Choose to Live

Mark Wellman is one of my personal heroes who I write about in No Barriers. His own No Barriers journey began when he was only 22 and suffered a terrible fall in the Sierras that left him paralyzed from the waist down.

Excerpt from No Barriers:

"...For an agonizingly long night, in which he worried about freezing to death, and most of the next day, Mark lay on his back, waiting for the rescue party, or for death to take him, whichever came first. He hadn’t died in the fall, but after being rescued, the diagnosis that he’d never walk again felt worse than death. “My hospital room was on the sixth floor,” Mark said. “If I could have crawled to the window, I would have jumped for sure.” 

But then another patient showed up. He was a quadriplegic in his late twenties who’d broken his neck eleven years earlier and was now back for a bone spur surgery. He told Mark that he drove race cars, including a souped-up Mustang, using hand controls. He was confident and moved around the room in a sporty, lightweight wheelchair. “I have no time for self-pity,” he said to Mark. “It’s all up to you. If you choose to live, get off your ass and live. If you choose to die, lie down. Don’t get out of bed.” 

Mark chose to live, inspired to attack his painful rehabilitation with drive and purpose. He built up his shoulders, back, and arms to such a degree, he eventually resumed climbing again with a special rope ascension system that no one had ever seen before. Seven years later, Wellman climbed the infamous three thousand–foot rock face of El Capitan with his new climbing partner, Mike Corbett. He’d inched his way up the vertical wall with the force of his will and the massive power of his upper body. 


To thousands of people like me around the country, Mark became an overnight hero. He was now planning some kind of festival, and wanted me to be a part of it. “I’m calling it ‘No Barriers,’” he said. “I want to change people’s perceptions of what’s possible, but not in a gentle way. We need to come together to blast through one barrier after the next, until there are none left. It’ll be a gimp revolution.”
“Sounds ambitious,” I replied, picturing Mark in his wheelchair, leading an army of gimps, and Mark like the giant Kool-Aid guy, cranking forward and exploding through a solid wall, the boards and plaster splintering around him.”