Paulus Ploier
Paulus Ploier  © David Robinson

“Lightning shooting through my body”

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

Paulus, how did you sustain your spinal cord injury?
It happened on July 10, 1984. It was a very hot summer day and I was at the lake next to my home in Austria and wanted to cool down. So, I ran onto the dock to make a dive into the water. I don’t know why I did this as I was a trained lifeguard and 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 shooting through my whole body. Instantly, I knew I was tetraplegic.
It took all my energy to try to lift my head out of the water. 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, and it was so terrible that I nearly went crazy. I had to take valium for five years.
Painting, peace of mind and my wife were my last resorts. I knew Monika before the accident and in 1990, I met her again by chance in Yugoslavia. 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 someone to help when I visit the toilet. This is something that 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 personal story and a true love, which I wouldn’t have experienced the other way around.
I also have a job, I never would have dared to dream of. The chronic pain brought me into the field of psychotherapy and its solutions-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 envisage it.

What do you like about Wings for Life?
Definitely the feeling of the people who work there. Whenever I meet you I feel a familiar atmosphere. I’m very pleased about your 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.