Category Archives: disabilities

Lost his legs and arms, didn’t lose his spirit

A year after he lost his legs and arms to septic shock, Gary Miracle ran a 1.4-mile race on running blades.

“My doctor tells me all the time, ‘no feet, no excuses,’” Gary told The Epoch Times.

Although Gary had many reasons to sulk, he continues to live his life to the fullest.

Forty-year-old Gary Miracle did ministry for 12 years when he contracted a rare blood infection he thought was the flu but it progressed to septic shock. He spent 10 days in a coma at an Orlando hospital.

“I think they gave me a 1 to 7 percent chance to live through this,” Gary says.

On New Year’s Day his heart failed, and medical personnel took eight minutes to revive him. Gary was placed on an oxygenation machine, and the cardiovascular surgeon saved his life by diverting blood to his brain and torso at the expense of his limbs, which necrotized.

“My arms and legs were so cold,” Gary says. “They told me that I looked like a mummy; my hands and legs were pitch black. Then my muscles and my tendons started kind of falling out of my legs. I had no feeling down there.”

Gary is a husband and father of four kids. His wife, Kelly, posted scriptures all around his hospital room.

“My family just stepped up in a huge way, I was never left alone,” he says. “People were praying for me constantly.”

After 117 days in the hospital, Gary was discharged in April 2020. His lifeless limbs had been amputated. He is a quadruple amputee.

“When you go through something like that, there’s a line drawn in the sand: Am I gonna sit on the couch and throw a pity party?” he says. “Or am I going to choose to live and be alive and live for Christ and be a dad with my kids?” Read the rest: Gary Miracle lost his arms and legs but not hope.

Get ready for football. Played in a wheelchair.

When Michael Garafola dons his Rams jersey and Rams helmet on Sept. 10, he’ll feel a crush of pride to represent the L.A. team at its season opener in Phoenix. The lineman will be ready for some intense crashing of bodies and wheelchairs.

“The fact that we’re able to wear Rams jerseys and helmets is incredible,” Garafola told Patch. “To be able to put a Rams jersey on is incredible. I’m super excited.”

Garafola is part of the new NFL-sponsored, all-wheelchair football league. Yes, football for guys in wheelchairs.

“There’s something very alluring about football. It’s a contact-heavy sport,” says Rams manager Josh Lucas. “They get knocked over and rolled around. They get up, shake it off and get ready for the next play. When you see them bashing each other, you think they might be able to get hurt. But really they are at no more risk for getting hurt any more than fully able bodied players.”

Wheelchair football has existed in America since 1948 but play has been limited to starts and stops by various organizations until the new league gets underway in little more than a week. Organizers hope that with NFL backing, this league will be here to stay.

The Rams team is co-sponsored by the Westwood-based Angel City Sports. They need volunteers and take donations.

Michael Garafola

Garafola, 46, teaches adaptive sports at UCLA. It’s a natural job for him because he went more than a decade without sports, from an SUV accident in 1990 that left him with a spinal chord injury and depressed being deprived of athletics.

Then in 2003, he found out about organized adaptive basketball in Los Angeles. He loved basketball and immediately leapt at the opportunity to participate.

“I was blown away,” Garafola says. “I didn’t have any idea that this type of sport existed. These guys were playing and jawing… Read the rest: Wheelchair football in Los Angeles

Nick Santonastasso’s indomitable spirit

Because his stubby arm impeded him from doing high school wrestling, Nick Santonastasso amputated it.

“Can I cut off my arm?” he asked his mom and dad.

Kids told him he wouldn’t be able to wrestle competitively. He fired back, “I’ll be on the VARSITY team.”

Born without legs and only one arm, Nick Santonastasson had Christian parents who taught him to not have the mentality of a victim. As a child, he learned not only how to eat and do chores but to ride a skateboard and play football and baseball.

Today, he’s a runner-up for the NPC Iron Bay Classic bodybuilder contest and a sought-after motivational speaker because he gets people to drop their excuses and give their all.

“I was put on this earth to be an example, to show people what they are truly capable of,” Nick says on a Forbes video.

Due to the extremely rare Hanhart syndrome, Nick should have been stillborn. But all his internal organs were fine. He just had his left arm (with one finger), an underdeveloped right arm and no legs.

His mom and dad decided to flout doctors’ endless list of “limitations.” Stacey and Michael Santonastasso of Bayville, New Jersey, didn’t baby him but encouraged him to fend for himself as much as he could.

“My parents told me, Nick, the world is not going to stop for this,” he says on an NPC video. “You’re going to have to figure out to do things Nick’s way. My mom would put a plate a food in front of me and say, Nick, figure it out. Here’s clothes, figure it out. That’s why I’m a beast in my head.”

The Christian faith provided the context of honoring the sanctity of life, of believing everyone has a special purpose in life and teaching a victor’s mentality rather than a victim’s mindset.

Stacey’s website, which promotes her book Born to Break Boundaries says, “Although her faith has been strongly tested, she remains grounded in her Christian beliefs.”

At age two, Nick was left alone in the living room. He pushed his wagon next to the table, clambered onto it, and began to dance to MTV.

He learned to skateboard, riding on his stomach and pushing it forward with his hand. Once it got going, he stood up on it. He even does a handstand. He took plenty of falls while he was learning and had more than his share of scrapes. But his mom didn’t scold him for being adventurous.

He catches the football between his arm and his neck and head. He can throw it and even “runs” plays. He can connect a bat with a ball to play baseball better than his peers.

Because his parents didn’t treat him gingerly, Nick says he didn’t really realize he was “different” until he got called a “cripple” in the third grade. That was his baptism by fire into the cruel world of stares and insensitive comments that left him depressed in junior high.

But by high school he had largely overcome the syndrome of an outcast. He wanted to be on a sports team, so he got on the bowling team his freshman year.

In his sophomore year, he yearned for a bigger challenge. His older brother had done wrestling, so he decided to try out.

Immediately, fellow students felt the need to give him a dose of reality. How are you going to wrestle? You don’t have any legs and only one arm.

“And I’m going to be on the varsity team!” he shot back. Read the rest: Nick Santonastasso wrestled and worked out with one arm and one finger.

Limbless Nick Vujicic wonder if he would ever marry

Nick Vujicic assumed he might live life alone. He has no legs and no arms.

“I definitely had doubts that I would ever get married, that I would ever meet anyone who would ever love me and spend the rest of their life with me because I’m Prince Charming — with a couple bits and pieces missing,” Nick says.

Today, the Australian-born Christian motivational speaker is happily married to his Cinderella.

“We have gotten a lot of interesting reactions from people while we were dating, holding hands and walking side by side,” says Nick, now 34. “People would come up and cry and say, ‘Now I believe in love again.’”

Kanae Miyahara is a Mexican-Japanese who saw the Australian evangelist at a small speaking engagement in Texas. Nick’s appearance on the stage makes a sensation. Sometimes, he is carried in. Sometimes, he scuffles along the ground and hops up steps to a table, upon which he stands. He has a mere stub for a foot only.

With a mixture of self-deprecating humor, optimistic Bible preaching and non-stop enthusiasm the born-again evangelist leads sinners to Christ and Christians to a better attitude.

As he spoke in 2010 at the iconic Adriatica Bell Tower in McKinney, Nick spotted the exotic beauty in the audience and felt his heart throb. Would she — could she — feel the same?

Through friends, he arranged to talk with her and, playing it cool, managed to exchange emails.

Kanae was disillusioned with her prior dating experiences.

“Because I have dated other guys, I always went for the physical and I got tired of that,” she says on YouTube. “When I met Nick I was looking for other things, I found all those things in him. I was like wow, he’s not just boyfriend material, he could be my husband.”

So when she met Nick, she wasn’t necessarily looking for physical attributes — at least not arms and legs.

“The moment I saw his smile and his eyes, I thought to myself, oh my gosh, he’s so handsome. He’s my Prince charming. He may not be perfect on the exterior but he’s a perfect match for me.”

Nick was born to Serbian immigrants in Australia with tetra-amelia syndrome, a rare disorder characterized by the absence of arms and legs. When the nurse showed Dušanka and Borislav Vujičić their baby, the couple went outside the hospital to vomit.

Eventually, they accepted Nick as he was. They brought him home and raised him to love God and never make excuses but to learn to do everything by himself, as much as possible. Hence, he went to school, played ball and made friends like everyone else.

“My parents always taught me we have a choice to either be angry for what we don’t have or to be grateful for what we do have,” he says. “The power of choice. I had to decide for myself, especially in the early years in school when a lot of kids would come up to me and tease me.

“The world is a hurting place. The world needs hope. The world needs love,” he says. “Without hope, we feel like, why are we here?”

Nick graduated from Griffith University at the age of 21 with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, with a double major in accounting and financial planning.

In 2005, Vujicic founded Life Without Limbs, an international non-profit organization and ministry. In 2007, he founded the motivational speaking company Attitude is Altitude. He has preached for mega church pastor Greg Laurie and around the world to more than 4 million people. In 2008, he moved to California.

Nick doesn’t let anything hold him back. He swims, cooks, skydives and surfs.

The night he met Kanae was “electric,” Nick says. “When she stood by me it just felt right.”

Nick proposed on a yacht in Santa Barbara. He even put the ring on her finger — with his mouth. She wasn’t expecting it, and he began by kissing her hand. With great dexterity, he managed to slip on the gold band. Read the rest: Nick Vujicic wife

Ukraine ministry rescues children dumped into poorly run orphanages

Nita Hanson God's Hidden TreasuresIn 1997, Nita Hanson was a prosperous employee in Thousand Oaks. Then she went on a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine.

It broke her heart and changed the direction of her life. She saw crib after crib of babies and children crammed together in dim rooms.

“That’s when my heart broke open. I knew then that I couldn’t leave,” she told the Simi Valley Acorn.

Gods Hidden TreasuresNita saw babies with special needs being dumped into ill-equipped and poorly staffed public orphanages. She witnessed handicapped people who had no real hope to ever receive mobility devices. If you were poor, there was little chance of finding help.

She decided to abandon the American Dream and pursue God’s dream. She was divorced and her two kids were grown. She was free from commitments, so she committed herself full time to the Lord’s work.

Today, Nita, 77, runs three orphanages in Bila Tserkva, Ukraine. Her ministry, God’s Hidden Treasures, has teamed up with Christian athlete superstar Tim Tebow to stage events to help some of the neediest people in Ukraine. She provides wheelchairs and walkers; people who otherwise would have been enclosed in four walls forever may now go out and breathe the fresh air and bask in the sunshine. Her group sponsors medical home visits and supplies food and basic needs.

Staffed by mostly Ukrainians, her people seek to create life-long relationships with orphans and other families.

Lori Hall in UkraineLori Hall of Ventura County recently joined Nita on a short-term mission group.

“I was thrilled to join the Impact Team as we set out to listen, learn and serve the ministry of God’s Hidden Treasure,” she says. “We sought to be humble servants as we went to other cultures, to share Jesus’ love by listening to the people, learning of their concerns and serving them in Jesus’ name.”

Lori spent 12 days assisting doctors and pastors with in-home health visits, delivering necessary wheelchair or mobility devices and helping with an annual citywide picnic evangelistic event for over 300 handicapped persons. Her group ran a Vacation Bible School for teenage boys with special needs living in an orphanage, a highly anticipated event. Not much is done for these special needs people, so it’s significant that this group makes a concentrated effort to focus on people sidelined by society.

“I was most impacted by the great love, tenderness and respect everyone showed to each and every individual,” Lori noted. “Jesus and His love was everywhere as people’s lives were blessed and changed forever, whether by receiving their first wheelchair or walker, by being touched with loving hands and hugs or finding new life in Jesus’ message of truth!”

In 15 years, God’s Hidden Treasures has delivered more than 6,000 mobility aids across Ukraine, her website says. When she provides a wheelchair as a gift, she tells the recipient it is “because God heard your prayers.”

They’ve come a long way from the original three wheelchairs brought on a Delta Flight to the Ukraine purchased from China in conjunction with Joni and Friends USA. Read more about God’s Hidden Treasures.

A missionary with Muscular Dystrophy

IMG_4500As the #2 executive at the biggest waste hauler west of the Mississippi, Chris Banducci was the envy of his friends. He lounged in a nice house, drove a hot sports car and wallowed in money. “Work hard,” his neighbors told their kids, “and you’ll be a success like him.”

Then, at 29 years old, Chris was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, and his world fell apart.

“I was angry. I was lonely. I was miserable and full of self-hatred. I just wanted to die. My drinking got worse; I drank myself to sleep every night,” Chris recalled. “I couldn’t imagine that any woman could love this ‘cripple.’”

taiwan-missionary-in-wheelchairToday, Chris Banducci, 61, is a Christian missionary in Taiwan. With God’s help, he overcame many obstacles and took on increasing challenges as his body began to fail him.

Looking back at his early years, it would be hard to imagine Chris answering a call to the mission field. After he graduated from high school, he drove a trash truck.

“This was the best job I ever had,” he said. “I learned how to operate every bit of equipment at that place, to prepare for a supervisory role. Then I began to learn from my leaders how to manage people and make good business decisions.”

He felt some early physical symptoms of his disease, but shrugged it off.

As a supervisor, he was hated and feared.

cfm-pics-chris-banducci“I mistreated people,” he said. “I stepped on people, lied, cheated and eliminated competition. I was not an easy person to be around. My reputation with women was such that they avoided me.”

Through raw ambition, Chris worked his way up to the director of recycling and resource recovery, second only to the owner and CEO. He reached the pinnacle of success.

“My neighbors would tell their teenage and college-age sons, ‘Look at him. If you work hard and apply yourself, you can be like that!’”

It was heady stuff. But while he relished the admiration, Chris knew on the inside he was a mess. His family lived up north, so he was lonely. He was good at intimidating people but not at making friends. He was drinking heavily.

Then he walked into the doctor’s office one day and received the jolting news. Read the rest of Muscular Dystrophy Missionary.