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Team Talk Q&A: Henry Fraser - Rising Above Adversity

We all face adversity on many levels in life. But it is how we respond that defines us.

At 17 years old, Henry Fraser had his life turned upside down. A freak accident while on holiday in Portugal left the promising Rugby player paralysed from the neck down.

What followed in the aftermath was nothing short of inspirational. Aided by a caring support network, a phenomenal never quit attitude, and an energetic personality, Henry has transformed himself into a mouth artist, an author, and enlightening public speaker.

His most recent address was right here in Brackley, the latest in a series of talks provided to engage and inspire our team members.

Team Technical Director James Allison was in attendance, and addressed Henry at the end of talk, remarking how inspired he was by his story.

"I think having the opportunity to listen to you speak and show us how you deal with such appalling difficulty gives us half a chance that we might also find that courage if we ever were put to such a test," said James.

"I would like to hope that we would but I'm not certain that is true," he added.

"There is so much for us to take from what you have said today in the way we face our difficulties as a Team.".

"Few talks I have attended have lingered in my head and my heart in the way this one has.

"Thank you for coming in to share your story with us."

After the talk, we caught up with Henry to learn how he hopes his journey can impact others.

What advice would you give to people who are facing adversity and may need to adapt?

Henry Fraser (HF): "It has different stages, and it is different for everyone. The one thing I would say is do not fight it. Change happens. It is going to happen. Acceptance can take time, but you must accept it.

"It is about not comparing yourself to what others have done. It is about trying to work out what is best for you and how to deal with it. It is your own personal journey that you must find your own way through. It is about taking each moment, each day as it comes. It is not thinking too far ahead.

"It takes patience, and patience takes time to learn. It is about constantly telling yourself things will get better. You must be willing to stay in the fight and keep pushing - stay determined and unflinching. I think people should be told that. Never lose that hope. Things will get better."

Is there anything from your story that has made you particularly proud?

HF: "For me personally it was the public speaking. There is nothing more terrifying in this world than public speaking. To still be doing it after almost 10 years is huge for me. I remember the first time I did it, I built it up to be a horrible experience, I was so scared of it.

"But immediately after it I got an adrenaline rush that I had never felt before. And then suddenly I was like, why haven't I felt this before? What else have I turned down because I was too scared to do it?

"For me, public speaking has given me this confidence. I am much better socially because I am much more confident in myself, and this allows me to try new things. After the first talk I gave, someone asked if I wanted to write a book. Then came the musical and all these other insane experiences.

"I would never have done any of those things if I had turned down the first talk. Now I just try and be open to new things. And if it does not work, that is fine. At least I can say I did it.

"Facing those fears changed my life in so many ways."

Your story and your talks are inspiring to others, but who or what has inspired you over the years?

HF: "I have had a couple of people. The physio when I was in hospital, Ruth. She had this kind of drive to push me and challenge me physically. She was incredible.

"And there is also a guy called Matt Hampson. He is an England U20 Rugby player and during a scrum session, he dislocated his neck, injuring his vertebrae higher than me. He is permanently ventilated for the rest of his life.

"I remember meeting him for the first time, he was living an independent life and was super busy. I met him about a year after my accident. Until then, all my focus had been like training and physically.

"Until then all I had thought about was training, not being out and living. Seeing that and his positivity towards life really opened my eyes."

How do you think your story can help everyone to reflect on their own lives and change their way of thinking?

HF: "I was always a negative person. I always had a very dim attitude towards my own health. It is about showing that people that change can happen. You can change your attitude, you can adapt, you can do things differently to how you used to do things.

"As long as you are willing to be patient, you can do it. That is the one thing I want people to take from my story."

What is a goal for you now? Is there anything else that you have seen that has mad you think 'I would love to do that?'

HF: "We have an exhibition in September that I am working towards at the moment. After that I may look to explore other opportunities. I do not think too far ahead, it is just bit by bit.

"I try and stay in the moment and enjoy it as it happens, rather than getting distracted by other things."

Henry joins a growing list of engaging and influential speakers to have hosted a talk for the team in our Race Bays, including Atlantic Ocean-rowing Mum Helen Butters, Transgender racing driver Charlie Martin, and diversity in sport campaigner and former Olympian Donna Fraser OBE.

As long as you are willing to be patient, you can do it. That is the one thing I want people to take from my story.

Henry Fraser

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