It’s all about having a positive attitude

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If you were to become a paraplegic in the prime of life because of a terrible accident, your life would be forever altered. You could choose to feel sorry for yourself and become fully dependent on others. Or you could choose to make the best of the situation and to fight back. Jens Maspfuhl chose to fight back. It’s all about having a positive attitude.

Jens spoke at the Pattaya City Expats Club meeting on Sunday, January 25. The audience was profoundly moved by his story.

An avid golfer, Jens, who is from Germany, was on his way to a golf course in Thailand in November 2003 with two friends. They had trouble finding the golf course. When Jens got out of the car to ask for directions, he was hit by another vehicle. His neck was broken and he suffered a compressed vertebrae and bone splinters that left him paralysed from the chest down.

Jens Maspfuhl tells his PCEC audience that having a positive attitude was key to his success in playing golf again after his tragic accident. He described how he also established a foundation in Germany to raise money for victims of the tsunami that hit Thailand and to help disabled people in Thailand.Jens Maspfuhl tells his PCEC audience that having a positive attitude was key to his success in playing golf again after his tragic accident. He described how he also established a foundation in Germany to raise money for victims of the tsunami that hit Thailand and to help disabled people in Thailand.

A few hours later, Jens was operated on at Bangkok Hospital Pattaya. Two weeks later, Jens was admitted to a centre for spinal surgery and neurotraumatology in Frankfurt, where he underwent six months of rehabilitation.

In order to get about, Jens has to use a wheelchair. He said that he viewed the wheelchair not as a handicap but as a challenge. Fortunately, he regained the use of his hands which had initially also been paralysed. Jens worked hard to build his strength and to master the techniques of getting around in a wheelchair. And when his brother found a power golfer that allowed people in wheelchairs to play golf, Jens was determined that he was going to hit the fairways and greens again.

PCEC Chairman Roy Albiston presents Jens Maspfuhl with the Club’s Certificate of Appreciation for his inspiring story about becoming a paraplegic and how he went on to have an active and meaningful life.PCEC Chairman Roy Albiston presents Jens Maspfuhl with the Club’s Certificate of Appreciation for his inspiring story about becoming a paraplegic and how he went on to have an active and meaningful life.

Jens decided to go back to Thailand to live. His family was against the idea because Thailand was not known as being very amenable to disabled people. But Jens said that he had fallen in love with Thailand when he first came here and so that’s where he wanted to be. He added that he always found a helping hand in Thailand whereas back in his home country people were too busy to take care of him.

He returned to Thailand just over a year after the accident and, coincidentally, two days before the tsunami that hit on 26 December 2004. Jens stayed at the Diana Garden Resort in North Pattaya where they have seven handicapped rooms.

Members Sermsakdi, Richard Smith, and Roy Albiston welcome Banglamung District Chief Chakorn Kanjawattana (3rd from left) to the PCEC’s Sunday meeting.

Jens started a foundation in Germany to raise money for victims of the tsunami and to help disabled people in Thailand. The foundation provided equipment to the Father Ray Foundation to improve the wheelchairs it was using for disabled students so that they could go to work after school. The foundation also organises an annual golf tournament to raise money for the disabled.

Jens works with disabled people in Thailand who advocate making this country more accessible to the disabled. They are making progress, Jens said. For example, within the next 12 months, all BTS stations in Bangkok will be handicapped accessible. But there is more work to be done. Jens said that in Thailand the government provides just 500 baht a month in financial aid to disabled persons. Further, some foundations help, such as the Father Ray Foundation that established a job centre for disabled employees.

Jens told the story of a 33-year-old woman who was a hostess in a Thai Airways lounge and who was confined to a bed after being involved in a bad accident and could barely move. His foundation obtained an electric wheelchair for her. She is now able to sit up in the wheelchair for six hours a day. Now she has an iPad and a Facebook site and a much better outlook on life.

Jens said that he plays golf with other disabled persons on a course in Laem Chabang. The group includes one man who has just one leg and one man who is blind. “Imagine telling your wife that you lost to a blind person!” Jens joked. Before the accident, Jens said, his golf handicap was about 9; now it is 24.

Pattaya Mail reporters Surasak Huasoon and Urasin Khantaraphan show the 3 gift baskets donated by Urasin to PCEC Chairman Roy Albiston and Vice Chairman Richard Smith, which will be raffled off by the PCEC for funds to donate to charity.Pattaya Mail reporters Surasak Huasoon and Urasin Khantaraphan show the 3 gift baskets donated by Urasin to PCEC Chairman Roy Albiston and Vice Chairman Richard Smith, which will be raffled off by the PCEC for funds to donate to charity.

Jens said that he has been using a wheelchair now for 10 years and is still happy. Further, it’s all about having a positive attitude. You need a lot of people around you to support you, he said. “If you are in a bad mood and always complaining, your friends will leave you.” For more information on the activities of Jens Maspfuhl, visit his website: http://jens-maspfuhl.de/.

MC Richard Silverberg brought everyone up to date on upcoming events and called on Roy Albiston to conduct the Open Forum, where questions are asked and answered about Expat living in Thailand, especially Pattaya.

For more information on the PCEC’s many activities, visit their website at www.pcecclub.org.