DUBAI: When he was just six-years-old, Michael Haddad, from Lebanon, lost the use of 75 percent of his body in an accident, now, 30 years later, he plans to walk 100 km across the North Pole to raise awareness of climate change.
Despite being paralyzed from the chest down in a jet-ski accident, Haddad has refused to allow his disability to stand in the way of him achieving what most would consider unachievable for a man with the use of just 25 percent of his body.
“Disability is not in my character, disability does not limit my performance, it is not in the body – disability is a state of mind,” Haddad told Arab news.
“All my life I was walking toward something – to deliver a message that nothing is impossible, and to tell people it’s time for us to act now,” he added.
As a man who has lost the use of three quarters of his body, Haddad is determined to prove to the world – for him at least – disability is merely a psychological barrier.
“I chose to walk, because they told me it was impossible for me to walk, and I chose to walk on ice because maybe impossible will become possible and maybe we could start having a change,” he said.
Using crutches to carry his lower body, Haddad places a lot of reliance on his pectoral muscles, which connect the front of the chest with the bones of the upper arm and shoulder.
“I am balancing myself… the small pectoral muscle is fully carrying my body…in each step I take I am carrying around 100 kgs,” he explains.
Haddad, who is Lebanon’s UN Development Programme climate change ambassador, chose the North Pole because “it is the only indicator of how climate change is a catastrophic reality.”
The expedition, called “A Walk for Humanity,” will also involve thorough scientific research.
A team of scientists and engineers monitoring Haddad are working on inventing specialized technology which could potentially provide solutions for other people with disabilities to be able to walk again.
His previous endeavors include taking 60,000 steps (19km) in Lebanon’s mountains to raise awareness of reforestation in 2013, climbing Beirut’s Raouche Rock in 2015 in a push against water pollution and threats to marine life, and a month later, he crossed the Black Summit to highlight climate change in snowshoes.
However, with all these unthinkable feats, Haddad says his greatest achievement was taking the first step – something he describes as the “base of it all.”
Strict training regime
In order to prepare for a walk that would take its toll on anyone, let alone a paralyzed man, Haddad undergoes hours of training every day.
“Swimming six days a week and walking every day, it’s the only aerobics he can do which gives him integration and fluidity and gives him a sort of synergy to keep his mobility high,” Haddad’s personal trainer Joe Ibrahim told Arab News.
Haddad also has to undergo obstacle courses that take him out of his comfort zone in order to get him used to the harsh conditions, as well as a fully-structured gym schedule.
“We start with something called cycle, whenever we have a challenge, the first stage will be an overall circuit on the skeletal muscles with no isolation on specific muscles – we work on the whole upper body for a month, month and a half,” Ibrahim said.
After this, Michael moves onto a split workout which focuses on two muscles – working his way to an isolation workout which is considered high in intensity and tension, the trainer explains.
Haddad’s latest challenge is now just a little over a month away and the world waits to see if he will defy all odds yet again.