HOW TO RACE
As he woke, he could feel his pulse racing, he could still hear the cheers from his dream as he crossed the finish line. It was only a dream, he had never crossed the finish line when he raced, well not when he raced using his legs. He reached up, grabbing the bar that hung down from the ceiling and pulled himself up, then reached to the side of his bed to position his wheelchair, he moved his legs off the bed, and swung his body around in one swift move "ready to roll" he hollered. Just then his mom appeared "I thought I heard you getting up, I was beginning to think you were going to sleep all day." she laughed. "I was wiped out from yesterday" he replied, looking over to his dresser seeing his newest trophy, 1st place T54. An athlete who is classed as T54 is completely functional from the waist up. This is how he raced since recovering from the car accident. He thought back to the days following the accident, finding out he was paralyzed from the waist down and that his racing days were over, his life’s passion gone. His friends stopped by in the beginning, but as time went on, they all faded away, all except for Danny. They had been friends since kindergarten, even when they grew and had different interests and new friends, they stuck by each other. Danny was more into science and technology, while Mark was the athlete, but it was when they were together, they were themselves and most comfortable. As a matter of fact, it was Danny that got Mark through the accident and into T54. Everyday of recovery he was there encouraging him to get strong, beat this and be the best he could be, Danny never let him give up and brought him the information on T54 events, always saying “When you are ready, this is where you will compete, I bet you will be the best”, and he was right, he had placed in the top three every time he raced and won many times, something he had never done before the accident. He was so happy with his life, his achievements and his dedication to training for the Olympics. Later that day as his parents, himself and Danny were sitting around talking about the previous days race, the doorbell rang. His mom answered it, returning with a man and woman. “This is Dr. John Jewl and Dr. Sarah Yoon, they are from…um” “The Institute for Physical Renewal” said Dr. Jewl. Marks dad stood up and extended a hand, “Hello, what’s this about?” “May we sit? we have something to tell you.” Dad gestured for them to sit and Dr. Jewl began, turning towards Mark “We saw you race yesterday, and were very impressed.” He paused as Mark smiled then continued while looking back and forth from Mark to his parents. “We hope you don’t mind, but we did a little checking on your race history, before and after the accident. We think you are the perfect candidate for our new technology.” again he paused to see their reactions, “What technology?” Mark asked, “To let you walk again.” Replied the doctor. The room was silent as they looked at each other, Dr. Yoon spoke up “Not only walk, but run and be better than ever before.” The look on his parents faces brightened quickly, they sat up excited and simultaneously asked “No wheelchair’, ‘physical healing or just a new device’?” Mark looked at Danny, both were smiling. Dr. Yoon smiled, and began taking papers out from her briefcase, handing them to Marks parents and a copy to Mark. “Total rejuvenation of the spinal cord.” Danny shouted, “This is awesome dude.” The doctor looked at Mark “Of course we would need your parent’s permission and your dedication.” Mark got excited, “Dedication, of course, nothing means more to me than racing and competing. I am totally dedicated!” The smile on the doctor’s face, faded away, “Well Mark, although you will be able to run better than ever before, unfortunately you will not be allowed to compete.” Marks excitement dropped “What, why not? This is all I ever wanted, racing is my life, competing is what drives me, its all that kept me from giving up after the accident.” The doctor looked at him then his parents “I understand but think of all the benefits of being able to walk again, be independent, live a normal life.” Mark grew angry, “NORMAL life, what’s not normal about my life, I am as independent as every other 17 year old and this chair never has and never will stop me from anything!” he threw the papers back at her, spun his wheelchair around and wheeled out of the room to his bedroom. Danny followed him “Hey buddy, that was quite the reaction, what’s up?” “What’s up, what’s up, you of all people should know what this meeting did to me.” He said looking up at Danny. “I do, the thought of walking again, running again but not competing right?” “Exactly! I can’t imagine life without racing” “But think about it Mark, if you could walk again, think of all the things you could do, you could set new goals, find a new passion.” Mark looked at him, tears welling up in his eyes “I have worked so hard, the Olympics are only 8 months away, the Olympics Danny, you know what they mean to me, how can I stop now, its so close” he hung his head down trying not to cry. Danny sat down quietly on the bed, then suddenly exclaimed “I got it! “ “What” “Have the surgery after the Olympics” “OMG yes, that’s it, I could survive not competing after being in them” “You mean winning them don’t you hahaha” “Yeah of course, let’s go back out and see what its all about”
They entered the living room, where the four were discussing the procedure, his mom looked up “See I told you he would be back” she said to the doctors. Mark spoke up “I would like to apologize for my reaction, I was just a little overwhelmed.” “Certainly, we understand, please rejoin us” said Dr. Jewl. “Mark” his dad said “We need to let you know just how serious this operation is before you decide” “Okay fill me in” Dr. Yoon began “The entire procedure is a 22 hour surgery, it is very complicated and delicate. There will be two teams of surgeons working in sequence down your spine, repairing it and implanting nano technology into your spinal cord to reverse the paralysis.” “That sound amazing” interrupted Danny “Oh sorry, keep going” “I won’t go into the technology part of it, just that we have had a 90% success rate in our trials.” “Trials? 90% of the people walked again, what happened to the other 10%” Mark asked, judging by the look on his parents faces it wasn’t good. Dr. Yoon hesitated “Actually, you would be our first human trial.” Silence filled the room for a few minutes then Mark asked again “So what happened to the other 10 %?” “They became quadriplegic” Yoon said “But we think we figured out what went wrong, and do not expect the same to happen in humans.” Marks mother spoke up “This is a huge decision Mark, you don’t have to decide today, we have a week to think it over.” “A week? When would you want to do it?” he asked. Dr Jewl spoke up “We would schedule you for pre op appointments starting next month, then if everything checks out we would perform the surgery in three months. “Wait, I was hoping it could do it in like ten months, you know, after the Olympics.” “We are sorry Mark, the team and equipment have already been scheduled.” Said Yoon. “But cant you reschedule it? If I am your only choice then why cant I pick the date?” Dr. Jewl spoke up “I am sorry if we mislead you into thinking you were our only candidate, you are one of five, you are the top of the list that’s all.” “So it’s a now or never kinda option then?” Mark said “I am afraid so“ replied Jewl. Marks father stood up, “Thank you for the opportunity, we will talk it over and get back to you with our decision.” Both doctors stood up “Thank you for your time, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call, you have our number, remember we will need your decision in one week.” then they left.
Sitting in the living room the four discussed the pro’s and con’s for hours. Marks dad said “Your mom and I are terrified about the surgery, and excited over the possibility of you walking again, but ultimately it is your life, we will support your choice.” “Thanks, I don’t know how I feel. On one hand the thought of walking again is unbelievable, doing everything the way I used to with my whole body.” He paused “Then there is the other hand, the question of will a whole body make me feel like a whole man? Because right now, right here in this chair I do. Without dreams and goals is anyone ever whole?