Brad Smeele makes 'major progress' following wakeboarding accident

A wakeboarding accident in Florida left the former world champion Brad Smeele a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair and almost ready to give up on life.

The injury changed everything for the 29-year-old. The days of back-to-back summers wakeboarding around the world was over. Instead, his new full-time job was learning how to walk again.

Two years on, Smeele hasn't given up hope of moving around on his own two feet one day. But a major part of his progress hasn't been physical, but mental.

"I'm more focused on wanting to be happy -- hanging out with friends, doing fun things and keeping myself busy. It's accepting that this is where I am and not trying to fight it everyday," he said. "I'll never lose hope of the chance of walking again."

Smeele's recovery is shared with his 15,000 Facebook followers, and is scattered with videos, scientific updates about spinal cord injury, and as always, wakeboarding news.

Smeele can now operate his wheelchair with his right arm -- an advance he called "major progress", although it's slow going.

"For the first month or so I was limited to 0.8 km/h, so it was just painfully slow, to the point where I didn't even feel motivated to drive or practice with it. But now I've got two different options -- 1.2km/h and 2.5 km/h."

Smeele has posted videos of him working out at the gym, leaning forwards and backwards unassisted, and operating his wheelchair while talking -- something not possible with his regular set-up of blowing and sipping on a straw to manoeuvre the chair.

Although Smeele admits he thought his physical progress would be more advanced by now, he said his mental development has far exceeded expectations -- and he's living a life filled with positivity.

"I'm not necessarily accepting I'm going to be [in my wheelchair] for ever. It's more accepting this is where I am now and all I can do is make the most of it and do what I can to move forward. At the end of the day, I'm living now and I need to be happy now."

- NZ Herald

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