Nothing, not even a spinal injury, could stop Tim Young from achieving his dreams

By Brittany Keogh

Tim Young on his deck at home. Photo / Supplied
Tim Young on his deck at home. Photo / Supplied

Tim Young is not your average 28-year-old - he has a Master's degree, owns his own home, has launched a company and is now building an app.

And, his journey to achieving these successes has also been far from average.

Seven years ago, while on a working holiday in Canada, Young's life changed forever when he landed a snowboarding trick wrong and his neck broke his fall rather than his feet.

He fractured his C5 and C6 vertebrae and permanently lost feeling in 84 per cent of his body, rendering him tetraplegic.

Young spent 10 months recovering in hospitals and rehabilitation centres - the first few of which were in Canada, then three-and-a-half in Middlemore's ICU in Auckland and another five in Burwood spinal centre in Christchurch.

One of the first challenges he had to overcome after his accident was breathing on his own again and eating after spending five months on a ventilator.

Next was learning to adjust to life without the use of three of his limbs and getting around in a wheelchair.

"I was quite positive about that because I hadn't be able to eat or breathe for five months. So everyone was kind of disappointed they were in a wheelchair and I was like stoked I could breathe and eat."

Young's girlfriend of a year-and-a-half, Erika Lamb, credited his success to his effervescent optimism.

"He really blows me away. He has every reason in the world to be down but he's not. He picks me up when I'm down. He really makes everyone feel at ease with his situation. I think he is the most driven person I know." Young brought the same tenacity he showed in his rehabilitation to other challenges and signed up to a local wheelchair rugby team a few months after he arrived back home in Hamilton.

The young entrepreneur invested the ACC compensation payment he received after his accident into the stock market, he "did alright" and used his earnings to buy a house.

Moving into his own home and learning how to drive again gave Young independence.

"I can pretty much do anything as long as it's set up the right way. Sometimes it takes a lot of money and effort to set things up in the right way, but if you have that motivation and the task is important enough you can almost always do it."

In 2012 he started studying a Master of Science at Massey University. After completing his Masters he added a Postgraduate Certificate in educational psychology to his CV.

During his study Young developed a keen interest in how technology could help kids learn, particularly those in developing nations who could not afford to go to school.

This inspiration sparked his next project - designing an app kids could use to teach themselves economics, maths, English, biology and chemistry, which he called Rocket Island.

"Having technology available, I feel really lucky that I've been able to live a normal life and achieve my potential.

"That's the only thing that's holding back so many millions of kids around the world - if they had a computer and access to the Internet, they'd have all the opportunities I have and be able to live up to their potential as well, which is what I'm trying to make happen."

Young put his own pedagogy into practice when building the gaming app. He taught himself programming by watching YouTube videos.

He borrowed $10,000 against his house to fund the project and this year started working on programming fulltime.

But still short of the funds , he started a Kickstarter project with the goal of raising $15,000.

While the initial fundraising goal was what he needed to build the game, Young said he would like to raise - upwards of $100,000 - to hire professional programmers and artists and release the app in more languages.

He also planned to make a sequel set in space that would teach users more challenging subjects, like calculus and algorithms.

Anyone wanting to contribute to the Kickstarter can do so here.

- NZ Herald

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