The summer sun beating down onto my body, it was the third week of summer vacation. I had just finished my freshman year of high school and time for another paintball event. I was and still am a part of RESPAWN-Productions a scenario paintball team located in San Diego. I was so excited to play again ! Paintballs flew past my head with the faint whoosh they made, sweat dripped down my mask, and my breath fogged up my lens. I charged towards the center castle. The thud of my best friend Julian’s body and mine slamming against the wooden exterior. We had to take the castle to win the game. We hunkered down with our bolt action paintball markers as we wait for more people to join our charge. The pop of our markers shooting, cocking back the bolt leaning and then pulling the trigger. Then, I saw it, The barrel of another paintball marker appeared out the wall to my right. I heard the thuds of the paintballs slam against my wrist, my hand went numb and limp. I could see the blood as it dripped down my muddied up hand. I turned to see my best friend 6’2 bulky with a scruffy beard decked out in his camo holding his neck and the paintball was lodged into his neck he shouted “ What the heck dude! That really hurt!” Seeing him in pain worried me because he was a tough dude. Julian was the luckier of the two of us was always, he only suffered a break in the skin around his neck and arm. I looked down at my hand again and saw it just limp, the feeling of numbness was overwhelming. I noticed that I couldn’t move my hand. We walked back to the spawn point to be examined by our squad leader James. James had said “ oh they probably just hit a nerve do not worry about it!*, so we ripped part of my shirt and wrapped my wrist. Being a bolt action paintball gun, all I did was switch my shooting had and use my right forearm to cock back the bolt. This is when James noticed a cracking noise with every movement of my hand and told me to go back to camp and have Randy our teams “medic” (he was an E.R. Nurse) look at my hand. He said with concern “ Yeah I am going to be honest it looks pretty bad and you still can’t feel it? I would definitely go get it checked out at the hospital.”
My mom had to drive out to San Diego to pick me up and take me and she was furious. Not at the fact that she had to drive two hours to get me, but because I had gotten hurt. Once she got to the field she yelled at the man responsible for shooting my hand, and lets just say she was not nice at all. She talked to Randy and took up his advice to take me to the hospital. We drove off inside her silver sedan, and I watched the paintball field shrink in the rear view mirror. As we sat in the hospital waiting room the overpowering sense of gloom and discomfort surrounded me. My right hand was still wrapped in my ripped part of my t-shirt. I looked down at my hand still wrapped in the makeshift bandage. I was worried now because it has been all day since I could feel my hand. The nurse calls us into see the doctor. The echoing sound of my boots bang across the floor, as we approach the x-ray room. I place my hand down, and the intimidating hum of the machine scans my hand. We leave the room and wait for the results. The door opens and I see the man in a white coat enters with an arm brace. This is when I was given the news that I had nerve damage in my hand and several broken bones in my wrist. My heart dropped, I could feel it sinking into the chair beneath me, because I use my right hand for everything. This was the day my life would forever change.
At fourteen years old, I was like a young Picasso and I loved to game. These were part of my everyday life. I sat in my room arm in its brace and yelled in anger that the things I did most at age fourteen were taken away from me. I would go to get a pencil and push it between my fingers only to fail with even holding it… every time the pencil dropped so did my spirit and hope. I could no longer hold a controller properly or feel the textures of my comforter. There was no pain simply an empty extension to my body. I would sit in bed and think, “Why me? Why was I the one in front of that barrel, why was it me? My hand at that exact place against that person.” I started to give up on being able to game or draw properly again so I turned to entertainment to keep my mind busy in the summer. I discovered an anime called black clover. And in the show there is a character named Asta. Asta was born without magic in a world where magic was everything, he would question why him? He would never give up on pursuing his dream to become the wizard king, to think someone born without magic could become a wizard kind was foolish, but it was his dream. Watching Asta’s character grow inspired me to not give up on my dream of being able to use my hand like before. He would always say “not yet, I’m not done” no matter how many times he failed he would try and try again. That’s exactly what I did. I would try every way I could to hold a pencil in my right hand again. I tapped it to my fingers even used glue at one point. then I realized that if I could just hold the pencil using the strength and muscles in my arm to keep it still and use the rest of my arm and what I could feel to draw. I would sit and watch as the graphite from my pencil would snap and shatter across the paper like ashes they started to leave a shades on my paper. After many trials and failures, I would always think, “what would Asta do?” Not yet, I wasn’t done I kept pushing myself day after day Until I was able to hold that pencil and draw, until I was able to hold a controller and play. I learned I could channel all my muscle movement.
I took the movement idea I got from holding a pencil and applied it to holding a controller and a mouse. I was able to figure out how to type by hovering just one finger from my hand and use my arm to move and press on the keys. Using a mouse was extremely challenging, like wrestling a snake while being blind, I would miss buttons on the mouse and would hear the snap of my finger hitting the mouse pad instead of the click of the mouse. No matter how many times I messed up I would try and try again until I was able to do it right. I would use my arm to aim with the mouse. I even had a Velcro strap wrapped onto my hand to keep my mouse in my hand. I could flinch my fingers which I used to hit the keys by flexing my forearm. The most memorable part of learning to use a mouse was being able to play smite again with my friends. They would cheer as I used a mouse combination correctly or used a hero power right I was able to share the excitement and progress every time we played.
I was a 14 year old boy who had the two things that he valued most stripped away from him, and for what? All because some adult was upset he was losing in a paintball game I had to pay the price. It was a struggle every day to even open a door how I used to. I had to learn how to do everything using only the muscles in my wrist to feel what I was doing. I wasn’t done though, not yet. Flashing forward 5 years, I am now part of an esports team called Nexus Void where I compete in gaming tournaments. I draw on the daily now and have improved my skills vastly. I still play paintball to this day and I’ve even been in a paintball magazine cover in the UK I’m well known in the paintball world and get recognized when I go out to play. I’m making a name for myself in gaming and my art will always remain a part of my everyday life. Despite how hard you get hit or what is taken from you if you apply yourself you can do anything Don’t give up, don’t be done… Not yet, you’re not done yet. Defy the odds, push yourself, and never give up on your dreams.