In the words of Sonny Sandoval, “Everyday is a new day, I’m thankful for every breath I take…” Sometimes I forget just how lucky I am to be here… in this moment, sharing my successes with you. Sometimes I forget how my life could have changed in an instant and with it, perhaps plans for this website as well. There are times I lose sight of the promise I made to myself a few years back. It was to inspire, motivate, and challenge others to be their very best. In order to get where I want to go in the future, I need not forget the past. Those that know me, know how TheUnlikelyToad was born. Today I’m taking that story one step further. I’m sharing with you the turning point which clarified my life’s purpose, feeling the force of something much greater than myself. For a moment, just for a moment in time, it was a day my world stood still.
February 7th, 2007 – One month shy of a 6 year anniversary. 6:00 am… My alarm clock goes off. Like most mornings, I don’t feel like getting up. I look outside my bedroom window, frost and a light coating of snow on the ground below. I need to get moving. The aftermath of a heavy chest and shoulder routine is still felt from the night before. I have no time to be pokey before work. I grab for my container of what I like to call “Combat Cocktail” bedside and began the droning march of my morning routine. I go outside to start my car, clear the frost, and realize I’m about 10 minutes behind schedule. I rush back inside to gulp down my usual breakfast of a protein shake and more pills… I was then off to the races. As I began driving out of town, I can remember being appreciative for the ride I had just received a few months back in my great grandmother’s passing. It was a 2000 Chevy Cavalier. Not that it was a dream car by any means. However, it was a substantial step up from the 1988 Chrysler LeBaron I drove all throughout high school and college. My thoughts turned to what my plans were for that LeBaron. It sat in my father’s drive for weeks. Every week that it was there, he eloquently reminded me it was still in eye sight too. No one would buy it. Yet that car had some obscure sentimental value that I just couldn’t part with. Oh well, I thought. On my list of priorities, my old LeBaron came in second to none. At that very moment the only thing that mattered was trying to make up the morning’s lost time out on the roads. I pushed that petal a little closer to the floor.
Up ahead there was a large dip in the road. At the bottom is a known hideout for State Troopers on the morning commute. I’d better slow down I thought… Surprisingly, they weren’t there that day. Just beyond this point as I started to ascend the other side, the road began winding to the left. I saw the ice glistening through the dusting of snow. I knew I was going too fast for the conditions. The images that follow will forever be seared into my memory… I started to swerve into opposing traffic of about 2-3 cars passing by. I turned to the right but was running out of road. I did not want to be the guy who took out a house. I overcompensated while still sliding, losing all traction and fishtailed backwards. All so fast, all within seconds. It was just enough time for the other cars to pass. A fraction of a second sooner and I would have clipped the tail-end of an SUV before I slammed sideways into an embankment causing my car to roll upside-down. I often contemplate the speed in which life occurs. It’s funny how when you are a kid, days seem to go on forever. As an adult, it is a much more quicker pace. Yet when you honestly believe you might die, milliseconds of time stand still. Like a photograph, I can still see the impact. My driver-side door hit unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. In that instant, I closed my eyes as the glass from the car door window exploded into a million pieces. I felt the pieces graze across my face. In that millisecond, I called out in the recesses of my mind “If I’m in critical condition, take me and let it end here”…
Held high and tight just like a football… I opened my eyes. Trapped upside down, hanging by my seat-belt, all that glass and crushed metal. It almost seemed like a dream. I regained control of my bearings. What was my father going to think? I knew I couldn’t call him at work. Thinking of work, did I still have my phone? Yes. I called into work… “Sorry, I’m not coming into work today. I was in an accident.” I wondered how many times that excuse had been used. The blood rushing to my head started to make me feel sick. As I was getting ready to call my grandmother an ambulance passed through returning from another call. They thought I was seriously injured. They didn’t realize I had cerebral palsy. I couldn’t blame them, I forget I have CP too. I remained upside-down in my seat-belt for what seemed like forever until more EMS arrived. I asked if anyone else was hurt. Perhaps something else happened and I was not aware. “No.”, I was told. A sigh of relief. It seemed so surreal. An EMT instructed me to turned my car off. He then cut me down from my seat. Then it was time to try and crawl out of my steel cage. I was unsure how this was going to play out. I felt fine, but would my arms and legs respond? Miraculously I was able to crawl out under my own power. I stood up… and I cried. Outside of my hands looking like I had just gone through a brier patch, I was literally unscathed. I walked around and kissed the ground. I felt I had been spared for a reason. I felt this overwhelming warmth and sense of calmness with myself. I knew everything would be OK. Ironically, my air bags never deployed. An EMT on scene speculated that had they deployed, being how I landed, I might have suffocated in the time it took for help to arrive. I should have gone to the hospital on all accounts, but waved the ambulance off. My father held me in his arms, and drove me home.
As we turned down our road, I could see my LeBaron up ahead. Things happen for a reason. I felt a bit of anxiety during the days that followed. My mother, who is an RN, told me to take it easy. We both thought due to the trauma of impact, I’d be sore once the adrenaline wore off. Strange perhaps but I almost felt guilty that I came away so unharmed. I just walked away after completely flipping my car. I experienced no pain and no soreness… as if it never happened. Like clockwork, the next day I was at the gym. After all, it was leg day and personal records were to be broken. It was during that workout, reflecting as I often do, I felt a momentum shift. It was as if this epiphany had been in the works all along. I had earlier rumblings of greatness way beyond myself as early as high school. These thoughts were largely left untapped and left to sit unusable on my mental shelf. I had yet to envision the direction my life was about to take. It took a chance meeting of Kelby Hunt, freshman year in college to unlock Pandora’s Box. But wait… what if it wasn’t chance? What if it was planned all along? Interconnected layers of my life building upon one another. What if there was a notion from beyond to regain a part of myself back after a stroke at birth? What if someone divinely knew in order to maintain my health and longevity into old age, I’d have to go beyond physical therapy as a child? What if the countless hours of working out, conditioning my body 4-5 days a week, to the point where I no longer get sore, had prepared me for my accident? Maybe some might say I’m out of my mind. But I’m remiss to think, you know… all this, my life, was merely just happenstance. In that moment I promised myself I would do whatever it took to be a successful fitness role model and use that platform to uplift the human spirit. By evolution or design, my purpose had been defined.
I felt so alive that day. Awakened for the very first time. Every morning is a new day for me to sing life’s praises. I still get amped up to tackle the day much like Ray Lewis stepping on the football field for one last home game. Even though our dances are quite different, deep within my soul the spark is still there. Every passing minute is another chance to turn it all around… Sometimes traumatic events are needed to elicit a change in perspective and evoke personal growth. Today I relish the thought I can be this powerful catalyst for others, but more often than not I see my own transparencies in championing the heart of a lion. I recognize I may not be where I want to be yet, but I can look back & thank God I’m now awakened with a life purpose that will hopefully someday echo in eternity. Without a doubt, I truly believe things happen for a reason. Everyone undertakes a spiritual journey of their own at some point. For myself, my heart is open and receptive to being used as an instrument to help others live meaningful, healthy, productive lives. The plan has always been the same. View each day as a gift and not a given right. Use the hand of cards I’ve been dealt in life to make a mark on this world. Orchestrate a symphony of believers in overcoming the odds, making what once appeared impossible – possible. To quote Charles Lewis: “Maybe it might not be me that touches a million people, but maybe I’ll touch that one, that touches a million.” Welcome to 2007’s promise believers. Welcome to my vision, now our shared reality. Welcome to the new Toadallift.com.