Have you ever noticed that enormous championship belt that is prominently on display in the gym? That belt belongs to Leroy. Leroy is a professional mixed martial arts champion fighter and he is a very good one. Professional accolades aside, Leroy is one of the most likeable guys you could ever meet. As a big dude he is freakishly strong. He is also gentle, humble, self-aware and ambitiously driven! You have probably seen Leroy at the 9:00A.M. class during the week, where it is easy to say he stands out from the crowd though never drawing attention to himself. No, that’s not his style. Always with a smile and a positive attitude, Leroy is here to put in the work required to be the champion. It is for all these fine qualities and characteristics that I quickly learned to adore him.
Not long ago, Leroy suffered a very serious injury. Of course, considering his line of work, injuries are normal occurrences. Leroy took a knee blow to his neck. As he was falling, his head hit a ring post, twisting his head and snapping his neck. When you are lying face upward on a mat in an arena and can’t move…when people are rushing to your aid…it’s tough to remain positive. In fact, if you were to be a bit negative and feeling down, most people, under these circumstances would give you a pass. Well, that’s not Leroy’s style. In all that commotion, Leroy said to himself…”I am here, I am awake, and I am OK”.
Four days and two neck surgeries later, Leroy remained in the same position, but this time, with a tube down his throat. Paralyzed and a prisoner in his own body, the only way he could communicate with family and medical staff was through blinking and a nodding or shaking of his head. His physical injuries were identified as broken C3-C5 vertebrae and a partially severed spine. Motionless, in ICU, Leroy fiancée words to him were inspiring, “so you got a bad draw…this is what you signed up for…this is part of the deal…LET’S GO”. Forward thinking and success oriented, she like he was committed to his recovery.
Positive forward thinking is hard, especially when your attending surgeon, standing over you, as if you didn’t exist, tells your mother and fiancée that you will be like this for the rest of your life…This is it, this is as good as it’s going to get. “No, not going to happen”, Leroy would tell himself. He had to wait four more days to have the tube removed from his throat, so he could tell the surgeon “Please get out of my room, I do not want your negative energy in here”.
Finally, the moment came, where Leroy could wiggle his big toe. Also, now able to speak, he quickly endeared himself to the hospital staff with his infectious positive energy. When asked about his goals, he told the nurse, “Well, my daughter has a “Girl’s on the Run 5K in November, I’d like to run it with her”. Forward thinking, forward planning, Leroy knew that if he could move his toe, he could keep moving forward with recovery.
Using nothing but the power of his mind, Leroy would lay in his bed, THINKING about waking up and moving other parts of his body. Constantly sending signals from his brain to his body was now his job. Soon enough, he was able to squeeze/contract his glutes…just the right side at first, but he knew if he could wake those babies up, anything was possible. He THOUGHT about doing crunches, to be strong enough to sit up on his own power in his bed, which he did, and sixteen days later he had made himself strong enough to stand up.
Twenty-three days later, Leroy walked out of the hospital, boarded a plane and came back home, which is where I found him, walking down Madison Street, with the biggest grin on his face, excited to tell me his story.
This story is not over. There are still many challenges and hurdles ahead, and he’s ok with that, because he has a plan. His plan is to focus on what he can do and move forward, building on each small success.
I am committed to the power of positive self-talk. However, positive self-talk is more than telling yourself that you can do it and filling your head with your own propaganda. Self-talk is real, it’s about being honest with yourself, acknowledging the adversity and challenges before you, and being committed to a solution, no matter what, and no matter what others are saying around you. This is for YOU.
Leroy's story speaks to the core of what we, The Unbreakable believe; Unbreakable even when broken! Embracing the Unbreakable spirit means we remain positive, aware, and committed to relentless, forward, progress. We know that ONE thought, ONE action, ONE positive word and yes, even ONE penny, can build to HUGE accomplishments. See you at the finish line Leroy.