Monthly Archives: May 2013

SCI Superstar Lenin Moreno

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He may be no super hero, but up until a few months ago, Lenin Moreno was the most powerful person in the world with a spinal cord injury. A paraplegic from a robbery shooting in 1998, Moreno went on to become the Vice President of Ecuador, holding the highest state office ever achieved by a paralyzed individual since well, FDR.

Why he’s fearless

Lenin Moreno, 59, is paralyzed, but he is also one of the most enlightened individuals to hold such a high public office in recent memory. Growing up in the rural Amazon forest, Lenin was raised among natives and Latinos, giving him an amazing inter-connectedness attitude he holds till this day, and he was raised by a father who believed in helping the less fortunate. This upbringing molded him into a man with serious deep convictions.

For starters, after his injury, he took the positive road out by believing in the power of laughter, and went on to write not one but several books on the importance of it. One of his books is titled, “Ríase, no sea enfermo” (Laugh, don’t be sick). Laughter, smiling, being positive…it’s the little things.

And recently, after 7 amazing years as the Vice President of Ecuador (he started out as a lawyer, eventually getting into politics), Moreno decided to retire by his own volition after serving from 2006 to 2013 alongside his running mate and President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa.  “Power comes with a stroke of fortune and you should quickly leave it behind,” Moreno believes. “But while you are in that space, you must take advantage of it to realize your dearest ambition. For me, that was to promote the rights of the disabled.”

And this is where Moreno’s story becomes amazing. When he first entered office, he discovered Ecuador was only spending $2 million a year on social services for the disabled. In the 7 years he served, he helped change that number to $150 million a year, and instated a $300/month Social Security-like program for its disabled citizens too. The country now also provides prosthetics to people who need them, making them employable, as well as wheelchairs and Braille books to those with visual impairments. This program is called Manuela Espejo Solidarity Mission. Watch an overview of all they’ve achieved

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Moreno personally visited the homes of hundreds of people with disabilities, some who have never left their homes before, to bring awareness to this underrepresented population. His disability rights improvements in Ecuador have been so vast that it even got him nominated for Nobel Peace Prize last year. He didn’t win, but it certainly put the plight of people with disabilities on the world stage where it belongs. Watch this video celebrating his work

While Vice President, he’s also been a champion for rainforest preservation, even meeting with Leonardo Di Caprio and Edward Norton last year, both renowned for their environmentalist passions. They discussed further preservation of the pristine Yasuni area. Read about their meeting

What’s next?

And this is just the beginning of this passionate man. It’s no wonder he’s surrounded by a loving family and has millions of adoring fans. He has a wife of 20 years Irina, and two beautiful adult daughters, and recently he became a fan boy himself when he met Stephen Hawking last year, which is in part why he’s retiring. Now that he’s officially out of public office, he wants to study the link between quantum physics and human values.

And there’s a rumor that Lenin may not be done with politics; not by a long shot. Some are speculating think there’s a chance he’ll run for the presidency of Ecuador in 2017.  Now if that did happen, that would be completely awesome.

In the meantime, Lenin is enjoying some time off, brushing up on his singing skills (yet another passion of his), and is back at humor writing. Maybe a tell-all book on the funnies that occurred when he was in office is his next book? One can only hope.

What do you think of Lenin Moreno? Do you think more leaders should take his lead?

Watch the videos!

Awesome bio of Lenin Moreno (with English translation)

Lenin Moreno singing a traditional Ecuadorian song

Overview of Lenin Moreno’s Manuela Espejo Solidarity Mission

A video showing Lenin Moreno’s dedication to the disabled population of Ecuador

Lenin Moreno speaking to the government of Ecuador last August

Coping with spinal cord injury- Advice from the pros

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Perhaps the most asked question to people with spinal cord injuries is, “How do you manage so well?” They want to know our secret (as if we have one). Maybe we do and have no idea. I do know this though – going through a spinal cord injury can strengthen you like nothing else.

From quadriplegics on ventilators to walking paraplegics, we all cope in our own way, and I love how many of us have gone a step further- making videos sharing what we’ve learned with the world. Here are three videos straight from real folks with spinal cord injuries, opening up their hearts and souls.

Billy from Seattle

In our first video, meet Billy Price, a great speaker and C6 quadriplegic from Seattle, Washington. In this video, professionally made by the University of Washington Medical Center, he opens up about his injury, which happened when he was in college (he was sleepwalking and fell out of a three story window, breaking his neck and back).

He talks about how in the beginning… he thought life wasn’t worth living if he couldn’t walk, and then he saw the pain in his mother’s eyes when he said that. As years past, he found out how wrong he was – you can still find success and have fun.

Billy went back to college and graduated in five years with an engineering degree. He knows he could have crawled into a hole, but he refused to. He still wants to walk everyday if he could, “but it’s not an excuse to stop living,” he says (love this line). The video also shows his cool downtown Seattle condo and his awesome adapted VW van. Watch the video

Margarita from Denver

The second video comes from a beautiful woman by the name of Margarita Verano.  In 2010, she broke her back at the T12 level while riding a motorcycle tandem in Medellin, Colombia. To cope, she views her spinal cord injury as a rebirth, and she says her injury hasn’t slowed her down one bit. Instead “these wheels were meant to ride,” she says. And she has done some awesome things since her injury.

One of the most impressive is become a certified yoga teacher.  She’s also gotten back into kayaking, a sport she loved before her injury (she grew up in Miami on the beach, buy now lives in Denver, Colorado). In her great homemade video, she shows photos from her life pre and post-injury, and reflects on what she believes her injury means – a second chance to live consciously and with purpose. Watch her video

Brian from South Carolina

And our last video comes from Brian, a paraplegic and avid motorcyclist from South Carolina.  I love this homemade video because it doesn’t beat around the bush.  He tells it just like it is – SCI is not fun, but he gives very practical and helpful advice on how to cope (he helps a lot of injured men online).

Staying busy was the number one thing he says that helped him the first year of his injury. He recommends everybody find something to keep them busy right away after an injury. He worked tirelessly to find a new way to ride his motorcycle after his injury, and find a way did he ever.

He also gives more great advice. One of the biggest – you gotta fight the fight. And another, you can still find things that make you happy. He also talks about the importance of finding normalcy, which can help immensely in the beginning. When he got back to work, his ability to deal with his injury (mentally) became that much stronger. “You have to fight to be happy.” Watch his video

They say dealing with a spinal cord injury is 90% mental and 10% physical, and they may be right.  I do know that the best advice usually comes from people who have experienced it personally, and that makes these videos priceless.

Are you coping with spinal cord injury?  What tips would you give a newbie?

Watch the videos on coping with spinal cord injury!

A new C6 quad from the University of Washington talks about coping with spinal cord injury

Margarito Verano’s poignant video on her rebirth post-SCI and coping with spinal cord injury

Brian, a paraplegic, opens up on how he is coping with spinal cord injury