When the human body gets wounded, those wounds can sometimes affect the mind as well. Victims of accidents and incidents often lose their confidence and happiness, asking the world what made them deserve this. But if you can go across a painful experience and embrace it, you’ll find that you have an indestructible heart.
In the remarkable story of a young man who had become the victim of attempted kidnapping, while being severely injured, every day would become a constant battle to survive his inner demons…
A Lawless Place
It was a dark night in San Cristobal, Venezuela. As a citizen in the most corrupt country in the West Hemisphere, 22-year-old Orlando couldn’t help but be nervous, especially at night time. Venezuela has had a rough history with its recent presidents, who have overlooked the economic crisis and the chaos of the country with virtually no laws in hand. On this night, Orlando will have a first-hand experience of the nightmares that a lawless land can whip up for him, and have his life changed forever…
A Dangerous Home
Parked in front of his father’s house, Orlando relaxed after a long day at school. He looked forward to greeting his family inside and having a warm dinner. He got out of the car and headed for his home, until he was interrupted by a foreign object colliding with his head. After being stunned, Orlando got a good look at what just hit him; it was the barrel of a gun.
A Guerilla Attack
The man behind him violently pressed the muzzle into Orlando’s temple. “Get in the car and don’t look at my face,” the man shouted as he kept a grip on Orlando to prevent him from escaping. Orlando was shocked by this, and knew what the man wanted: he was going to get kidnapped if he didn’t do something.
Even though there were no people in the surrounding area and his weapon in the car was out of his reach, Orlando didn’t want to get captured without putting up a fight. Unfortunately for the attacker, Orlando earned a black belt in taekwondo when he was 16, and prepared for a situation like this. It was time for Orlando to put his years of practice to the test in a life-death situation.
Will He Escape?
While the commotion was going on, a group of people walked down the street and came near Orlando and the kidnapper. The kidnapper turned his head towards them and panicked, as he didn’t want them to notice the assault he was trying to carry out. Orlando saw this as the perfect opportunity. He wheeled around, hoping his roundhouse kick would strike the gun out of the kidnapper’s hands…
A Life-Changing Bullet
Despite his effort, the kidnapper still managed to pull the trigger and send a bullet through Orlando’s midsection, hitting a part of his spinal cord. The pain Orlando experienced in that moment was one he had never experienced before, and hoped he would never experience again. He collapsed on the ground, and the attacker ran away, hoping the witnesses don’t see his face. Orlando wanted to chase after the man, however, he came across a problem: he couldn’t feel any movement in his legs.
A Terrible Accident
Shortly after that, an ambulance arrived and picked Orlando up. On his way to the paramedics, he told the paramedics to “tell my parents that I love them and I am sorry for everything that I’ve done. Growing up you misbehave. I ran away from home when I was 15. I wanted to tell them sorry because I thought I was going to die.” After receiving care from the doctors, he fell into a coma.
A Handicap He Never Asked For
Eight weeks later, Orlando finally woke up from his coma. The doctors informed him that he was paralyzed from the waist down, and he was very likely to suffer great pain from his legs for the rest of his life. This devastated Orlando, as he was hoping to have kids and a family at some point, and he was afraid that nobody would want to be with a guy in a wheelchair. He hoped that he could still have a future in a wheelchair…
“I Am Going To Get Out Of Here Somehow”
“I wasn’t sad or mad,” Orlando stated. “I told myself, ‘I am going to get out of here somehow.’ I knew I was going to get good medical care with help from my father. I had a strong mentality before and after the accident. The support of my family helped, too, because they were willing to do anything for me.”
Trying to Recover
Things started to look up when his right leg regained some movement after a year of rehab and therapy. Orlando hoped to be able to play sports with his friends and walk with his family again soon. He felt different after the gun incident, as if he didn’t fit in with his acquaintances. Sadly, the pain in his mind started to turn physical, making a turn for the worse…
The Pain is the Price
The leg pains gave Orlando no mercy, keeping him awake for up to five nights in a row. The sharp jolts in his lower half were like waves, spiking up, then calming down, then returning with a vengeance. This pain started driving Orlando mad, eventually making his mind reach the darkest depth in his life; he was considering suicide…
Orlando started thinking about how he could kill himself as painlessly and as quickly as possible, to end the never-ending torture. His mind, hungry for sleep, gave him the most negative thoughts and feelings he would ever have about himself. But, he saw a light; he found a chance to escape this agonizing lifestyle without taking the route of suicide!
There was a procedure he could try out in Denver, Colorado, that could potentially erase the pain that etched him for MONTHS. But, there was a risk: the procedure could undo all the advancements he made with his right leg and make his legs permanently unusable. Desperate to return to his normal lifestyle, Orlando took a leap and decided to take the procedure. Would this replace his relentless sadness and misery with the comfort and happiness he longed for, or would it completely disable him and render him immobile forever?
Miracles Do Exist
When he woke up from the procedure, Orlando was surprised to find that his legs had almost no pain. He had to touch them and move them around to make sure he wasn’t just imagining it. He thought it may have just been the procedural drugs in his system still taking effect. After two weeks though, he was proven wrong; his lower half became pain-free!
Time For A New Sport
After returning to Miami, Orlando started feeling normal again, but he still missed playing sports. That’s when his friend invited him to a gym that holds wheelchair basketball games. Orlando was initially hesitant, as he still wasn’t comfortable with treating wheelchairs casually. He thought he would be different, as he became happy in his wheelchair, and expected the other players to be gloomy from their handicaps. When he accepted and attended his first game, he entered with a welcome surprise…
Basketball for Wheelchair Players
All of the players were optimistic, and unexpectedly similar to Orlando. He was astonished when he found out that some of them could do push ups and handstands while supporting their wheelchairs with their feet! Inspired by their enthusiasm, Orlando decided to give the sport a try. Shockingly, the sport was a lot more different from conventional basketball than Orlando had thought.
Adapting to Changes
The way of passing, the angle of the shot, and of course the difference in muscle strength were all contributing factors that distinguished wheelchair basketball from conventional basketball. It took Orlando about 18 months before getting used to the sport and joining the Heal Wheels team.
The Movin’ Mavs
In 2013, Orlando eventually admitted to the University of Texas Arlington, where he joined its wheelchair basketball team dubbed the Movin’ Mavs. His speed made him an essential in both defense and offense. After learning and playing at UT Arlington for three years, Orlando realized he needed to devote more time to his career to pursue his passion…
At 34 years old, Orlando Carrillo Maffei pushed through the many tough obstacles in his life, and graduated with a master’s degree in construction management. It was a magical moment that gave him a moment to reflect on his past experiences. In a way, those sleepless nights helped him, as they allowed him to give more value to everything. Now he just needs to find out what to do next…
Orlando Becomes An Inspiration
Rather than settling down after graduation, Orlando wants to move on, and has decided on three options: work, play basketball overseas, or commit to grad school. He is excited for the life ahead of him, but there’s one thing he feels that he needs to do. He is now considering writing an autobiography. This will allow his story to reach many more people who are in distress from a similar situation, and inspire everyone to live their life to the fullest, no matter the condition.