Abdulla Al Eisaei, an Emirati who lost his left leg in a car accident more than two years ago, is the first amputee from the UAE to win an international bodybuilding competition.
Two weeks ago in Spain, the athlete came first in his category at the IFBB Pro Spain Empro Classic.
Mr Al Eisaei, 27, was fighting for his life following the crash, after his leg was severed and parts of his body crushed. His heart stopped briefly and he slipped into a coma.
Despite the accident, he pursued his dream and today is the first Emirati amputee to come first at an international bodybuilding Men's Physique special needs competition.
An avid skier, Mr Al Eisaei is determined to win more competitions and also hopes to open a gym where people of determination will be given memberships free of charge.
The prosthetic he wears today is a “badge of honour” and a blessing from God, he said.
“Losing my leg was a turning point in my life," said Mr Al Eisaei, who lives in Al Ain.
"I remember the moment when I looked down and saw that my leg was missing. My first thought was that I needed to move forward and not to pass out or die.
“I knew at that moment that my life was never going to be the same but somehow I also knew it was going to take a turn for the better."
A life-changing day
On May 18, 2020, at 4am, Mr Al Eisaei's car hit a road barrier, smashing the right window and rear windscreen, causing the vehicle to flip over. The barrier severed his left leg.
“I must have dozed off because one minute I was driving to work and the next minute all I could see was blood and myself trapped in the car,” he said. "I looked at my body and could see that my leg was cut off."
Using his right leg, Mr Al Eisaei crawled out of the car and saw a man walking towards him.
He said: “I could see that he was wearing a ghutra on his head so I asked for it and told him to call an ambulance.”
Having taken a first aid course, Mr Al Eisaei knew to use the headscarf as a makeshift tourniquet on his leg.
He said he was fully conscious when he arrived at the hospital and for an hour after.
“The last thing I remember was a doctor telling me to say my final prayers," he said.
Mr Al Eisaei went into cardiac arrest and his family were told to prepare for the worst. Despite the prognosis, he managed to pull through and woke up two weeks later during Eid.
“I woke up hearing the Eid prayers,” he said. “It was the middle of the pandemic and I was alone and I remember thinking that I wanted to go home to tell my family what happened."
Mr Al Eisaei went to Germany for rehab and to have his prosthetic leg fitted.
Long and painful recovery
“The pain was excruciating,” he said. “For months on end, I would be in the emergency room to repair the torn tendons but I persevered.”
Not one to lead a sedentary lifestyle, Mr Al Eisaei continued to train every day and when skiing became too difficult, he turned to snowboarding.
The gym he hopes to open will offer support to people of determination in the UAE.
"I know the struggles we go through and the gym I hope will be a safe haven and offer support and advice," he said.
“I want every person of determination to be a fighter and to know that there is nothing that we cannot achieve and do even better than people who don’t have a disability or a chronic condition.
"Today, I am stronger than I ever was. I learnt a lot and I lost a lot but I have gained more than I have lost and still have more to learn and achieve.
"If you have a goal in mind and truly believe that you will succeed, then you will. It is all in the mind set.”