Doctor James P. Meade Jr. is a Portland resident and Vietnam veteran, and he’s lucky to be alive. The 1st Aviation Brigade helicopter pilot was flying back to base in 1967 when his vehicle was shot down, the rotor blade dislocating on impact and crashing through the cockpit, right into Meade’s head.
He was immediately evacuated and flown straight back to the United States. The doctors didn’t think he would make it.
Ten weeks passed, and Meade awoke from his vegetative state; however, all 19 years of his prior life were missing, and he had to relearn everything. Basic human functions, social integration, education: everything he had ever known up to this point in his life, he has had to relearn.
In his book, Making Your Own Reality: A Survival Story, Meade talks about his road to recovery. From the accident to therapy to earning his doctorate, Meade wants to inspire everyone through his words.
“I wanted people to know, to make an effort, to be as much as they can be,” Meade said. “[I want them to know] what it’s like to be afraid. Just trying to be what you want to be can be the most positive thing in the world.” Meade wrote the book to tell his tale and prove that anyone can achieve the impossible. “I’m no better than anybody.”
Meade was only 19 when he was a pilot in Vietnam. Through his story, he wants people to see that, even as a kid and even through the struggle of his recovery, he was able to go back to relearn what he had lost and more, including earning his bachelor’s degree from Portland State in 1973.
“‘Hey this guy did it! Maybe I can do it too.’ But I want people to have more than the ‘I can do it too,’” Meade said. “I want them to say, ‘I can do it too, and better!’ That’s what life is all about. You have the power to make your own reality.”
Meade is passionate about his recovery and how he made it to where he is today.
“I lost everything. It has been a constant struggle to put it all back together…I don’t want to complain about anything I don’t have, because I never knew I had it! So I don’t miss it!” Despite this obstacle, Meade persevered and now lives a fulfilling life.
In order to give back, Meade has worked with his nonprofit organization, the James P. Meade Jr. Foundation, to travel around the world and help people who have suffered brain trauma, as well as their families. The foundation has helped people in hospitals and nursing homes.
“I feel very blessed,” Meade said, referring to his foundation. The veteran loves to give back to those who have suffered from the same situation as he did.
Meade wants to write more books in the future. Because of his injury, his hands don’t work as well as they used to, but he was able to write his first book in longhand before his wife typed it. Through this teamwork, Meade hopes to write another book to help inspire anyone else going through a struggle and let them know that if he can make it, anyone can.