Walking with Anthony

SPINAL CORD INJURY AWARENESS MONTH

INTRODUCING SCI HEROES FROM AROUND THE WORLD

This September, we aim to raise SCI awareness by sharing 30 different stories from 30 individuals with SCI, highlighting their tragedies and triumphs each day on our social channels and website. Walking With Anthony receives thousands of grant applications every year from individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in desperate need of help. Each story has the same underlying theme: these brave heroes need mental, physical, and financial guidance and support. 

SCI HERO

Rob Balucas

Rob Balucas

hey, i’m rob

This part of my story starts in 2015.

That year was a shaping up to be a breakout year for my business and me. My business, a boutique creative agency, was on track to grow by 12% annually and double-digits for the third year in a row.

I had proven that I could survive in San Francisco, a goal I accomplished 3 years ago.

Sept5-ride

I took up triathlon.

I wasn’t a swimmer, cyclist, or runner.

Being someone who was always wanted to push myself, I sought a physical challenge to find my edge.

And let’s be honest, it kept me sexy, sane, and out of trouble.

I joined a group of fellow triathletes in the Golden Gate Triathon Club and we were training together for what as to be my first Ironman 70.3 in Santa Cruz, CA.

my injury

Then September 5, 2015 – the weekend prior to the race – on a routine training bicycle ride, things took a drastic turn. I lost control of my bike on an infamous patch of downhill switch backs turns, crossed over the oncoming lane, and went over the side of a hill.

At first, we thought I had just a broken collar bone and I’d be back in a month.

Turns out that I had a broken collar bone, several cracked ribs, a 70% collapsed lung, and worst of all a L1 burst fracture in the lumbar spine. The very next day after my fall, the doctors performed a spinal fusion. The accident left me paralyzed in a wheelchair without any feeling or control of my legs.

Officially, I am a T8 Complete Asia Score A paraplegic.

mergeimagesmall

the rally | paratriathlon

After watching my friends race the half IRONMAN that following weekend, I set a goal to race in Santa Cruz the following year, albeit a little differently than I originally envisioned. I began swimming and handcycling as part of my rehab.

swim

With the help of my tribe, who over-funded my crowdfunding in less than a month, I was able to purchase the handcycle and racing wheelchair I need for the bike and run legs of a triathlon, along with the many miscellaneous expenses of competing. I was also sponsored by Urban BarrelsROKA (wetsuit) and the Challenged Athlete Foundation in the form of a paratriathlete camp.

All my Urban Barrels trucker hat fundraiser participants
All my Urban Barrels trucker hat fundraiser participants

At the end of it all, I was able to compete in 2 ⅔ triathlons that next year – INCLUDING one in Santa Cruz. I also did the swim & bike of the Oakland Triathlon as well as all 3 legs of the Malibu Triathlon, which I’ve had done 4x prior to being injured.

the why | to continue to inspire

Once that triathlon season was over and I had time to sit still, the thoughts and feelings of being stuck in a wheelchair started to set in. The holidays were a rough time emotionally, though many around me probably didn’t realize how tough it was.

But I realized two things out of that period.

One was that that hole of despair is natural and inescapable to experience and feel.

The other is that you have a choice as to how long to want to wallow in that hole.

Because the truth is, it will always be there for you and be ready to swallow you. But if you first make the choice to not wallow; the courage, the gumption, the energy to get out and do something else will always be ready for you too. And the people, resources and encouragement are there if you believe in they are our there for you.

And that is true whether you’re wrestling with physical injury or just life and whatever it’s throwing at you.

Really my campaign is not just to race paratriathlon.

It’s to build an inspirational story. A story of comeback starting less than one year after a devastating and life-changing injury.

A story that proves life is something you choose to create, not something you are a victim to.

So stay tuned. I have my sights set on some big races in the future.

I’ve already qualified for Konaraced the IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship in Nice, Francerun the LA Marathon in a racing wheelchair with a flat tire, and gone 2 for 4 with IRONMAN 70.3 finishes.

Why not. I believe we have nothing to lose. But EVERYTHING to gain.

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More SCI Heroes

Please share these stories during the month of September to help us raise awareness for spinal cord injury:

Rhonda Williams
SCI Heroes

Rhonda Williams

I am a C5 C6 quadriplegic who had a car accident when I was 16 in 1989 in Virginia. Through the many years of living as a quadriplegic I have had ebbs and flows. I met my husband while living in...

David Wieselmann
SCI Heroes

David Wieselmann

I was Mt. Biking with friends up in Vermont after work. We were cutting down a hill at the very end of run, and my front wheel sunk in some soft dirt. I went over the handlebars and did a...

Stephanie Nichols-Rodas
SCI Heroes

Stephanie Nichols-Rodas

I had a car accident May 6th,2017, early in the morning on my way to work. Another car was going to hit me, so I swerved and hit a concrete median while merging on to the freeway. I flipped 3...

Eden Hoelscher
SCI Heroes

Eden Hoelscher

On December 23, 2015, our five-year-old daughter, Eden, collapsed on the ground after doing a backbend on our living room floor. Within 30 minutes, she was paralyzed from the waist down. She was...

Rebecca Koltun
SCI Heroes

Rebecca Koltun

On March 13, 2021, I was skiing with some friends in Vermont. While I do not recall the day itself, I was told that I had a very bad fall. I woke up in a hospital in New Hampshire, paralyzed from...

Stevie VanAusdale
SCI Heroes

Stevie VanAusdale

I was in a car accident the summer going into my junior year of high school. I was with 4 friends. We made the poor choice of throwing water bottles at other cars, which caused one car to chase...

Casey Ellin
SCI Heroes

Casey Ellin

On June 1st, 2013, when Casey was only 26 years old, he had an accident at Jones Beach that forever changed his life. After diving into the ocean, he fractured his C4 – C6 vertebrae, leaving him...

Michael Kim
SCI Heroes

Michael Kim

38 years old father of two young children, PARALYZED. This fund is set up for Mike's family during a time of incredible heartache, to help them navigate a long road of recovery and treatment....

Anne Nelson
SCI Heroes

Anne Nelson

I was a passenger in a car accident. After emergency personnel rescued me from the car I was taken to Huntsville Hospital in Huntsville, AL where emergency surgery was done to stabilize my spine....

Justina Plowden
SCI Heroes

Justina Plowden

My life as I knew it changed forever in only a split second. It was a beautiful day and everyone I encountered that day were great spirits and everything felt perfect. I can only remember smiling...

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DISCLAIMER:

Walking With Anthony receives thousands of grant applications every year from individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) in desperate need of help. Although we are not able to directly support every individual, for your participation you will receive valuable resources regarding mentorship, mental health, community, advice, and education to help you on your SCI journey. 30 stories will be chosen to share on social media, and those individuals will also receive $200 of wellness supplements to aid in their recovery.

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