“Just leave it there,” Igor shouts. “Don’t mess with that.”
Damian Lopez can’t leave it alone; he is king of finding the most kites, more than any of his friends. He reaches out with a metal rod to lift the kite from the power lines.
He doesn’t hear the explosion that takes out the electricity in the building below—doesn’t feel the 13,000 volts that rip through his body—doesn’t know he will be left without forearms, have a disfigured face—doesn’t know he’s in a coma which doctors feel is fatal.
The next words thirteen-year-old Damian hears echo from a hallway in the hospital. “This one won’t make it,” people sigh.
“But I fought and I came out of it,” Damian insists.
Four months later Damian is home in Cuba. It is a struggle to walk, eat, talk or close his eyes.
“After the accident I didn’t want to leave the house, but some friends came looking for me to play … that was key.” It was the lift he needed to return to soccer, raise pigeons, play chess and pool, ride motorcycles, and return to his greatest passion, bicycles.
It is a race in 2003 that changes Damian’s life.
Tracy Lea has come to Cuba to compete, and right out of the box there’s a problem. She struggles to change a tire when the kite-man shows up outta nowhere.
Tracy tells the story in a phone interview. “Here Damian is a bilateral amputee at the elbow and he comes over and helps me,” she gushes. “He took the Allen key; it’s shaped like a T, and he just put it between his stumps … and put the five bolts in and then proceeded to put the wheel on my bike and check the chain tension, and off I went.”
“I’m like, oh man, this is embarrassing.”
Her red face didn’t last long. Tracy and Damian become friends and soon she is on a mission. The American girl is fierce in her dedication to find help for Damian. She raises money for equipment and airfare to bring him to New York for free facial surgery.
“I don’t have the words to thank Tracy,” Damian admits. “I owe her so much.”
There are also no words to describe the grit and determination of this athlete. Through years and tears of pain, labor, and a competitive nature…
Damian Lopez will soon compete in the 2012 Paralympic Games.
May Your Glass Always Be Half Full