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A.J. Nanayakkara

Getting Involved Again: A Challenged Accepted Story 

"Everything about me screamed independent and active."

That's how A.J. Nanayakkara describes his life before the martial arts accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down some 20 years ago. After the accident, Nanayakkara faced some rough years as he struggled to cope with his new situation. For a decade, he battled depression, an urge to end his life. 

"For so long, I had the blinders on," he says. "I was focused on things I couldn't do." 

Then Nanayakkara discovered wheelchair rugby, and a light switched on.

"This was the first time I saw people in wheelchairs outside of the hospital, and they were active, they were having fun," he says. "All of a sudden I had something to look forward to. I felt like an athlete again. It really gave me my life back." 

Self-esteem and Independence

Nanayakkara threw himself into the sport, and a boost in his self-esteem and his drive for independence followed. 

"When you start being active again, start living life with intention, good things start to happen," he says now.

The good things piled up. In addition to the rugby, Nanayakkara became involved in water skiing, tennis, scuba diving and other sports. He is learning to be a pilot. Today, he is executive director of the Global Abilities Foundation, which holds 50 outreach events a year to educate the world about the needs and capabilities of people with disabilities. The Global Abilities wheelchair racing team, sponsored by MossRehab, competes throughout the region. Nanayakkara has traveled to five continents, including back to his native Sri Lanka, advocating for people with disabilities. 

His advice to other people with disabilities is simple. 

"Get involved," he urges. "Do something." 

Faced a challenge of your own? Share your Challenge Accepted story on MossRehab's Facebook page.?

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