Paul Collins - My Story

Fifteen months ago I had an accident which lead to me being hospitalised for nearly 10 months, I was discharged five months later.

My values of what is truly important in life, my inner resolve to be able to walk through the darkest period of my life so far, have left me in a place of deep gratitude, inner peace and the reignited passion to pursue conservation - my own honest pure truth - with a level of integrity and freedom that before this I didn’t believe was possible.

In both of my legs I had to have major, radical surgery to open up the circulation and while this worked and I narrowly escaped bilateral amputation (which was scheduled to happen) I have been left with the task of learning to walk again and have had to completely rebuild my physical body from scratch.

I also cut off the blood supply to my bowel, spent 35 days in intensive care fighting for my life, lost my entire large bowel, 2 parts of my small bowel and my gall bladder. I was septic, in kidney failure, required multiple massive surgeries and my family and friends were told to come and say goodbye to me on several occasions.

Why am I telling you this?

I have faced my own death a few times. I have faced a life with no legs, on permanent dialysis, with a permanent colostomy bag, on heavy medications with the possibilities of leading a normal and active life completely removed from me. On paper I was a dead man - I was given a less than 5% chance of survival, yet here I am.

My whole outlook on life has since changed as a result of the accident, subsequent rehabilitation and healing process that is still part of my daily life.

I am a veterinarian with a desire to use my knowledge and experience for wildlife sustainability and conservation. I am passionately driven to explore, protect and show people the outstanding beauty that mother nature has provided us in this world which is in a vulnerable and fragile place at this moment.

I was born and raised in Jersey, Channel Islands and spent my childhood exploring and investigating the very unique ecosystem that holds a very special place in my heart.

I have always had a scientific mind, and a deep passion for animals. I started working in a pet shop and decided I was going to be a veterinarian at age 13. I spent many days and have beautiful memories of Jersey Zoo, created by Gerald Durrell. It is the only zoo which exclusively deals with endangered animals and pioneered breeding programs and conservation of the environment in Madagascar, where a large proportion of the zoo’s animals originate from.

After completing high school, I travelled to England and completed an honours degree in animal science from the University of Nottingham; with a view to pursuing my dream of becoming a veterinarian. This came true in 2001 when I was accepted into the University of Queensland to study this degree.

Graduating In 2005 my dream of pursuing a career in wildlife medicine had to be put on hold with the birth of my son, Toby. I entered into the career path of small animal medicine and surgery. But the grind of society, the pressures of financial responsibility, the birth of my second child Madeleine and my fear of stepping out and taking a huge risk to pursue my dream kept me stuck in this role for 12 years.

When working full time I lost sight of what is truly important, what my core values were, what my dream was. I have developed a huge amount of gratitude for what has happened to me over the last 15 months. Without this painful, soul destroying, emotionally crippling experience, I would never have been able to find the inner strength, passion for life, ability to face my fears and death that has lead me to be in the situation I now find myself in.

My dream of following my passion of wildlife conservation has now become something I believe is possible.

There's still the possibility of combining my passion for wildlife conservation and sustainable management. My experience of the very deep personal, physical and emotional life changing challenges I have had, and continue to face, is something that has given me even more incentive to keep moving forward, even on those days that seem dark and impossible to overcome.

I look forward to sharing this journey with whoever is interested in exploring with me this most amazing planet we have been given as a free gift, and the inner journey of finding our own truth, facing our fears, overcoming our own personal issues, and finding our place in mother nature which is truly beyond description with any words that I can find.

Wildiaries • April 2018