A few times in a lifetime you get the chance to say “I was there”

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How else to grab a coffee.
How else to grab a coffee.

Well, many of us felt that way last Sunday at the Pattaya Expats Club when Jerry Limb gave his first ever public talk “Out on a Limb”.

He admitted after that he was nervous as hell, and was shaking much of the way through – but no one noticed as the power of his story spoke for itself. Many people came away saying it was the most inspiring presentation they had ever seen.

Jerry in action.
Jerry in action.

Jerry Limb was one of 100,000 babies born between 1957 and 1962 with the effects of thalidomide. Of those, only about 10,000 survived beyond birth and of those 10,000, there are only just over 450 still alive. Jerry was told over 40 years ago that he had a life expectancy of just 7 years.

Thalidomide was an anti-morning sickness drug that resulted in terrible deformities in the foetus. Every part of the body and its organs could be affected. In Jerry’s particular case it resulted in him having no arms. When his Dad saw him for the first time after he was born, he fainted.

The compensation originally paid out in a shameful agreement with the UK government was just £7000! This was in the sixties, so it would be equivalent to only about £120,000 today. The parents were pressured into signing a permanent waiver for the future.

With such a start anyone might expect his story and talk to be pretty depressing … on the contrary — it was a totally uplifting talk that is a tribute to the human spirit and the ability to use what you’ve got rather than complain about what you haven’t.

During his life Jerry Limb has achieved so many things that one would say were impossible. He has driven fast cars at 165 mph, without getting nabbed by the cops! He passed the driving test using a specially adapted Mini in which he could use his feet to steer, but normally he simply uses his feet directly on the steering wheel.

Jerry, Michelle and friends.
Jerry, Michelle and friends.

He paints and draws to a professional standard — using his mouth and feet: this does take him longer than other artists — in one case, four months to finish one painting. He is a black belt in Karate, of which his dad was supremely proud, and he passed his Royal Yacht Association exam, which included having to demonstrate the ‘man overboard’ life-saving ability and tying bowline knots with his toes.

His dream was to ride a motor bike so he had one made with handlebars extended to his upper body. There is a video of Jerry shooting along on his motor bike, with that trademark smile and his gold front tooth flashing defiance to anyone who thought he could never do it.

Jerry has children and grandchildren, whose nappies he would change with his toes and who he would pick up to carry in his teeth. Animals and children have a natural sense of affinity with Jerry and they instinctively adapt their behaviour to the fact he has no arms. Dogs brush up to his feet for a stroke and babies hang on round his neck or stay perfectly still to have their nappies changed.

Jerry addresses the PCEC. Many people came away saying it was the most inspiring presentation they had ever seen.
Jerry addresses the PCEC. Many people came away saying it was the most inspiring presentation they had ever seen.

Jerry ‘s beautiful girlfriend Michelle was there to see the response he got from the audience and her face was a picture of the pride and love that was in all of us. His talk gave all of us the opportunity to see how powerful and inspiring the essence of us can be — how by playing big in life we get the best rewards. I have known Jerry for 20 years, but not well until the last few weeks in Pattaya when I had the privilege to read his upcoming autobiographical book “Out on a Limb”, and to spend lots of laugh time with him and Michelle.

Equally as amazing as what he mentioned in the talk, is what he left out — glossing over enormous achievements in a single phrase, and there is not an ounce of self pity in the man. Be pleased if you were there on that Sunday. I believe that when the book comes out, and he gets out there to speak to more audiences, Jerry Limb will take the spotlight as an inspiration to millions.

He has achieved nearly everything else, so who says he cannot star as himself in a Hollywood film? Nothing surprises me about the courage, spirit and abilities of Jerry Limb: he is a celebration of life and we should all be proud to call him our friend and inspiration.