When things get rough, someone will most likely tell you that struggles make you stronger. Remember the good. Never, ever give up. Resilience is a great life trait to have, and this next story is just about that. Larry Lombardi, the subject of this week's Tell Us Your Story Project, has faced several major injuries and obstacles in his life. However, after each setback he faced, Larry seemed to come back even stronger. He truly never, ever gives up.
When Larry was 18 years old, he dove into deceptively shallow water and hit a sand bar head-on. He broke his neck and was instantly paralyzed. At first the doctors didn't know if the damage was permanent, but three months later they got their answer; Larry started walking again. "At first, I was really scared," recalled Larry. "But then I just got really determined. I simply wasn't going to let this beat me." He recovered nearly 100%.
A few years later, when Larry was 25 years old, he was injured by an accidental gunshot during an altercation. The bullet damaged his spine and he was paralyzed again, this time from the waist down. "My first thought was 'hey, I've beat this before, I'm gunna be it again!'" stated Larry. Unfortunately, this time his injury was permanent. "It took quite a while, but I finally did accept my situation. I knew it could have been a lot worse."
With that new acceptance and attitude, Larry started to pursue new athletic passions such as wheelchair basketball, hockey, and snow skiing. On the same day that he graduated from a Southern California community college with the hopes of becoming a nutritionist, Larry competed in the Los Angeles Marathon. He finished 26.2 wheelchair miles in three hours and eight minutes, coming in 79th out of 106 runners and wheelers. "I was in the peak condition of my life," recalled Larry.
Unfortunately, three days later, Larry faced another setback. He was crossing the street during one of his workouts and got hit by a car. While it was an accident, it left Larry without upper-body sensation for the second time in his life. Luckily, doctors were able to perform a major spinal cord surgery and within a few months, Larry regained feeling his upper-body.
After the car accident, Larry moved to Arizona's pine country where he continued to improve his strength with his weekly workouts. Since then, Larry has had several surgeries to his shoulder and right wrist. While being in and out of rehab sometimes frustrates Larry, he focuses on the positives and keeps going.
I know what you're thinking... how on earth did he not give up? That's A LOT for one guy to go through! Luckily for Larry, he has two major sources of inspiration. The first is his nephew, 17 year old Kegan. When Kegan was 3 years old, he fought leukemia. After almost dying from chemo, Kegan received a bone marrow transplant that saved his life and put the cancer into remission. "Whenever I'm feeling like life's dealing me a bad hand, I look at Kegan and remember everything he went through," stated Larry. "He's my hero."
The second source of inspiration was the possibility of love. Larry hoped that there would be a woman out there who would love him for who he is and see beyond his wheelchair. Luckily, he found Karin, and they are currently engaged (see picture, right). "Sometimes I can't believe one human being can suffer so much and still come through it in the end," stated Karin. "I'm inspired by him everyday. I'm the fortunate one!"
Clearly undying determination, loving support, and optimism has helped Larry to never give up. No matter what challenges you face, sometimes a little resilience goes a long way.
Kasia, the intern inspired to never give up.
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