Aug 26, 2013
05:38 AMConnecticut Today
Hamden Man Who Brought Wheelchair Rugby to India Going Back Again With Hope
Mara Lavitt/New Haven Register
August 17, 2013 New Haven. McClain Park, New Haven. Jon Sigworth of Hamden brought wheelchairs used for rugby to McClain Park in New Haven for anyone to try out, as part of fundraising for a Delhi, India team Sigworth founded, shown here.
Jon Sigworth, 26, introduced wheelchair rugby to India five years ago. He even made a documentary about it. Soon, he’ll be headed back to coach that team he started in Delhi, and much more. And he bought a one-way ticket.
This story began when Sigworth graduated Hamden High School in 2005. He walked for graduation, but a stroke a fate not long after meant he would walk no more. Sigworth is quadriplegic, but he would most definitely not characterize what happened to him as a cruel stroke of anything at all.
“I don’t think there’s anything special about me or my situation, or my bringing wheelchair rugby to India,” Sigworth said.
“A lot of it has to do with my opportunities growing up, the communities I was a part of, and the privileges I had as a privileged, white American: happening to be studying abroad in India for six months right after high school, not everyone has a chance to do that.”
Fred Sigworth, Jon’s father and a professor at the Yale School of Medicine, said his son took a gap year program before college, studying in India. Jon was there to study world history and world religions, again, Jon said, an opportunity afforded by privilege.
Fred Sigworth said: “Two weeks after he started the class there, he was late for class — typical for Jon — so he rode a bicycle instead of walking on these very narrow mountain footpaths. So he fell off this footpath, fell down the very steep hillside, landed on his head. It’s a miracle that he is alive.”
Fred said any time he starts feeling sorry for himself, he reminds himself that his son’s survival is, in his words, miraculous.
“He fell on his head,” Fred said. “He would have just bled to death except that the place that he landed was very close to a little Christian mission hospital. Two of the hospital workers were out on a smoke break and happened to see him fall down the hillside, and ran with a stretcher and grabbed him.”
When Jon was evaluated by a doctor, Fred said the doctor checked for feeling in Jon’s legs.
Fred Sigworth recalled the story: “‘Jon,’” the doctor said, “‘you might not be able to walk again,’ and Jon said, ‘That’s OK. My goal is to glorify God, and I can do that just as well in a wheelchair.’ I don’t know where that came from. Jon said it didn’t come from him either.
“But that’s been his attitude and this has just really given him a very sharp focus to his life, seeing that there’s a huge amount of work to be done in India to help Indian quadriplegics like him learn how to have independent and productive lives.”