Paralyzed No More - How Music Saved My Life

Posted by Louis Edlinger
Richard "RB" Botto Richard "RB" Botto

Today's guest blog is from Stage 32 member and composer Louis Edlinger. Louis was just a normal teenager who loved sports and playing drums when his life was turned upside down at the age of 14.

This is a story about strength, will and perseverance.  It's a story about drive, desire, and passion.  It's a story about the power of the creative mind and soul. Some would even say it's a story about miracles.
I love this story.  I know you will too.

My name is Louis Edlinger and I’m 19 years old. Although I’m still young I experienced things in my life which a lot of people will never experience. A lot of bad things, but I don't like referring to those things as bad experiences because without them I wouldn't be the man I am today. 

While growing up in a tiny village in the German Alps, I was a freestyle skier, but when I was 14 years old, my life changed dramatically in the blink of an eye. My home was my mountains, and they nearly killed me. In February 2009, I was skiing off road - like any 14-year-old boy would do - when I fell and accidentally triggered an avalanche. Then, the impossible happened. I was trapped deep in 200 meters of rolling rock and then crashed against a tree. It was so horrific; I was the only person out of 6 to survive that day. 

After the accident, I was in a coma for 2 weeks, followed by another 2 months in intensive care, and finally totaling a year in the hospital. I am now sitting in a wheelchair, paralyzed from my waist down, and for a time, my right arm and parts of my stomach were paralyzed too. That was a change in life, I’m telling you. I think if I would’ve understood what really happened to me during those days it would have been even tougher and harder to move on. I didn’t realize what was ahead of me. During those days, I thought it was only going to take a few months and then I’d just walk out of the hospital – yeah right! Over the course of several operations on both my stomach and my head, I realized that without the amazing doctors attending to my care, I wouldn’t be alive, and for that I’m very thankful. 

When I woke up from the coma, I had one aim – to walk again. I thought to myself that the people telling me I couldn’t were wrong; I knew and believed that I could reach any goal I wanted in life – anything!  Once I asked a doctor when I would be able to move again and to use my hand and my feet. He answered: “Oh, you will never be able to move anything again. You’re paralyzed. You have to cope with that now.” He then smiled at me, which left me broken. I fell into a deep hole emotionally. Eventually, I pushed myself up. I said to myself, “NO! This is not going to happen, you are 14 years old and this isn’t how you are going to spend the rest of your life!” And from that day on, I ignored the things that the doctors said to me about never being able to walk or move my right hand again. 

My family helped me a lot, especially my dad. He searched for doctors and specialists who might be able to help. I was faced with a variety of different techniques and mentalities from all different doctors. I went to Switzerland, Austria, and all over Germany to meet doctors and homeopathic practitioners. This alone was a lot for a teenager to go through. This process was long and strenuous, but it helped filter out all of the things I thought would help me walk again.

After several months of looking at my hand and wishing it would move, my pinkie finger started moving. That was my first success. I developed my own technique of looking at my hand and thinking it would be fine, and even though I could not move my hand perfectly, I could at least move it partially. The best thing I learned was how to use my thoughts and most importantly how to control them.

After about a year of struggle, I finally did it! I was able to move my hand perfectly fine. Today, I don’t even remember how it felt when I couldn’t move it. Of course, the doctors explained my success was nothing but pure luck. Well, I was sure smiling when they said it because I know I did it myself. I stayed confident, strong minded, worked through the pain and made it happen. 

Today, I am still sitting in the wheelchair, but I keep improving, slowly but surely. I don’t know how long I will be in the wheelchair - could be 1, 5, or even 15 years - but I am fine with it because I am thankful for what happened to me. Thankful, you say? Yes, I answer and here’s why – without this incident I wouldn’t have my true passion and be living the wonderful life that I am right now. I have music. My music.

Before my accident, I took drum lessons, just like the usual teenage boy. Like all other teenagers of the world, I was in my own bubble; I never studied or bothered to do anything. But my accident didn’t only take away my love of playing sports; it took away my drums too. I can’t use my feet, so I can’t pedal a bass drum.

One day while in the hospital, I found a room in where they had a piano. Although I could only play with my left hand, I’d still play some notes. Whenever I got sad I went to that room. Luckily, it was always empty and never locked. Like someone placed the piano there just for me.

So, I started practicing more and more. The sound made me forget my troubles. It made me happy, relaxed. As soon as I played a key, I was brought into some kind of dream world. In this musical escape of the daily hospital routine I was skiing and even running at the beach. The one song that I always practiced was Sunburn by Muse. It was so hard to play, especially with a limp right hand, but one day, I thought: I could do this. And I did. I played the first verse. God, I was so proud of myself. The success of that verse and that piano gave me hope and proof that my life wasn’t over because I couldn’t walk.

Since that taste of musical feeling (and freedom), I haven’t stopped. When I got home from the hospital my dad’s piano was no longer his, it was mine - my escape from the accident and the aftermath. When my friends went out in the clubs, I stayed home, spending hours playing that piano. I’d much rather stay home and play music. After teaching myself how to play piano, I did the same thing with guitar. The more music, the more happiness. Winter came, so my friends went skiing, so I start composing my first songs.  School was the last thing on my mind. I just wanted my music. 

In 2012, some friends invited me to live in the south of Portugal for 3 months. I figured, why not, I could visit an international school, and I could learn English. It’s a beautiful area. I thought a change would be good for me. Well, those 3 months became 2 years, which led to my graduation from the British English school system. While there I went to a party one night. At the party there was a stage and guitars for people to play and have fun. Well, I played one of my own compositions and the crowd loved it. I was thrilled, not only by the reaction, but by how far I’d come.

That night, there was a man in the crowd, an award winning music producer from London, Mike Myers, who has worked in the music industry for more than 40 years and has over 40 million record sales to his credit. He approached me after my performance. We talked all night. He invited me to his studio – imagine that - and now I am currently recording my first studio song. The experience has beyond magical. I am beyond grateful. 

I've been able to apply my music to the moving picture and have started to compose on film and media. I am now back in Germany applying to university for Composition for Film and Media and taking private lessons from an incredible teacher, Sami Hammi.  I decided to study this because I feel like it is a great opportunity for my songwriting projects. I just love working with an image (or moving images). Movies without music aren't real movies. Although a lot of people underestimate the music in movies it is an essential part in the film industry. Whenever I watch a movie, I sometimes catch myself listening to the music instead of concentrating on the story line. Good film music pushes the good movies to great.

Think about it – What would a fight scene be without dramatic music? You see - it is more important than most people think. When I am setting music under film, I always work with the image; I don't just compose anything and hope that it’s going to fit a future project. I look for inspiration by watching similar movies or scenes. When I compose I try to be in the movie, I try to feel the feelings of the character, then I put my hands on the piano and just play. Of course sometimes it’s not that easy and I have to think a bit more, but most times it just comes. As an artist, I have to trust my instincts and to that end, I like using what I first composed, because it is what I felt first and therefore feels right. 

My ultimate dream is to live off of my songwriting and performing, both as an artist and as a composer for film. Living in America also is one of my dreams, even if it is only for a few years. 

There were many times where I wanted to give up, but I took a bad situation and turned it into a positive one. Sometimes life is just not the way you want it to be. I fell in deep holes and I cried night after night, sometimes I still do. But I’m only human. And I’m a creative. We all are. After the anger is over, I close my eyes and think about my music and where I would be without it. I appreciated every second I have to play. That avalanche could have killed me and the world would have never heard my music. It was a gift from the universe that I survived the accident and made it through the toughest time in my life. I love my life, and my music made that possible. 

My advice for my fellow creatives is if you start doubting yourself, saying you will never be able to get there, it’s not true. It might be a long, tough journey, but believe me it’s worth it. When I forget to stay positive, I take a look at my hand and remind myself what I was able to do by believing and never giving up hope. My career is only beginning, but I’m thankful for every minute. And who knows? Maybe I'll be composing one of your favorite films in the future.

To see and hear some of Louis's work, here is a recent Image/product film which Louis composed for Markl Gmbh based in Germany, which was produced by Kreative-Instinkt:

Louis is available for remarks and questions in the Comments section below.  

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