Nobody expected me to live. But I did.
Medical experts told me I would never breathe without a ventilator.But I do.
Doctors said I would never again be able to walk or use my arms. But I will.


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Romy Camargo

Chief Warrant Officer Romulo “Romy” Camargo has been in the United States Army since April 6, 1995. Most of that time has been spent in the Special Operations community with the 75th Ranger Regiment and 7th Special Forces Group. He has deployed to Central and South America as well as a trip Nairobi Kenya. However, 9/11 changed a lot of things for a lot of people, including Romy. He was deployed to Afghanistan, which was certainly more than an experience. The missions were intense, the risk was high, yet every day was fulfilling to someone like Romy, a soldier at heart.

On September 16, 2008 (during his third deployment to Afghanistan), Romy’s mission had been cancelled. He opted to do a humanitarian mission which involved medical professionals going in, operating and taking care of women, men, and live stock in a village. As a humanitarian mission, it was considered low risk but as soldiers know, there is no such thing as low risk when you are in a war zone. That day Romy’s detachment was ambushed. As bullets rained down on the entire team, Romy took a gunshot wound to the back of his neck. His fellow soldiers saw him go down. He lay limp in the Bed of his GMV (Ground Mobility Vehicle). The soldiers managed to repel the attack, as the team Medic ran to Romy. They turned his limp body over and immediately did an emergency tracheotomy and began bagging him, all in the midst of cross fire. The soldiers remained calm and focused on one purpose…getting Romy out alive.

They stabilized him enough for the medevac which prepared him for the flight to Germany. This became merely a stopover as they shipped him immediately to Walter Reed Medical Center. Romy was conscious, but unaware of what had happened. He landed on September 19, 2008 in Washington, D.C. A day Romy and his family will never forget. Gaby never thought she would spend’ her birthday like this, waiting to greet her husband in the hospital. Unsure of what to expect, she merely prayed and asked for continued strength to be able to handle whatever God may have in store.

Gaby entered the room with the doctors and saw Romy lying in the bed hooked up to what seemed to be a million wires, chords and machines. He was conscious, that she knew because he smiled as she entered the room. The doctors began to explain Romy’s prognosis. He first made mention that Romy was extremely lucky to be alive. He went on to say that the bullet was a direct hit to the C3 vertebrae and completely shattered it, and had to be extracted. This meant Romy was paralyzed from the shoulders down. The doctor ended by saying that Romy would never walk again.

Romy's PhotobombAfter the doctor left the room, Romy looked at Gaby and said, “That doctor doesn’t know me, does he. I will walk again. This is merely a detour on the journey.” Romy dedicated himself to his therapy just as he had dedicated his career to being a soldier. He spent 18 months of intensive inpatient care before he was finally able to leave the hospital.

Many individuals would have merely accepted this as a “new way of life,” but not Romy. He wanted to return to active service. In 2010 he petitioned the Surgeon General of the US Army for permission to try an experimental regenerative procedure. In May of 2011, Romy became the very first active duty service member to receive Olfactory Mucosa Autografts.

Romy knows that things may appear as adversity yet they are actually an opportunity. After having spent nearly two hours each day driving to and from a rehab facility, Romy and Gaby decided to create their own facility, a facility for the future. One that has rehab programs and equipment that allow quadriplegics and paraplegics the ability to stand and exercise. One that provides support for caregivers complete with a community of inspiration and motivation. Determined to make this dream a reality, Romy and Gaby have raised nearly twenty percent of the money to operate such a facility for a year. They are set to open August 2014 in Tampa, FL, and plan to service veterans and civilians from around the United States. Men and women can come to this facility for not only the physical rehab but they can also get a taste of the mental game it takes to thrive on the journey down a road less traveled. One that is often bumpy, painful and fraught with despair if one is ill equipped.

Romy remains on active duty, continuing his recovery in Tampa, Florida. He spends five days a week pursing a grueling rehabilitation schedule and is excited to build Stay in Step as THE premier facility to help people get back in the game physically and mentally by helping shift their mindset from one of adversity to one of opportunity.

The Road to Recovery

Military Press

Military Press: Romy doing military presses as part of his intense strength and conditioning workouts to take a step forward towards recovery.

Romy doing military presses as part of his intense strength and conditioning workouts […]

Easy Stand Glider

Easy Stand Glider: Romy on the easy stand glider as part of his intense strength and conditioning workouts to take a step forward towards recovery.

Romy on the easy stand glider as part of his […]

Walking on Treadmill

Walking: Romy on the treadmill, taking steps forward towards recovery.

Romy on the treadmill, taking steps forward towards recovery.

Treadmill

Treadmill

Romy on the treadmill, taking steps forward towards recovery.

Standing

Standing:Romy standing at SCI therapy on August 7, 2013.