Type of Injury: Spinal Cord Injury, T7-T12
Current Home: Orange County, California
Interests: Wheelchair sports, nutrition
I was injured in October 27, 2007, after falling off a 5th story balcony of a hotel in Las Vegas. I initially taken to a hospital in Vegas and then later transferred to Casa Colina Rehabilitation Hospital in Pomona, California. As a result of the fall I suffered a broken tibia, fibula, femur and hip which required extensive surgery and the placement of a rod in my right leg in place of my femur and hip joint.Additionally, I broke vertebra T-7 through T-12 as well as numerous ribs and a puncture to my right lung.
The next 4 months at Casa Colina consisted of healing and recovering from my fall and the surgeries that followed. During my time at Casa, I focused on getting stronger and recovering as much independence as possible. I participated in Physical Therapy numerous hours each day, and when I wasn’t working with the therapists I was working out in the gym on site. After the 4 month time at Casa had come to an end, I was ready to leave and move into an apartment on my own. Within weeks of leaving the hospital, I got my driver’s license and started living my new life. Just 5 months after the injury, I was out on a Sea Doo and quad out at Lake Mead in Arizona and at this point I realized that nothing was impossible or too challenging.That following summer I began taking classes at Irvine Valley College, and the following Fall semester I transferred to UCLA to pursue a degree in Nutrition Science and Medicine.
Prior to my injury I was a very talented athlete, and excelled easily in many sports. Now as a person with an SCI, I was confronted to find other means of competition to engage in. Since baseball and football had been my focus throughout my childhood, it was a challenge to find parallel sports that would challenge me and push me to the same physical limits that I had come to know and love. After finding a fitness facility where I could collaborate with other people who were exceeding the expectations of their disabilities, I began to see the possibilities of becoming an elite athlete in spite of my new body. Within the past 6 months I have been lucky enough to catch the attention of both sponsors and granting foundations who have acknowledged my athletic abilities and invested in my future as an athlete by purchasing me the equipment that I need to train and race with. So far, I have completed 2 Half Marathons resulting in a first and second place finish respectively. I am presently training for both a triathlon and a full Marathon that will becoming up in the months ahead. My long term goal for my athletic career is to qualify as a participant in the 2012 Paralympics in London. I am hoping to compete in multiple sports however the sports I am focusing on are swimming, kayaking and wheelchair racing.
In addition to training and pursing my athletic dreams, I am a believer in having balance as well as in giving back to others. When I am not attending classes, or training, I regularly participate in support groups for newly injured people with SCI. I also teach and counsel others on the importance of nutrition at the Goodwill Fitness Center in Santa Ana, Ca. As a nutritional counselor, I design individualized programs for fitness center members who have an assortment of physical disabilities or chronic illnesses. Peer mentoring is also something I enjoy and get called upon to do frequently by the medical professionals and therapists at rehabilitation hospitals and colleges in the Southern California area.
Since my accident, things have also changed in the importance and value that I place on my family. I am the oldest of 6 children, and for my younger siblings this accident impacted greatly the way they viewed their older brother. For them, the brother they once saw as invincible and hero like had ‘fallen’. As they watched me go from not being able to sit up or feed myself, to now being totally independent and attending college classes and competing athletically in less than a year the idea of ‘impossible’ never enters their minds in regards to me. I have also come to have a greater appreciation for the role of family and close friends in my life. As for my dating life, it has been a surprisingly great experience – as my friends constantly joke about taken the leftovers from the “chair chasers”. A sense of humor is the key to success, not just in this aspect but throughout your daily life.’ Poop’ happens and it will continue to happen so have a laugh about it and don’t sweat the small stuff.