My story is compelling. It is one of courage, determination and resilience in the face of tragedy and other challenges, and how they have shaped me as a person of strong moral fiber and an aspiring Paralympian.
In June of 1998, my parents and I called America our new home country. In the '80s and '90s my native land Sri Lanka, an island off the coast of India was ravaged by terrorism and civil strife. But the reason that propelled them to make the move was to seek medical treatment for me for a rare birth defect. They set up a tea importing business to sustain the family. Our new life in the US held much promise and success. Born with Melorheostosis, a rare medical condition and bone deformity with only 400 known cases around the world, my parents and I soon embarked upon an unknown path to medical intervention at UNC Chapel Hill as a case study in hopes that the surgeries would enable me to walk. Through ten surgeries and countless hospital visits for PT, I secured an elementary, middle and high school education, excelling in academics and athletics choosing to remain physically active despite having to wear leg braces, Illizarov and other adaptive apparatus, not once perceiving that I had a disability! At Broughton High, I was on the wrestling team; I swam for the City of Raleigh and even achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. With a failed outcome of surgeries that left me unable to walk, I succumbed to a below knee amputation in 2005. By this time, the family business had folded due to the food distributor breaching his contract, causing the family financial ruin.
With a failed amputation, a second opinion at Duke suggested that a knee disarticulation was inevitable. This was about the time we learned that my father; the sole breadwinner of our family was battling a rapid on-set of an in-operable and malignant brain tumor. In the summer of 2008, our lives turned tragic, changing forever with his passing. My mother and I being dependents of his immigration status learned that our own status was thrown into jeopardy, consequently throwing my mother in the challenging position of single parent and sole supporter of my brother and I. With no family or property to go back to, returning to Sri Lanka was not an option. Virtues of resilience, strong family values, love, faith and hope bound us together in the transitional period of economic hardship and uncertainty-knowing that God had a purpose and plan.
Learning that sports fuels self-esteem in the physically challenged, I have dreamt big and bold by taking to competitive swimming for Raleigh Area Masters, local open-water events including a 1.2mile ocean swim against able-bodied men and women. Grants and sponsorships from the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) for a running leg and a Paratriathlon training camp in Florida, taught me how to run after 20 plus years! I now consider myself Forrest Gump, running with even greater passion, training rigorously under a personal track coach at NCCU and pushing boundaries. By being resourceful, I have secured three years of college education and will transfer out to a four year college to complete my studies. With immigration issues resolved and behind, I am chasing after my Paralympic dream whilst working part time and going to school. Other grants and sponsorships for high performance running leg and knee have allowed me to train with passion and even greater intensity. Competing in the 2013 Desert Challenge Games was a rewarding debut track event where I was Nationally Classified as a T42. For a new comer to track, racing on a low performance leg at the time with only six months of training,
bringing home the bronze was a personal high. I have since competed in multiple meets endorsed by the US Paralympics including the US Nationals - placing 3rd and 4th. As a fierce contender, I remain undeterred; striving through various meets, persevering towards victory and a spot in Team USA.
Coming from modest economic circumstances, I cannot reiterate enough how grateful I am to those individuals who have contributed to keeping my Paralympic aspirations alive. I am seeking your support and generous contribution towards training and competition expenses as I prepare for the upcoming local indoor season which will set the momentum for open season at national meets, allowing me to keep pushing boundaries...
Thank you in advance,
Please check out the links below…
go to Patient Stories, scroll down to see my story on ABC 11;