The ten-year-old boy lies face down in the bathtub; the six inches of water in there should be enough, he thinks, to drown himself. There seems to be no going back from this, either: after all, he has no arms or hands with which to grip the sides of the tub and pull himself out, nor does he have any legs to stand back up on.
He rolls over a couple of times, gauging how much oxygen he has left. On his final flip, though, something stops him from taking that ultimate leap into the unknown. Furthermore, as he grows up his fortunes turn around; in fact, the once despairing young boy becomes an inspirational leader who affects the lives of millions.
Nearly 33 years ago, Nick Vujicic stunned both his parents and doctors when he arrived into the world without any arms or legs. Even today, nobody has yet been able to explain why the Australian developed the exceptionally rare condition known as tetra-amelia syndrome.
However, Nick was born with a small left foot – one, moreover, that has a somewhat tongue-in-cheek nickname. As Nick has joked during one of his many public speaking gigs, “We call this a chicken drumstick because, first of all, it looks like one and, second of all, sometimes my dog thinks it is one.”
But as Nick’s pre-teen suicide attempt shows, life was sometimes a struggle growing up as someone with tetra-amelia syndrome. At school, for example, he was often picked on for being different – something that it was hard for him not to take to heart. “When you’re growing up in life, it actually sort of matters to people how you look,” he has said. “And then it matters to you.”
The schoolboy battled with depression from the age of eight, even going so far as that suicide attempt at the age of ten. He has singled out both the support of his parents and his strong Christian faith as the reasons why he is still here today.
Heartbreakingly, a young Nick even used to ask God to give him arms and legs. In a 2008 interview with ABC News, he elaborated, saying, “I thought maybe I wasn’t good enough. Maybe that’s the reason why He’s not answering my prayer. I mean, arms and legs are nothing for God, the creator of the universe.”
And during this isolated and lonely time Nick longed to meet someone who looked like him – a childhood wish that he recalled in adulthood when meeting a limbless toddler at an event in California. Indeed, as he explained while speaking at the TEDxNoviSad event in 2012, this encounter made him realize that “when you don’t get a miracle, you can be a miracle for someone else.”
It was in fact Nick’s high school janitor who first encouraged him to share his story with others, believing that the then 17-year-old had the potential to become a great motivational speaker. Nick, moreover, took the advice on board, going on to talk of his experiences at school-organized and local events. Then at college he even took public speaking lessons alongside his studies.
To date, then, Nick has shared his inspirational story in more than 54 countries, including an appearance in front of a crowd of over 40,000 people at Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium. He has also addressed five congresses and met seven presidents from across the globe.
And, following a move to California in 2007, Nick is currently the president of the global ministry charity Life Without Limbs. Besides which, he heads up the company Attitude is Altitude, which distributes his range of motivational multimedia items.
Through motivational events, anti-bullying campaigns and DVDs, Nick has, then, shown people of all ages and backgrounds how to overcome adversity. And yet he’s more than just a charismatic speaker.
In fact, in his 32 years Nick has pulled off a lot more than most able-bodied people. He’s published several books, has his own radio show and has even produced a music video. Plus, he is the award-winning star of 2009 short film The Butterfly Circus.
What’s more, although Nick still requires a level of care, he lives day-to-day with a surprising degree of independence. His foot has proved indispensable in this, allowing him to perform some of the basic tasks that most of us take for granted.
With his foot, he has learned to write, play a drum machine, communicate in sign language and type at a speed of 43 words a minute. Meanwhile, using his teeth he can pop open a can of soda.
One of Nick’s stage tricks is answering the phone by flipping it onto his ear. Recently, meanwhile, he even learned to drive a specially adapted car using his foot to steer and his mouth to change gear. And that’s not all.
In his free time, Nick has skydived and surfed, while he also partakes in a spot of fishing, golfing, painting and swimming. Of the latter pursuit, he has told the BBC somewhat wryly, “Because I have no arms and legs that weigh me down, I actually float like a life vest.”
And while he naturally couldn’t get down on one knee when proposing to his now-wife Kanae, Nick was still able to slip that engagement ring on her finger simply by using his mouth. “I’m Prince Charming with a couple bits and pieces missing,” he has joked.
The inspirational Australian – who as a boy doubted that he would ever find love – married Kanae in 2012. And, touchingly, as he has said on one of his speaking assignments, “I may not have hands to hold my wife’s hands but, when the time comes, I’ll be able to hold her heart. I don’t need hands to hold her heart.”
The couple welcomed their first child, Kiyoshi James, in 2013; their second son, Dejan Levi, was born in August 2015. And while tetra-amelia syndrome is not thought to be genetic, Nick has still admitted to having been relieved when both boys arrived with all limbs intact.
It’s clear, then, that Nick is continuing to go from strength to strength in both his professional and personal lives. And no doubt he will continue to deliver his inspirational story to audiences across the globe and with a healthy dose of humor – proving all the while that though he may have no limbs, he has plenty of guts.