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Heart to Heart

Embracing the Challenge

The new normal. We’ve all heard that
phrase over and over again during the
pandemic, but for me, my new normal
began in 2018.

For more than 25 years I helped people
and served my community as a law
enforcement officer in Pembroke
Pines, Florida. My wife, Tania, and I
have been married for 21 years, and
we are the parents of eight wonderful
children. In 2018, we sold the
successful food and spice business we
had spent years building up with plans
to retire and travel the world.

But our plans changed in July 2018,
just as we were about to embark on
a one-year European adventure.
While being treated for what the
doctors presumed was a stroke, I had
an allergic reaction to a medicine
that created blood clots in my body. I
ended up in a coma for 30 days, had
seven surgeries—including a double
amputation of my legs—and was
pronounced dead three times.

It has taken me three years to
understand what happened to me.
Before, my life centered around
interacting with others, but after
my amputations, I didn’t want to
see anybody for a long time. I had
to overcome that. I had to try to
understand what had happened to me
and accept it, and it hasn’t been easy.
But I’ve accepted the challenge.

This summer, we finally set off on our
European adventure. We explored
Italy—Rome, Milan, Bologna and
Florence, as well as Switzerland and
Greece. This journey has definitely
made me a stronger person—and not
just me, but my wife as well. It’s amazing
how we are learning to meet the
challenges [we face] together. Traveling
was difficult, but in a good way. The
challenges have made us realize that
we take life for granted. The little steps
we take—before, now and forever—are
going to seem like giant leaps.

So, my advice? Enjoy your life to the
fullest. Seek to appreciate each moment
because it’s not going to come back to
you again. Travel. Explore. Learn.

Yes, your life may be challenging—but
embrace each challenge and figure out
how to overcome each of them along the
way. Be creative. If your life is marked
by a before and an after like mine, your
solution may not look like it would have
in the past. But it’s your unique solution
and your unique life.
Don’t be afraid to live it.

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