The PossAbilities Speaker’s Bureau consists of PossAbilities members and community advocates that represent the program at a variety of speaking engagements. By sharing their stories and unique perspective on life, they are role models and inspire each of us to do our part to make the world a better place.
Growing up in Compton, California, sports were my life. It didn’t matter if it was football, baseball, or basketball – I had a passion for them all. A strong desire to succeed in these sports occupied the majority of my time. Another desire as a child was to ride in a jet plane. I remember asking my mom one day if I would ever be able to ride in a jet plane. Her response has been a motivation for many of my successes in life. She replied, “All young men that go to college and become professional athletes get to ride in those planes”. From that moment on, my mind was set; I was going to college to become a professional athlete. After graduating from Compton High School, I attended Harbor Community College (HCC) to play football. While at HCC, I was named a Junior All-American Outside Linebacker. This gave me the opportunity to earn a spot on Grambling State University’s football team, an NCAA Division I school. As a Grambling Tiger, I played well enough to receive an invitation to tryout for the Los Angeles Raiders. It wouldn’t be easy, but I wanted to accomplish two things – to make the team and to get a chance to ride on a plane. I did get a chance to ride on a plane, but I did not make the team and was released from the Raiders. As fate would have it, I was good enough to make an Arena Football team and gained enormous experience in the AFL. Through that experience,I received a second invitation to tryout with the Raiders and another opportunity to play in the NFL. That opportunity came to a screeching halt when, celebrating the second invitation with friends, I was shot six times in the back. This was bittersweet to me because, though I was shot, I protected a friend from being injured or killed. This happenstance left me paralyzed from the waist down and in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. With time, support and love from my family, I’ve learned to embrace the unique gift that God has provided me. I thank Him every day for a second chance. I may be paralyzed and in a wheelchair, but to me this is minor to me. I’ve had, and continue to have the wonderful opportunity to enjoy life to its fullest. We all have many choices in life, and in the 19 years since my injury, I’ve chosen to make my passion helping young people in our community. I still enjoy football, baseball and basketball, but now am able to pass on my experience and perspective on life through coaching. I’ve had the good fortune of coaching four football championship teams at the Junior College level, as well as a winning a championship at the NCAA Division III level. I’ve learned that in life, it’s not what you go through, but it’s how you go through it.
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On July 14, 2000, Delmon Dunston was practicing wrestling moves with a friend, performing a double leg take down when his head hit his grappling partner’s hip. The force from the move shattered his sixth vertebrae in his neck. Del was rushed to Loma Linda University Medical Center where doctors discovered that he not only shattered his vertebrae but injured his spinal cord as well. As a result of the injuries sustained, Del was paralyzed from the chest down. For two years after the accident Del tried to piece his life back together. In August 2003, Del was asked by a friend to attend a wheelchair rugby demo. Seeing all of the people who had suffered similar injuries, who were able to compete again inspired Del. Rugby became the spark that was needed to reignite his competitive fire. Del wasted no time turning those long discouraging days into training sessions. With the help of the accessible gym equipment provided by the PossAbilities program at the Drayson Center, Del started his arduous workouts.”It was like I was given a purpose again, not only to better myself but inspire others who are trying to find their way as a newly disabled individual”. Since then, Del not only does peer support at LLUMC, he has gone on to become a spokesmodel for internationally renowned fashion designer Kenneth Cole. He has competed on the USQRA National Team, played on the D II National Championship team, managed the Crown Rugby team, and was invited to try out for the United States Olympic team in 2005, 2006 and 2007. His future goals are to compete in triathlons, make the World Champion Rugby Team in 2010, compete in the 2012 US Paralympic games in London, and continue as an advocate for PossAbilities on their Speaker’s Bureau.
Bill Nessel, born in Chicago, had skills in welding, a career in life insurance sales, and was a business owner and pressman. In 1974, he joined the San Bernardino County Sheriff ’s Department as a reserve deputy doing mounted search and rescue and law enforcement. While he was a reserve deputy he managed to operate his printing businesses at the same time. It was there that he was a unit commander twice and a reserve deputy chief for three years. In 1997, he retired from the department, where he had ridden horses for 13 years and 4wd ATVs the last ten years. He completed 23 years of service and became the “Godfather” of the ATV program in the county. In 2002, his whole world changed. He became a right-leg-above-the-knee amputee as a result of having been a smoker for 43 years. He had nine surgeries on his right leg and was in the hospital for six weeks. He almost didn’t come home. He felt that instead of hitting a bump in life’s road, he had hit a huge pothole. He was fortunate enough to find a local amputee support group where he attended meetings. Nessel says, “I can’t express enough what a huge help that group became. I decided early on that life does go on and I should make the best of it.” He feels he was spared for a reason— to help other amputees just as he had been helped. Bill is very involved in the disabled community. In addition to being a proud member of PossAbilities, volunteer at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus (LLUMCEC) and a certified amputee peer visitor Bill participates in and supports the following organizations: the Amputee Coalition (AC), the Inland Empire Disabilities Collaborative (IEDC), the Amputee Connection of Redlands and The Limb Connections (TLC). He is also known for making a mean jar of mustard! We applaud Bill for his boundless spirit of giving and all his great work in our community!
Since the injury that cost him his left leg, André Barbieri has developed a passion for triathlons. In 2010, Andre fell victim to a snowboarding accident that culminated in the amputation of his left leg. Andre suffered a compound fracture to his femur that severed his femoral artery, tore the nerves and veins in his leg, and he nearly died after losing a lot of blood. As a member of Team PossAbilities, Andre has worked with prosthetists at Loma Linda University Medical Center East Campus to develop a biking leg and a running leg that will allow him to train and compete in paratriathlon events. His dream is to one day compete in the Paralympics Games!
In Aug 1988, Greg Crouse was serving overseas as a Cannon Crewman on a Howitzer Battery in the US Army. While a pedestrian on a weekend furlough from Duty, Greg was struck by a drunk driver on a motorcycle, rupturing his stomach, cracking his hips, shattering his left femur in four places, and severing his left leg below the knee. Crouse was Heli-lifted to the nearest Euro Hospital to be treated, flat lining twice, once on the Helicopter in route and once on the operating table. Recovery and physical therapy ensued for over 18 months stateside. Upon his honorable service discharge, Greg drifted aimlessly and fell into a bleak and dark period in the ‘90’s. Not finding himself again until his discovery of adaptive sports and activities in 2001 with other disabled Veterans and motivated athletes. Greg has represented the United States 4 times now in international competition in outrigger canoeing and hopes to continue to achieve his goals in Hungary (2011), Calgary (2012), and secure the first ever Open Men’s “Para-canoe” selection in the 2016 Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro.
Hi! My name is Kibsaim Alicia Garcia. I’m 26 years old and have been a paraplegic for 22 years now. I was hit by a city bus when I was 4 years old. After an eight-month stay at the hospital, I was left with a body cast, and a broken arm, wrist, spine, knees and legs. I have learned to live my life with my disability and do not let it keep me from doing anything I want to do. Today I am a wife, a mother of two and a business owner. I am 100 percent independent and need no assistance to do any of my everyday activities. I drive, dress myself, cook, clean, shower and care for my kids and husband. I am honestly unbelievably blessed and am thankful for everyone and everything that has impacted my life, including my disability. I’ve learned that we are never given anything we can’t handle, and it takes a strong person to keep pushing forward. Giving up is easy and I’m too thankful to let this disability keep me down. Twenty-two years ago, specialists told my mom I wouldn’t live after my accident. Yet I’m more alive than ever. One of the things I wish I could change after my accident was having someone there by my side like myself who had gone through this hard experience to tell me everything would be OK. But I didn’t; therefore, I would like to be that person for someone else in need. I would like to share my experience and help others learn how to do things and how to still be independent. A helping hand can go a long way. There’s no better feeling than to know someone lives a better life because of something you did. That’s exactly why I put time aside to spend time with people who are having a hard time with their disability. Loma Linda has been one of the best hospitals where I have ever been treated. I have had a major back surgery and both C-sections there. I have never had a bad experience. Both doctors and nurses make you feel right at home and truly show that they care about your well-being. Loma Linda really goes above and beyond to accommodate your every need. When I had my back surgery, they took care of my mom’s stay at the Ronald McDonald hotel. Just so she could spend as much time as possible by my side in what was one of the hardest times of my childhood-at no cost to her. For these reasons and many more, I would love an opportunity to spend time at Loma Linda helping others. I hope that I can make a difference in someone’s life. I hope that when my children grow up, they can also follow in my footsteps and want to be that helping hand and know the importance of it.