’ he says with a smile.
Warwick worked in The City in London for a few years until 2002 when he got ‘sick of lining someone else’s pocket and the long commute of two hours each way’. He set up Jarvis Costs Consultancy, specialising in Costs Law and Legal Costs Drafting. He runs his company with his wife and in recent years business is increasing by at least 25% per annum.
Talking with Warwick it is clear that he thrives from getting stuck into something. When it couldn’t be sport in the way he always thought it would be, he made a success in business. ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ he says and while it nearly killed him it has clearly made him much stronger mentally. This has enabled him to turn his lemons into lemonade, albeit in a completely different field.
I found his achievements impressive. He puts these down to ‘not taking himself too seriously’, being ‘an eternal optimist’ and hard work. He says, ‘everything needs putting into perspective’ in his mind his injuries could have been worse, both physically and mentally and on the positive side he can still exercise, which remains very important to him.
Warwick has to leave to read his kids their bedtime story. His voice is getting gruffer; a side effect of his head injury, and he jokes, ‘I thought you ladies were supposed to love a gruff voice!’ and off he goes. His posture and agility is not as athletic as he might like, but by the end of our time together we had decided that not everything in life turns out as you planned but there’s always a way forward. The only way I can see for Warwick Jarvis is up.