Tag: live your dreams no matter what
A month after I graduated high school in 2004, I was coming home from swim practice and was involved in a near fatal car accident with a dump truck. The impact of the crash violently ripped my heart across my chest, shattering my ribs/clavicle/pelvis, collapsing my lungs, damage to every single organ and failure of my kidneys and liver, removal of spleen and gallbladder, losing 60% of my blood, severe nerve damage to my left shoulder, and in a coma where I was on life support for over two months at Prince Georges Hospital Center in Cheverly, MD.
I don’t have a memory of the accident, or the few days before the day of the accident. The first thing that I remember after the collision, which is still so vivid in my mind even today, is being in this very large white tube.
In this tube was a boy sitting to my left, and many other boys and girls on my right side (I use the term “boys and girls” because they appeared to be my age); I didn’t know why I was there or how I even got there in the first place. The more I sat there, the more I was able to visualize my surroundings. The boy to my left had a cell phone, and he asked me if I needed him to call anyone for me. I told him “yes, can you call my parents and tell them that I love them.”
The next thing that I remember is waking up in a hospital bed, chemically paralyzed and hooked up to all these machines. Through all the buzzes and beeps going off from the medical equipment that was saving my life at that instant, I could hear my mom and dad telling me in between dramatic pauses of crying hysterically that I was going to be okay.
Only moments before I believe I was waiting in line to meet my final judgment, but it must have not been my time. Moments later, I had come back to life. This was just the beginning of my suffering.
I died eight times while I was in the intensive care unit and even when I woke up from my coma, I couldn’t talk or communicate. The day that they knew that I would live, was the day that I either left my room in a wheelchair or a body bag. As far as the future, it didn’t exist. Walking was never going to happen again due to all the extreme injuries and because of the shattered pelvis. The thought of swimming was just that, only a thought. Just like my body, my dreams were shattered. But, I didn’t give up because I knew that God had a plan for me.
After spending two months in a coma, 14 operations, 36 blood transfusions, 13 plasma treatments, I lost a total of 100 pounds and had to go to a rehabilitation center in Baltimore. I had to learn how to talk, eat, walk, shower, and live independently again. After that agonizing experience, I had to go to outpatient therapy in Waldorf, MD.
After spending a few months in a wheelchair, I took baby steps to walk on my own. It was a miracle that I could walk again, but I wanted to prove the doctors wrong and not only walk, but run.
After I accomplished that, I wanted to get back in the pool again. After a few lung tests, I was able to go in the pool a little bit each week. Before the accident I had three goals: to go to college, swim on the team, and compete in an ironman triathlon one day.
After a few months of swimming a few laps here and there with my training partner and good buddy, Sam Fleming, I decided that I was not going to let my injuries stop me from living my dream, and six months after that I began my freshman year at St. Mary’s College of Maryland and also was one of the swimmers to watch on the team.
It’s very easy to go through and list these facts and make it look like everything just seemed to easily fall in it’s own perfect little place, but the truth of the matter is that it didn’t. It wasn’t easy, not then, and not now. The pain and the agony was real and it existed all the way through, in the good times and the very bad.
It was not an easy situation to be in where you’re laying in a bed, staring at the ceiling, knowing that your life is over while your looking at a priest give you the last rights.
I thought to myself over and over, why this situation had to happen to me. I was always a good kid, received good grades in school, and went to church. Why would something as horrific as this happen to me? Why would God allow this? I went on and on for days asking why? And, then it hit me. All that thinking and pondering on the what-if scenario’s and the questionable doubt only stirred up another question – why was I saved? I didn’t have anymore questions after that. I know what my purpose in life finally is.
With the 50 year life expectancy I was given from the doctors, I am just trying to live each day to the fullest and motivate and hopefully inspire other people, in their lives and in the faith. I have been labeled on several occasions that I am “Lazarus-like” because God brought me back to life.
To inspire even more, I just successfully completed the Steelhead 70.3 half-ironman race in Michigan a few months ago, and was also given the inspirational athlete media slot to compete in the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship where my story and race footage was broadcast in the Ironman show premiere as the main feature on NBC on Dec. 1. See video below:
My story is about the recovery and the comeback, but I want to make it much more than that, I want to make a positive impact on the world. I am just trying to live each day to the fullest and motivate and hopefully inspire other people through my endeavors to never give up on their dreams, and to never stop believing in their faith in God no matter how bad a situation is because everything happens for a reason.
I remember when I was still in my hospital bed in ICU, I would have my mom and dad push me around in my wheelchair to the other rooms in the unit to see the other patients and talk to them and their families; it didn’t matter if the other patients were unconscious or comatose because I just wanted to talk to them, especially since there was always that possibility that they could hear me.
I wanted to let them know that everything was going to be okay, somehow things would work out for the best. I prayed with them, I said prayers for them, I tried to give them hope. I believe that my purpose in life is to bring hope to those who need it most and through my past accomplishments, I have been able to have the positive mindset to keep pushing through over all these obstacles and find my way in life.
Besides the ironman and triathlons, I’m doing a lot of work now with motivational speaking, the American Red Cross as being a spokes model, as well as the Brain Injury Association of America, and possibly the American Heart and Lung Association because I feel that this is how I can use my story as a means of helping others.
I competed in Kona, Hawaii in the 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship two months ago as the inspirational athlete media slot with only six weeks of training (in the entire sport of triathlon) and I was one of the main features on the 2007 Ironman show that premiered Dec. 1st. With Mark Allen as my coach, I plan on returning to Kona in the next few years on my own abilities to continue my life long quest of one day breaking the swim course record and hopefully winning the Ford Ironman World Championship. These are big goals but the saying goes, “Through God, all things are possible” and that statement is the story of my life.