Paulus Ploier
Paulus Ploier  © David Robinson

A lightning went through my body

Back to overview

You rarely meet people who radiate real love of life as Paulus Ploier does. The artist and psychotherapist from Upper Austria has had a spinal cord injury (C4-5) for almost 30 years. In this interview, he shares his touching story with us.

Paulus, how did you sustain your spinal cord injury?
It happened on July 10, 1984. It was a very hot summer day and I went to the lake next to my house to go for a swim. I ran onto the dock and dove into the water, head first. I don’t know why I did this, because as a trained lifeguard I knew that the water wasn’t deep there. As I ran I could hear a little boy shouting, “take care, it’s shallow”.

What was your first thought after the accident?
It was like a lightning bolt went through my whole body. Instantly, I knew I was paralysed.
I tried hard to lift my head out of the water and finally a man brought me back to the shore.

How has your life changed after the accident?
It was brutal. I’ve suffered chronic pain for years. My body felt like it was burning in fire, it was so terrible that I nearly went crazy. I had to take valium for five years.
Only my wife and painting helped me to keep my balance. I knew my wife Monika long before the accident happened, but we lost sight of each other. By chance, I met her again in Yugoslavia in 1990. Three days later, things really clicked between us.

Which are the biggest barriers in your everyday life?
Due to my high spinal cord injury, I always need help when I go to the toilet. This is something I get really upset about.

Do you also see positive aspects in your new life?
Yes, actually a lot. Through my accident I discovered my identity and true love, which otherwise I probably wouldn’t have experienced this way.
I also have a job, I never would have dared to dream of. I learned to deal with the chronic pain I suffered by using psychotherapy and its solution-oriented focusing-method. Today I look after people in crisis situations as a psychotherapist myself.
Additionally, I’m passionate about painting and making music. I do not wish anything back, but I’m looking forward.

What is your biggest wish?
I dream of getting up on my feet again. I can picture that.

What do you like about Wings for Life?
Definitely the team’s positive and warm attitude. Whenever I meet somebody of the Wings for Life team I sense a familiar atmosphere. I’m very pleased about the foundation’s commitment.

You can find more information about Paulus on

If you have sustained a spinal cord injury after an accident and are interested in sharing your personal story, just send a short and informal message to We would be very pleased to hear from you.