In 2006 Peter Apps was living the life he felt he was meant to lead, and what he had worked towards for several years. He was a 25 year old journalist and had just spent the last two years on assignment with Reuters in southern Africa. On Sept 5th 2006, Peter was in Sri Lanka at the height of the civil war. Whilst travelling on a main road across the eastern front, his minibus was involved in a horrific head on collision with a tractor. Peter had broken his neck. He thought his life was over, and at times wished it was. In fact he was paralyzed from the shoulders down.
In this powerful episode, Peter explains how he overcame this life defining moment. How he was back at work inside a year. His determination not to let his disability define him. His work with the British Army and setting up a think tank as well as his efforts to stand as a candidate for Labour in Vauhxall where he now lives. Peter’s story is truly remarkable and yet another example of the inspirational Londoners who make up our beautiful city.
“The year I was in Sri Lanka was the year Sri Lanka ripped itself apart.”
At 21 Peter started working at Reuters—and as he was the youngest and most mobile of the team, he was usually the first one sent out the door on assignment all over Africa. After traveling from country to country, Peter decided he wanted to stay out on assignment for as long as possible. The only assignment available was in Sri Lanka, where he had to take a large pay cut and cover stories during the middle of a cease fire of the country’s Civil War.
“I told one of the doctors that I was faking a hand grenade in my pocket because I wanted to see if they would shoot me.”
While investigating child soldier recruitment by a sect of the civil war, Peter’s minibus hit a tractor—leaving Peter immediately paralyzed. A lot of thoughts ran through Peter’s mind on the roadside, unable to move and struggling to breathe. He kept a remarkably cool head and was already thinking about what his life would be like with a physical disability. A slew of thoughts to struggle over, no doubt. But Peter had gone to Sri Lanka knowing of the dangers, and this mindset likely helped him cope and pull through the shock of such a traumatic life event—and his return to London in need of more medical aid and assistance on his road back to being independent.
He was in a private rehab facility while recovering and learned to use voice recognition software, being able to write his own emails just a few months after coming back. Finding an accessible flat was another struggle, and finding work that wouldn’t discriminate against his disability—a search that did have him back at Reuters as a risk analyst.
Peter has continued to work at Reuters while also being a part of a London Reserves Army unit, starting a think tank, giving a TEDx talk (which you can watch here), and engaging his political side by running for local MP at Vauxhall.