It all started back in 1993, a beautiful summer day in Newport Beach, when Ray Pizarro was just 20 years old. He’d been hanging out at the beach with his brother and friends. Ray got hot, so he decided to take a swim in the ocean.
He dove in and hit a sandbar, sustaining a major spinal cord injury. He was rushed to the hospital, but despite the great care he received, that was the last day he’d ever walk. Ray was a quadriplegic.
“My life was changed forever,” says Ray. “Rehab was the biggest challenge, but having great doctors, nurses and therapist help me get the most out of my rehabilitation. My mom and brothers were always there for me through the whole ordeal.”
He still suffered through five years of depression, anger and a sense of guilt.
“I began to realize how lucky I really was to be alive. Shortly after that, I became my old self again. Socializing more, going out to events and meeting new friends. That alone help me regain my confidence and self esteem.”
On the road to a better life himself, he started thinking about how he could help others live a better life after their injuries.
“My friend Richard and I saw a great need to connect people who suffered traumatic spinal injuries and learn from each other, so we put our heads together and created a nonprofit website for friend’s, family and persons affected by spinal cord injury called Pushrim, with special programs to help our spinal injury/mobility challenged community.”
He realized how important it was to share his experiences and resources, so he started volunteering at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, as well as at their adult rehabilitation hospital unit. He also works with the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center as a peer mentor.
“I will continue to give back to others going through their traumatic injuries and be able to give hope and inspiration. I am a living example.”
“I still get to roll by the hospital room I was in as an inpatient back in ‘93. What a journey,” he says. “So all these blessing continue to happen. I definitely have a better perspective on life now. I appreciate the simple things in my life like breathing, speaking, nature, friends and family. Feels so good.”