Clayton Micallef’s life was shattered when at the tender age of 21 he met with a serious motorbike accident which turned him into a paraplegic from his neck down. Moira Mizzi finds out that human will power and determination has no limit.
Being 21 puts things into a particular perspective for each and every human being. In the recent past, this age marked the last threshold before adulthood which was celebrated with the acquisition of the home key. Even though nowadays this symbolic event is not so popular, I still believe that this age has a particular meaning to the celebrant in that it opens the door to a new era of growth, maturity, responsibility and freedom of being oneself for those who choose to acquire these qualities.
Everyone is capable of doing something and no one is useless...
When Clayton Micallef turned 21 he was just another free-spirited youth with a passion for rock bands, motorbikes and pretty girls until that night when an accident with the motorbike paralysed him from the neck down. Today, seven years down the line, his focus is very clear – that to be able to live his life, with whatever it brings, the way he wants to.
“I feel like any other ‘normal’ person despite my limitations,” he stresses in his soft voice, “who doesn’t have limitations anyway” he adds with a wry smile. “There are people who cannot cook so they need someone to cook for them if they want to eat; likewise I need someone consistently to assist me in my daily needs,” he concludes as his smile grows wider lighting up his emerald green eyes.
Clayton believes that it is what we do with what we have that really matters. “I like using the parable of the talents to support me in this philosophy,” he says softly. His voice is stronger as he adds, “I believe we are all capable of doing something and no one is useless; anyone can teach you something which you do not know about and likewise you grow into a better person.”
His eyes turn to his TV set as he explains further. “We all have a TV set at home but very few of us take it into consideration how many people it took for it to be completed,” he states enthusiastically, “what if its production gets affected even if one person in the production line drops out for some reason or the other? Do you know that your TV set could be the one affected? We are all dependent on each other even if we are endless kilometres apart”.
Given the opportunity, Clayton would change one thing in society, “I would put ‘glasses’ on people’s faces in the hope that they would stop giving so much importance to the superficial appearance of others and really ‘look’ at them”, he expresses with feeling, “many people do not realise that when we consistently and solely look at the limitations of others we will be limiting ourselves”.
Unfortunately, according to Clayton society is more ready to look at the limitations of individuals than their capabilities and individual qualities. “Society is too choosy when it comes to who she wants, how she wants them to be and when,” he states his voice tinged with sadness and disappointment, “which is such a pity as this kind of selection process can miss out on a lot of valid people; I mean look at Einstein for example, he was dyslexic and a refugee and yet he gave such an enormous contribution to science”.
Looking at Clayton’s life after the unfortunate accident one cannot say that he has given much importance and focus to his limitations.
During these years he was asked to administer a website where people can advertise, buy and sell any item. He also spends hours broadening his knowledge through reading and watching documentaries. However, he admits that his favourite time is that he spends with his closest friends.
Clayton is very clear about his focus in life. “All I want to do is experience my life to the full; I just want to live my life in all its good and bad aspects. I want to look forward, to strive to reach my goals, to have challenges and overcome them and to help people to do good in life; after all we all are entitled to our space in the world.”
Clayton is also very clear about his needs and the way they are met. “I need someone to assist me in doing things not do them for me,” he says with emphasis. “I just cannot move my arms and legs so I just need someone to be those arms and legs. Basically, I need someone to assist me through life; after all I am still the same person now after the accident as I was before,” he concludes with feeling.
Despite this immense internal strength, Clayton is still very aware and appreciative of the support he has around him. “There are so many people I am grateful to; I have been so blessed,” he whispers as tears well up in his eyes, “my family, my friends, my carers, the Prime Minister and the President and the very dedicated staff in their respective offices, the administrative staff at Dar il-Kaptan, Andrew Azzopardi, they have all believed so much in me, sustained me and supported me relentlessly; I would not have been who I am today if they were not there, I know I achieved all this because they supported me – they are the angels God has sent me”.
Clayton’s deep faith in God is also one of the main pillars of support and he continuously thanks Him for all the good he has received through the people around him.
What is so amazing about Clayton is that his physical constraints did not stop him from growing and maturing in every sense as an adult. I believe that what gave him this strength and freedom is his own perception of himself as a normal person. In the process he transcended one limitation after another put in front of him by a “survival-of-the-fittest” driven society, even if it meant fighting long battles and facing numerous hard challenges. Above all he has shown that moving forward in life is a movement of the soul, which if freed from fears and introjects could take us anywhere we choose to go.
Dr Mizzi is one of the medics at a top cosmetic clinic.