Nicholas “Nick” Chisholm

Nicholas (“Nick”) Chisholm (1977 – ) was perhaps best known as a New Zealand rugby player. An avid athlete, he was a “type T” personality, a consummate thrill-seeker in sport and fitness—running, weight training, biking, playing rugby, whatever. Then, in 2000 the circumstances of his life were twisted and the arena of sport, a battle for recognition that he was not merely physically alive but entirely cognizant.

At age 27, he suffered a mild stroke and three days later a massive stroke. Doctors induced a coma to stabilize him. He survived but succumbed to quadriplegia. Moreover, doctors presumed that Nick was brain dead. However, the neurosurgeon noticed alertness in Nick’s eyes; indeed, his eyes were the only source of movement. This is because “the motor pathways for eyes connect within the brain, not through the brain stem and spinal cord.”

His consciousness remained intact yet Nick was trapped inside the shell of his body. This medical condition is known as Locked-in Syndrome, an experience wherein cognitive and sensory functions are entirely operational while physical capacities, including breathing and vocalization, are immobilized.

With the benefit of rehabilitation, Nick has re-learned how to move a toe, a finger, hands, thighs, legs. He has regained the ability to breathe… and to smile! But the journey was punctuated with suicidal contemplations, however futile due to the paraplegia. At one point early on, a friend offered to end Nick’s misery, were that his wish. But suicide was not a choice he was willing to make.

Rather than forfeit his will, he continued to live his life as he had before his incapacitation. He lives beyond devastation, putting all his mind, heart, and spirit into surpassing limitations. Today Nick uses weight training, not to get buff or even to foster health but as a means of exercising POWER in its rawest form—iron against muscle and the yielding of resistance to brute persuasion.

The kind of extreme sport of which Nick’s life is made begs the question: What if we could know unwaveringly that we are entitled to that which we have the audacity to claim? Who among us would hesitate? Read his story at and appreciate how this heroic man, who cannot walk, flies!

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