Hello! I'm Philip Stokes, I'm 30 years old, and I'm from Torrance, CA. I'm a disabled pilot and aspiring professional motivational speaker. Currently I live with chronic nerve pain and paralysis after my spinal cord injury in 2006 when I was just 17 years old. I've been a full-arm amputee since October 2012. As time has gone on, I have learned to regard my spinal cord injury as one of the best things to ever happen to me because of what I have gained as a result of the loss of my arm. I've gained such an immense appreciation for the power of patience, perspective, positivity, perseverance, and passion over the years that I have grown as a student pilot learning to fly despite my clipped wing.
Preface and Motorcycle Accident
Although my motorcycle accident was a huge turning point in my life, the tough times all really started with the death of my dad in 2005 from a violent heart attack in my arms. I miss him every day. A year after his death, the spinal cord injury occurred which really drove the knife in deeper. I began a downward spiral through the rest of 2006 through 2008 that included anger and aggression that got me kicked out of my own house, amphetamine use and prescription drug abuse, lonliness, and depression among other things. When the accident happened and I paralyzed my arm, I couldnt do very much physically at all--especially ride my motorcycle or surf with my arm in an arm sling. It pained me to not be able to do what my dad and I had spent my childhood growing up doing together. 2007 into 2009 saw two experimental major surgeries and two shoulder surgeries. Ultimately the efforts to try to save my deteriorated arm were futile and in 2012 I voluntarily decided to have it amputated due to the severe atrophy, advanced arthritis in my hand and elbow, and a shoulder that would disjoint constantly. I even had to convince the doctors that I believed that this was truly the right thing to do.
The irony that I would be showcasing the attitude that I needed to get rid of--with the same arm/hand that I would soon lose in the accident on the same motorcycle a year or so later
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Fulfilling A Life-Long Dream
When I was very young, my uncle came to visit my family in Torrance. I learned that he flew fighter jets and I thought that that was just the coolest thing imaginable. As I grew older, I always admired him for that and other things that he had achieved. Even just the idea of airplanes in general intrigued me. The idea of flying seemed to me then, as it does now, to be one of the most badass things that humans have ever done--easily top 3. I obsessed over airplanes like the F-14 Tomcat and the F-16 Fighting Falcon throughout elementary school and middle school. When I was 9 years old, my dad arranged for me to go on an actual flying lesson with a flight instructor. The experience was so spectacular despite me vomiting everywhere as we came in to land! From then on, I dreamed of becoming a pilot one day. Today, I am one of the few licensed full-arm amputee pilots in the country. Flying brings all kinds of interesting challenges to an amputee, so I've had to really adapt and utilize a prosthetic arm as you can see. Over the years I've spent training to fly safely with one hand, I've had the pleasure of speaking publicly about the lessons I have learned about personal reflection, growth, adaptation, and mind over matter from my aviation experiences. This is what I was born to do, so to be flying despite my clipped wing is extremely special to me and the best way I can think of to utilize a 2nd chance at life.
Having the amputation done was one of the best decisions that I've ever made. I had finally escaped a mindset that was full of guilt of wasting the efforts of the surgeons. I had also escaped a mindset that was afraid of looking disfigured by having one arm, even though it had been 6 years since my arm had been able to work at all. One night, while up late and unable to fall asleep because of my failing- and dislocating- shoulder, I realized that quality of life is what was really important. To choose to amputate was to choose a new life--freed from my parasitic arm. I envisioned playing soccer with my girlfriend who also loved soccer. I envisioned being able to run and get fit. I envisioned a future later on in life where I could rough-house with my kids without the risk of my arm coming apart and me ending up in the hospital. Soccer specifically has been one of the most transformative things that I have learned to adapt to. Sharpness of the mind, oneness with the body and sense of balance, freedom of movement, and the challenging physicality of soccer have been things that I have enjoyed and adapted to in order to play with confidence and competitivness. Now I'm only half as likely to receive a call against me for a "handball." :P The "clipped wing" title also sounded nice to me because I typically play the winger position in the midfield whether I'm playing futsal, 7v7, or full field 11v11 men's leagues.