I have always been a person constantly searching for new challenges. Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I constantly searched for new challenges. After graduating high school, I started to feel bored. I decided to take on the ultimate challenge by becoming a United States Marine.
Becoming a Marine has been the greatest decision of my life. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, help those in need and create permanent relationships – all while being surrounded by successful, self-driven, well-poised and like-minded people.
While there have been extremely hard times during my career in the Marine Corps, every obstacle has made me stronger, mentally and spiritually. The Marine Corps teaches us to never accept failure, maintaining a “Warrior” mindset. It’s because of this mindset that I am where I am today and didn’t allow my injury to defeat me.
On May 5, 2019, I laid in the ambulance on the way to the OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center emergency room in Peoria, unable to move any part of body. I had a traumatic neck injury, and I was paralyzed from the neck down.
Numerous thoughts ran through my head; I was afraid, anxious and most of all shocked. As I looked around at the paramedics, nurses and doctors, a look of uncertainty was the only thing I could read from their faces. I am familiar with this look because I saw it many times during my deployment in the Middle East.
My memory before my first surgery is hazy, but I remember telling myself, “You’ll get through this. You always do.” Waking up after my first surgery at OSF HealthCare Illinois Neurological Institute, it finally hit me that I was going to be all right. I was in excruciating pain, but I could feel. Before the surgery I couldn’t feeling anything at all, so the pain came with great relief.
I’ve had many challenging obstacles to overcome in my life, but nothing was harder than learning to walk and use my arms and hands again. During the three weeks that I attended in-patient physical therapy, I refused to stay still. I always kept pushing my body to do more, lift a little more, walk little more.
Staying positive, I was taking myself to the limit and never giving up. I wish I had the secret on how to overcome a quadriplegic state, but I don’t. Truth is everyone calls it a “miracle.” And while I do believe God had a say in my journey, the rest was on me. I was determined to stay positive and defy all odds.
Life after the injury
On July 16, 2019 – 72 days after my injury – I was able to run my first mile on the treadmill. I was consistently going to the gym, fighting through the pain and pushing my body.
While I am not back to my prior physical ability due to bad nerve damage, I’m way ahead of what anyone could have imagined on that day I lay paralyzed in an ambulance.
My goal is to remain on active duty service and continue serving my country.
We all have our challenges to overcome and they come in different forms, so how will we respond? For me, maintaining a positive mindset and refusing to fail, what couldn’t be done became the “I did.”