Wed, Jan 03, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Quadriplegic warns against drunk driving

By Hsieh Chieh-yu and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Chen Wen-chao poses in military uniform in an undated photograph.

Photo: Hsieh Chieh-yu, Taipei Times

Motivational speaker Chen Wen-chao (陳文昭) said the consequences of his drunk driving, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, has motivated him to warn others about alcohol abuse.

Now a published writer, 54-year-old Chen speaks at community organizations, schools and prisons against drunk driving, and to encourage people to live up to their responsibilities.

A crash two decades ago following a night out with friends wrecked his body and almost ruined his life, he said.

At the time, he had just retired from a promising career in the army, where he had served as the leader of a marksmen unit, as a company commander and a military intelligence officer, he added.

When he retired to work on his father’s tea plantation, he was young and fit, but his decision to drive while intoxicated changed all that, Chen said.

After the crash, he became depressed and tried to kill himself on several occasions before being shocked into rediscovering his will to live when his father committed suicide by poison due to the stress of the situation, he said.

“Struggle is the meaning of life. If you succeed, you become a legend. If you fail, you would still make a fine joke,” Chen said.

After recovering from depression, he sought training at Taichung’s Chung Shan Medical University Hospital, where he learned to operate a computer via sip-and-puff input, an assistive technology for people who do not have use of their hands.

Since then, Chen has been writing and touring the nation to give speeches about drunk driving to a variety of audiences, both of which are punctuated by gallows humor.

He said he composes most of his speeches and written work in his “woodpecker studio,” so named because his posture in front of the computer resembles “nothing so much as a woodpecker.”

Printouts of various punch lines and puns he has devised decorate the study’s walls.

“Drink until you are smashed? You just might,” one reads.

“I keep going back to the theme that drinking really screwed my life up. Like I keep telling the inmates: They still have their arms and legs. They have time to avoid harming themselves and others,” Chen said.

Years of practice have made him proficient with a computer, and he does marketing and sales for the farmers of his hometown, Nantou County’s Mingjian Township (名間), he said.

In 2002, the Institute for Information Industry awarded him the Sunflower Award for people who have mastered innovative technologies to overcome their disabilities.

In 2006, he received the Ministry of Health and Welfare’s Golden Eagle Award for exemplary achievements by a person with disabilities.

He has also received many encouraging words from readers after publishing his first book, Writing My Life With Breath (我用呼吸書寫人生), including a stressed-out student who said reading the book dissuaded them from suicide, Chen said.

A second book, tentatively titled “Not Only the Sun Gives Light” (發光不是太陽的權利), is expected to be published later this year, he said.

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