Five years ago, Paul Dragan was clinging to life in hospital.
The owner of Reckless Bikes in Vancouver’s Yaletown narrowly avoided death at the hands of an ex-employee, who shot Dragan outside a nearby Starbucks on June 10, 2014.
Now, Dragan is using his survival story as motivation to help a local humanitarian as he works with amputees in war-torn countries.
WATCH (Sept. 14, 2014): Paul Dragan shares his remarkable recovery
“When you come out the other side of something like that, you look at life differently and you want to do something nice because people did something nice for you,” he said, referring to the paramedics who saved his life.
Dragan has lent his support to Stephen Sumner, who lost his leg 15 years ago in Italy after a hit-and-run driver collided with his motorcycle.
Sumner has since dealt with chronic pain brought on by phantom limb syndrome, a common affliction for amputees in which pain exists in the place where the limb used to be. He was in agony before discovering “mirror therapy” online.
“It’s a very simple but effective therapy where you use a mirror to trick the brain into thinking the missing limb is there,” he said. “I cured myself in four to five weeks.”
After receiving an artificial limb and recovering from his pain through mirror therapy, Sumner dedicated himself to introducing the therapy to those who need it most.
His charity, Me and My Mirror, allows him to visit amputees on cycling tours around the world to help them recover and overcome pain using nothing but mirrors.
“It occurred to me that I’m the lucky one and was able to cure this extreme pain using the world’s most basic household appliance,” he said. “I said to myself, ‘I have to share this.'”
When Sumner needed a new bike for his most recent mission through Sri Lanka, Myanmar and northern Vietnam, Dragan gifted his longtime friend with a new cargo bike from his store.
“I had a particular bike here at the store and I gave it to him for a test ride, and he loved it so I said, ‘I’ll try to get you one,'” Dragan said. “I got the supplier to get me one, which was the least I could do for him since he’s going off to these place on his own dime.”
Sumner said the unique bike, which allows him to carry the mirrors and other necessary gear, was exactly what he needed to complete his journey.
“I had two other cargo bikes that did the trick, but this new one had just the right specifications: it’s light but strong and much more compact,” Sumner said.
“I can sneak it onto a train or an airplane, which is perfect for when I get tired or lazy,” he added with a chuckle.
Sumner is now planning more trips with his new bike, including a trip through Colombia this fall and a tour through eastern Europe next spring.
WATCH (Jan. 12, 2016): Mirror therapy and how it helps amputees
Dragan, who still suffers his own pain and side effects from the shooting, says watching Sumner turn his experience into something that benefits those in greater need is inspiring.
“I lost a lung, and no one looks at me differently,” he said. “Everyone looks at Steve differently, but he doesn’t let that stop him so this was my way of doing something positive.”
—With files from Paul Johnson