Star & Lamp - Spring 2014

Page 21

Adding to all of the obstacles and their incomprehensible nature, research of Max’s injury—and subsequent disability—has not realized the same progression as that of similar industries. Solutions for limb salvage have lagged behind prosthetics, primarily due to the unique nature of each case. In prosthetics, if in an individual has lost a limb with no other complicating damage, the injury is largely uniform with others who have lost limbs. There is a common starting point from which to develop a solution. The remainder of limb salvage represents the long tail of possibilities of injury combinations to the various muscular, skeletal, nerve, soft tissue and growth systems of the limb, none of which are individually common enough to demand dedicated research. The results are quasi-solutions that work sufficiently for all, but great for no one that is looking to push edge of performance. Despite the injury, the countless surgeries to salvage his limb and all of the effects listed, Max was, and is, determined to live a healthy and active life; a life not defined by his physical limitations, but by his mental capacity to overcome and succeed. Max went on to attend the University of California – Berkeley and became a member of Pi Kappa Phi— not because of a personal empathy with the mission of Push America, but because of the “normal” components of fraternity life. “During college, my connection to philanthropy and Push America was probably typical of the average Pi Kapp. I was aware of the organization and active to the extent to which the chapter at large was involved. I participated in the standard fundraising events and supported the Journey of Hope riders. To me it was simply another responsibility

of being a member of the fraternity. There was no particular draw or inspiration to involve myself further. I’m a Pi Kapp. Pi Kapps contribute to Push America. So, I contributed to Push America. No more, no less.” Nearly ten years removed from his collegiate experience, Max’s professional career was at a point that enabled him to begin exploring the foundations of his life and the progress with his own disability. Recognizing the limitations facing the medical field with respect to his injury, Max’s mind began conceptualizing the feasibility of taking matters into his own hands and working towards solutions vastly improving his own comfort and mobility. In a fortuitous matter of coincidence, Max rediscovered Push America in 2013 at the No Barriers Summit in Telluride, Colo. “A fellow Gamma alumnus was planning on attending the conference in a volunteer role with Push America Challenge. Knowing my personal goals, he invited me to join. I accepted based on the narrow idea that I may meet some engineers in the field that could contribute to my projects. Upon arriving I was blown away by what I experienced. The conference connected with me on every level—as a solutions developer, a participant and as a volunteer. In the most natural way imaginable my mindset of ‘What can I take from experience?’ quickly gave way to ‘What can I contribute to this conversation?’ I was confronted with a community where I felt compelled to participate.” A year prior to attending No Barriers marked the beginning of Max’s journey to take his condition in his own hands. “I became determined to revisit every avenue that could lead to a more functional life. For surgical options, I paid a visit to the

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best orthopedic surgeons in California. For physical rehab, I consulted with physical therapists at UCSF and, for a new perspective, became involved with San Francisco Crossfit. For orthotics, I began to design and prototype my own ideas. If an improvement seemed feasible, I was going to give it a shot.”

the full context of life. Going forward Max would like to use his site as a platform to communicate a journey that may be shared by other likeminded individuals—both professionals interested in partnering for a common goal and other individuals fighting a similar battle that can learn something from his path.

Upon arriving at No Barriers with Push America and seeing so many enabled athletes put themselves out there, a desire to take his own risks began to build. Throughout his life, Max had committed a great deal of effort to concealing his disability from anyone beyond a few medical professionals.

“At this point I don’t ultimately know where the project will lead me, but that daily exercise of exposing my struggles has already made a significant positive impact on my life. My experience with No Barriers and Push America Challenge has forever altered philanthropy’s place in my life. I have been opened to the opportunity of being an active member in a deserving community of individuals and organizations. Now, a year later, I am gearing up for my first ever Push America fundraising event. This time around, I participate not out of obligation, but a genuine desire to simply be involved.” 

“Hiding my disability not only prevented others from understanding and helping, but also kept me from really examining my own disability in the full context of my life. I realized that if I was going to find individuals to help in my own journey, I would need to open up as well.” originally started as a simple idea for a site to contain Max’s medical records, but his experience with No Barriers ignited a transition into a public exploration of his disability in




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