Immediately after the accident, Paddy found himself with his head in the driver’s foot well on the pedals, the driver on top of him. He saw the black boots and thought about how coincidental it was that the driver had the same kind he did. He couldn’t feel his feet in his own boots, which is why he thought they belonged to someone else. He tried to shout, but realized he couldn’t hardly breathe. It was 1996, he was 17 and had just broken his neck at C5/C6. The resulting quadriplegia meant 4 years in the hospital and an end to independence, privacy and mobility as he knew it. But it was also the beginning of a remarkable journey into himself, a journey that led him to become a poet, a songwriter, a motivational speaker and a filmmaker.
Growing up in Ireland, Patty was the middle child amongst 7 siblings. His parents split up when he was young and money was tight. Not fond of school and wanting to contribute financially, he left formal education at the age of 16 and moved to London to work on building sites. Missing home and a girl back in Ireland, he returned and worked for a company which did jobs in Dublin. Exam On the Monday before his planned first date, Patty’s regular ride home was not available. A passing car offered to drive him the 7 miles he needed to go, and the driver, who he didn’t know, was young and didn’t know the road. The initial time in the hospital was very difficult and he recalls that there was a point after the crash where he was ashamed of his life, ashamed to be a “cripple.” There were some very low moments when he was near despair, but he quickly learned that much of his new life would depend on his own efforts and vision. While some of his fellow rehab patients, including those with much better prognosis than Patty, found it all but impossible to cope, he found moments to cling to and methods to make progress. One of these involved singing. Paddy loved singing and his physiotherapist encouraged him to sing – sing for his life. Paddy did, belting out tunes to regain his lung function and avoid the use of a ventilator.
Paddy began to meet people who helped him see the world a different way. “Positive energy is an expansive energy. There is a complete awareness that you and everything else are part of a great force. Negativity is a reductive force, it’s a heavier energy, like a black hole,” he said. While in rehab, he saw a lot of negative energy. He heard of several suicides by people who seemed to have everything to live for, and that’s when he realized the key to everything was perspective. I started looking at myself in the mirror and thinking, “Okay, let’s figure this out. Who am I and what do I go from here?” The young lad who was not fond of school took an interest in books and focused on surrounding himself with positive people. The world opened up and he was seeing potential everywhere. “The mind is like a muscle, you have to use it.”
Patty has often wondered how his life might have been, explaining that he genuinely believes that if he wasn’t in that crash, he would probably have 3 or 4 kids and a wife. “I would probably be in debt, have a house and a car that I couldn’t afford, and I probably would be working 6 days a week in some kind of physical labor, for that’s where my love was.” Because of the crash however, he was afforded a rare gift that not many people receive – the time and space to be able to examine who you really are, both mentally and psychologically. Patty was the only one to have a life altering injury from the car crash, but he chooses to look at what he gained rather than what he lost. Patty now lives in a house he built to his spec with his mother and sister, and works in a studio out of the back built by his father and brother. He has a specially adapted car which is driven for him by one of two personal assistance paid for by The Center for Independent Living. He directed a film called The Broken Law of Attraction, and he has a production company on board with his efforts. “I am where I am supposed to be,” Paddy says. “I know I can’t heal the entire world in an idealistic kind of way, but I do feel now with the power of media and the power of intentions, that I could have a positive impact.”