By: Mariam Ebrahimi & Roberto De Los Santos
Chapter 1 – The Incident
Chapter 2 – The Travels
Chapter 3 – Present Day
Chapter 4 – A Message from the Traveler
Lisbon, Portugal. Fall of 2017. I (Roberto) was visiting this beautiful city for the first time. I spent full days’ worth sightseeing; enjoying the landscapes, sites, and foods. I found myself going back to my hostel mid-day so that I might rest for the night. In a distance, I spotted an elderly man at the door of the hostel, carrying two large bags, and having difficulty opening the door while holding on to his crutches. I opened the door, and he saw me with a smile on his face. I offered to help him, but he kindly declined and told me that somebody was already offering him help. The hostel was in downtown Lisbon. There were no elevators, just five flights of stairs. I quickly ran up to my room, changed clothes, talked to my mother, brushed my teeth, and drank some Portuguese coffee. To my surprise fifteen minutes later, I saw the same guy with crutches barely making it up to the hostel check-in floor; he had managed to climb the stairs. My eyes turned wide, and my heart slowly sank. In the time I got to do several tasks, this individual was strong and determined to finish one. Performing the action of walking, jumping, running, and taking the stairs seemed second nature to me, and for the first time, I realized how fortunate I was, and that all of the things that I complained about previously were of little to no importance.
The guy with crutches, Luiz, would later become one of my hostel roommates. That night we talked endlessly. As he changed into comfortable attire, I couldn’t help but see his left leg; thin, mildly abnormal, with a gait deficit, and a static plantarflexed left ankle. He had to use both of his arms to maneuver his entire left lower extremity to get from place to place. He told me that he travels the world and he was here for an interview. I learned so much from him and got the opportunity to view the world through his eyes. After a long and tough recovery from his incident, he learned to overcome all odds and to keep moving. He is an inspiration to all and a good friend.
Here is his story…
Luiz had studied to be an engineer and was currently living in São Luis, Maranhao in the beautiful Portuguese speaking country of Brazil. It was just another normal day as Luiz called a taxi cab to pick him up and take him to his next destination. He walked calmly, smoothly into the cab, and secured himself with his belongings in the rear seat before taking off. He greeted the driver and pointed in the direction of his destination. As they were on the road, little did he know that this day was going to change him forever:
The taxi driver lost focus of the road,
his attention was drawn to his cell phone as he answered a call.
At the moment he loses control,
the driver grips on for dear life to steer the wheel, the oncoming traffic driving just as fast.
In a blink of an instant, the taxi cab swerved,
with a straight head-on collision with an oncoming truck.
Everything turned dark for Luiz, he didn’t remember much after that.
Luiz is rushed to the hospital to begin immediate treatment. Later that night, Luiz woke up, and is given the news… his left lower leg appeared to have multiple leg fractures: with significant bruising across his leg, areas of crushed bone, and a severe femur fracture. Luckily his leg was the only thing affected, the rest of the body was fine. The surgery team spoke with him about possible amputation. Luiz said,
“No… I could not bear the thought of losing my limb this early on in my life, or becoming an amputee this young.”
Luiz was determined to keep himself in one piece, so his decision was made. He was placed in an Ilizarov external fixation device for 2 years and was placed on a strict non-weight bearing wheelchair for the first year. Luiz recalls the tough, extended periods he spent in the hospital recovering, “Everything stopped, and I was in and out of the hospital for four years. There was a time where I spent four straight months in my hospital room, only leaving the room at times to walk in the hospital floor. I couldn’t do anything. Before the accident, I always worked. During my recovery time, everything stopped. I was restless, I wanted to move around again. I knew that one day I was going to walk again, that was my motivation; to see myself walk and travel the world.”
The multiple surgeries were tough on his body. Just when you thought one thing was fixed, a new problem arose. In his four years in-and-out of hospitals, he faced multiple placements of external fixation rings, infection of the bone from osteomyelitis, and later, a permanent spastic contracture of his foot.
After 43 surgeries and four years between going to hospitals in Natal and São Paulo, Brazil, he was released in 2008. The light at the end of the tunnel was finally here, he was eager to try and walk again for the first time. 2008 was a new year for him and he was determined to travel.
The doctors cleared him to be removed from his external fixation device. One month later, after much physical therapy, and motivation, he set off to face the world.
“Five years after the incident is when I re-learned how to walk. Now I have to walk with crutches.”, Luiz says. Baby steps were the key to begin a long-term road to recovery. It was not easy at first but after much practice, Luiz was able to use his crutches to go from place to place. His next big thing was traveling. He was not rich, but he wanted to travel the world. Through the help of his family, he was able to prioritize and plan out traveling. Luiz remembers the beginning, “I set realistic goals. First 40 countries, then 80. My very first overseas trip was to Ireland”.
If you were to follow him on social media now, you would see tons of pictures of him standing in front of famous world landmarks. His signature pose is wearing his shades, with his arms crossed, and striking a pose. A quick view of his photo section on Facebook will show his multiple trips: him on a Gondola from Venice, admiring a busy crowded street in Shanghai, or looking over his shoulder with the Golden Gate Bridge. Luiz has been to Europe, China, North America, Australia, the polar ice caps… you name it, he may have visited there.
“I have now been to 130 countries in the world, been to six continents. My wife and two sons keep me moving, they have helped me so much.”
There are a total of 195 countries in the world, Luiz has been to 130; he has seen about 67% of the world. The engineer has been retired for a while and continues to travel the world. His upcoming trips in 2019 include going to Italy, and Israel in March.
“One is never too old to establish a new goal or dream” -Luiz
After getting to know Luiz’ past and present reasons that motivate him to travel, we conducted a quick Q&A to get to know him now as his current version.
Q: What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite place to visit in all your travels?
A: “My favorite color is blue. My favorite places to visit in the world are the U.S., Mexico, and Australia. I have a small place in Orlando that I visit often.”
Q: What would you change about your treatment?
A: “I still feel pain in my leg, especially when I keep my limb in the same position or walk for long distances. Air travel and long walks are worrisome, but I enjoy adventures and travel too much. I am just happy that I came out in one piece and I was given another chance.”
Q: While traveling the world, what barriers did you face? Did you seek medical care in those countries?
A: “In my travels, I have met plenty of doctors, and spoken to many professionals about my incident and my disability. But after facing many surgeries, now I just want to travel. [I do realize that] I need to get another surgery, hopefully, one with a doctor that can truly take care of me. I am looking for a definitive surgery in the year 2020, maybe in the United States. For now, I am just living life with my friends and family.”
Q: What is your new goal this year, in 2019?
A: “I plan on seeing the entire world in one trip! This year I am planning to travel 50 days to 5 continents to see as much as I can, visiting some old and new sites.”
A Message from the Traveler
“Good morning, (in a) chronicle published in the newspaper (by) the state of Maranhão in today’s edition (I had a chance to reflect). Time does not age the soul of a dreamer. Every day the world sends me to give up, but as I am stubborn, I disobey. I arrived on the 14th of December, to my first sixty years of life, grateful to God for granting the gift of life, and trying to learn to live from the best, lighter and simplest way possible. I learned early that life is not a finished work; it requires daily construction, permanent learning, wisdom and continuous patience.
In these six decades of life, I thank the friends who lit my way so that I could get here, to those who opened doors, for which I could pass, to those who at the time they crack, extended the hand of friendship, many without charges or criticism, for it is ‘at the time of the grip that knows the quality of the screw’. To my parents, Luiz Magno and Maria Da Conceição(ler), in memoriam, (who) were my guides and my foundations. To my companion of a journey, Helena, with whom I decided to share my only life. To my children, Rodrigo and Frederick, my masters, who teach and renew me every day, whose challenge is to accompany them, always, not to stay behind. To my angels in the form of dogs, Bruce, Fiona, Duke, who help me to humanize myself, because they only know to give love and affection.
I’m not nostalgic, I never say, ‘in my time’, because I think my time is today, now. And my time is tomorrow, which is to come. Living… is not an easy task, it’s not why you add years to your day, that you sacrifice to live better. To live is to have the patience to observe, know how to listen; and as I always enjoyed living with the elders, I learned from (their) advice, (their) teachings. I (love) hearing (about) other’s life stories, and one of the good things about traveling around the world is to meet different people, with their fascinating and surprising stories.
I always say that I have two dates to celebrate life; December 07, when I was born, and July 11, when I survived a serious car accident because of the recklessness of a taxi driver, who was answering a Mobile device and collided with a truck. I had a femur fracture, which left me sequelae, with scars and a lot to learn from. I spent four years without walking, I had to reinvent myself from learning to walk on crutches; for those who had no security to cross a narrow street, I left the world, crossed oceans, and stepped, with my crutches, in 130 countries, all continents. Today, there is not one place on Earth that I wouldn’t go.
Aging is inevitable, getting old is optional. As long as you have hunger and thirst for knowledge, my curiosity renews me and allows me to realize my dreams. I am planning my first trip around the world in 2019, where I will step on every continent and I will bathe in all the oceans, in just one single trip.
Wealth, for me, is to have time to do what you like; observe the sunsets, gather dear people around a table for a good chat, drink wine and coffee, read books, listen to music, watch movies, and as Ferreira says “art exists, isn’t this life (good) enough”.
Today, I am more active, restless, curious, thirsty and hungry for learning. As a collector of dreams, I have a slogan for life, ‘Earth, enjoy it while you are still on her’. I ask God for health, wisdom, luck, faith and peace to enjoy the next sixty seconds, sixty minutes, sixty hours, sixty days, sixty weeks, sixty months, maybe sixty years. I was lucky enough to be born with the energy of nonconformity, a raw material for changes, and for adaptations. Whenever they ask me if I’m optimistic about the future, I answer with the wise words of Aryan Suassuna, ‘I’m a hopeful realist’. I chose the old world to celebrate my sixty years, … I thank God for everything good in life that He gave me. Life doesn’t get tired because tomorrow I have a little illusion and a crazy desire that everything works out.
A toast to life.”
– Luiz, ENG. Agronomist, traveler, and dreamer.
Authors: Mariam Ebrahimi & Roberto De Los Santos
Editors: Christine Vareed, Nadav Avner, Rafay Qureshi
Interview: Video Chat on 1/13/2019, translating help from son; Portuguese to English.
Images provided with permission by Luiz
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