Find­ing his pur­pose in life

His life was flipped up­side down. Now this man is seek­ing his destiny.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - People - By LUCY LUGINBILL

AT the crest of the hill, a wide rib­bon of as­phalt beck­oned the skate­boarder; an ir­re­sistible prom­ise of ad­ven­ture. As the young man de­scended with pur­pose into the set­ting sun, the breeze urg­ing mo­men­tum, an un­known ma­li­cious hand stretched out to change the course of Sean McClin­tock’s life.

“I’m go­ing down the side of the road, like a bike lane,” the 28-yearold says as he thinks back to the as­sault on Road 44 in Pasco, Wash­ing­ton state.

“A car comes up – eye­wit­nesses say they honked their horn – and then some­one reached out the back win­dow of this car, grabs me by my col­lar and pulls me back­wards on my skate­board.”

The un­think­able act sent McClin­tock’s skate­board fly­ing, his head col­lid­ing with the as­phalt while his body twisted si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

“They drove away,” McClin­tock says, his mem­ory of that day shat­tered for­ever. “Eye­wit­nesses pulled over and a guy got out of his car – he used to be a priest – and he was hold­ing my head.”

For­got­ten is the river of red, the whine of sirens, and the bru­tal mo­ment his care­free life flipped up­side down.

It had been a spon­ta­neous de­ci­sion to step from the fam­ily car and skate­board down the hill that Septem­ber evening, McClin­tock promis­ing his wife and 15-month-old daugh­ter he would meet them at their friend’s home. But it was a choice that changed ev­ery­thing, in­clud­ing his per­spec­tive.

“I take it as, I’m here for a rea­son,” McClin­tock says as he con­sid­ers his 2015 near-death ex­pe­ri­ence and trau­matic brain in­jury.

“If I were to be mad at them, they would be able to con­sume my life, and I’d rather have pos­i­tiv­ity and op­ti­mism be­cause then I’m happy as op­posed to be­ing a per­son who’s not.”

His emo­tions are mag­ni­fied, a re­sult of the hor­rific brain in­jury, but McClin­tock deals with his feel­ings through mea­sured breath­ing and yoga. In­stead of bit­ter­ness, this el­e­men­tary school para­pro­fes­sional has cho­sen pur­pose, one he hopes will help oth­ers and change at­ti­tudes about wear­ing safety hel­mets.

McClin­tock talks openly about his life-sav­ing surgery, an in­duced 10-day coma fol­lowed by a lengthy hos­pi­tal stay and sub­se­quent ther­apy in Spokane, Wash­ing­ton. A long scar bears wit­ness to the sec­tion of skull re­moved to save his life.

“I’m in a per­fect place to share my tes­ti­mony and let these kids know about some of these ex­pe­ri­ences I’ve had in life and how they can treat their brain with as much care as pos­si­ble,” McClin­tock says, not­ing he has been in­vited into class­rooms to speak.

“I’ll see them head­ing home on their scoot­ers or bikes with­out hel­mets, and some­times I’ll be able to stop them and have ‘the talk’ with them.”

The young fa­ther sets an ex­am­ple by faith­fully wear­ing a hel­met in any sport, whether it’s an af­ter­noon of flag foot­ball with friends, bi­cy­cling, skate­board­ing, or spend­ing a day on the Columbia River wake­board­ing. Be­ing able to re­turn to these ac­tiv­i­ties has been part of his ther­apy, but it has meant adapt­ing to his new cir­cum­stance by omit­ting ex­treme moves.

“I can’t go bi­cy­cling and try­ing back flips any­more like I used to do be­cause there’s that risk of land­ing on my head,” McClin­tock says mat­ter-of-factly.

“I’ll tone it down to rid­ing my bi­cy­cle to get from one lo­ca­tion to an­other be­cause I still like rid­ing bi­cy­cles.”

Dur­ing his more than two years of re­cov­ery, Sean has been in­spired by an­other adren­a­line junkie whose life took a tragic turn: Kevin Pearce, a snow­boarder who suf­fered a near fa­tal trau­matic brain in­jury while train­ing for the 2010 Van­cou­ver Win­ter Olympics.

Pearce and his brother Adam have since co­founded the LoveYourBrain Foun­da­tion, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that is on a mis­sion to help those af­fected by trau­matic brain in­jury and also ed­u­cate peo­ple about liv­ing a brain healthy life­style.

In quiet mo­ments since meet­ing this in­spir­ing man, McClin­tock re­flects on the rea­son his own life was spared.

“I’m a be­liever in God, and I was kept around for a rea­son,” McClin­tock says thought­fully, emo­tion play­ing on his face.

“Ev­ery­one has a pur­pose, and af­ter the in­jury that I had – or neardeath ex­pe­ri­ence I had – I’m try­ing to find my pur­pose.”

He com­pares the steps he’s made – and will make – to a chal­leng­ing up­hill climb: “It’s like Mt Rainier is the tallest moun­tain in Wash­ing­ton, and I need to get up that moun­tain to get where I’m go­ing ... and I have a long way to go, but I’m on the right track.”

— Pho­tos: TNS

McClin­tock skate­board­ing out­side his home. Noth­ing more ex­treme than a turn over move for him nowa­days – and he al­ways wears a hel­met.

McClin­tock (with his dog Nemo) and all his hel­mets. When he sees peo­ple – es­pe­cially kids – cy­cling or skate­board­ing with­out a hel­met, he will give them one or give them money to buy one.

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