If you enjoy the Olympics, the Paralympics is 1,000 times better. Do the paralympians ski faster, do bigger jumps, or compete in all the same events? As you would assume that answer is “No”. During the Olympics we had athletes such as Jessie Diggins, Lindsey Vonn, Shaun White, plus twenty more groups or individuals who medaled for the USA. I watched many of the USA team and they all made me proud.
But before I proceed with this year’s Paralympics, I need to go back to the summer Paralympics held in Rio de Janeiro September 7-18, 2016. During most of these summer games I was in the hospital due to CHF. (Congestive Heart Failure) My hospital room had the station (must have been NBC Sports) that was broadcasting the summer Paralympics. Lying in that hospital bed was really the first time I had a chance to watch any paralympic games.
I had spent 69 days in the hospital from May-August 2016 (plenty of regular Olympics on) due to my aortic dissection and then the next month I was admitted for another couple weeks with CHF. When I saw the paralympic athletes competing I was inspired like I had never been inspired before. These athletes were my hero’s. Hearing their stories and watching them compete and win brought continual tears of pride (good pride in them) and a hope that I was going to make out of my situation too. That was my first true exposure to the Paralympics which made me so happy to see that the winter Paralympics were about to start.
This weekend I watched the USA win Gold (Kendall Gretsch) and Silver (Oksana Masters) in the women’s sitting 6km biathlon, the first medals ever for the USA in this event. Congrats to them, but who I loved seeing interviewed was Laurie Stephens. She won the Bronze medal in the women’s sitting downhill skiing event. Laurie has spina bifida and cannot walk. When I saw her being interviewed I looked at Amanda (my wife) and told her that Laurie resonates beauty. I said that she surpasses all the Olympic athletes to me for beauty. (Beauty as in the entirety of a person. I could really care less about what society considers beauty) She is a hero. I couldn’t stop smiling when she was being interviewed. She moved my heart.
I then watched the 7.5km men’s sitting biathlon and American Daniel Cnossen won a Gold medal. He’s a Navy SEAL who lost both his legs to an IED in Afghanistan. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star with Valor for his service. Here’s a man who served his country on the front lines, suffered a catastrophic injury, rehabilitated back to a high level and just won a Gold medal for the country to loves. Again, he is my hero.
Other Paralympians have won medals too and I am in awe of them as much as those who I have mentioned.
Sadly with Marfan’s even Paralympics are mostly out of the picture. For those affected with Marfan’s and those who have loved one’s affected by it you know that life isn’t always easy to manage. But I do want to say that we can be hero’s to others just like the Paralympians are to me. We all have our stories that can be an encouragement to many. Just like many in the Marfan community, I’ve had multiple procedures and life saving surgeries. And just like so many we just keep plugging forward. Despite the daily fatigue and pain we keep pressing on.
I’m connected to a handful of Marfan syndrome social media groups and I’ll tell you that many of the life stories and events that people write about are difficult. Practically every day I read of kids who deal with so much more than I have or my two boys with Marfan’s have had to experience. Those kids are my hero’s too. Their parents might as well get thrown into that hero category too. Just as I see these paralympians as incredible hero’s I see our Marfan community as being filled with hero’s.
Hero’s who have battled scoliosis, aortic dissections, lens dislocations, broken bones, bones going out-of-socket, daily fatigue, back pain, DE, nearsightedness, AAA’s, valve replacements, and I’m sure the list could be expanded. For those who battle Marfan syndrome, you can be a hero to others by sharing your story with them. In the up’s and down’s that make up our lives, we have the power through to lift others up.
To my extended Marfan family: You Are My Hero’s.