How this Paralympian became the first African American to win a gold medal in swimming for the USA
Curtis Lovejoy discusses setting 13 World records after becoming disabled
As a mother, something happening to our children is probably the worst feeling in the World. Having to accept that they will no longer be "normal" and that society will judge them as such is scary. Children with disabilities and their families deal with this judgement everyday. Everyday there is a disabled person fighting to not let the perception of others define them. Everyday there is a parent trying to understand how to provide the most support to their child. Some people are born with such disabilities and some people have a life changing experience that leads to a disability. In seconds, "normal" can be redefined for our children and as parents we must adapt. How do we adapt? How do our children adapt? Check out our interview with Curtis Lovejoy. A car accident changed his life completely; a phone call changed his mothers baby boy. Find out below how Curtis went from aspiring to become a professional NBA player to barely surviving a car wreck that left him quadriplegic (def. loss of motion in all four limbs):
What helped you cope and accept becoming a complete quadriplegic? Well, I really did not know the difference between Paraplegic and Quadriplegic but the fact remained the same. I could not move, walk or take care of myself. I gave God three days to heal my body, after three days, I still did not move. I became mad at God, depressed and upset with everyone who was associated with me. After talking to mom and repenting about my remarks to God, my situation instantly changed. God came into my life and never left. Seeking God gave me the strength to cope with everything that I had been thru. I take it to God and he truly guides me.
Did you ever imagine becoming a Paralympian? How did that come about? Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I would become a Paralympian. Before the accident, I wanted to be a professional basketball player! I just knew I was going to play in the NBA. I was introduced to swimming after my accident as a form of therapy. I used to sit on the steps of the pool and never move. I just stared at the water. I was terrified at the thought of letting go and swimming. Then one day I was sitting on the step, my head went back into the water and I panicked. I thought I was going to die because I could not gain control. I began to talk to God, and he showed me a vision. I saw medals going around my neck at a swim meet ceremony. I snapped back out of it and came back to myself. I asked GOD “Do you want me to swim?” However, HE never replies. I wrestled with that moment for two days and after those two days; I decided to learn how to swim! I began searching for the right swim coach. I was also searching for Paralympic games and/or events. GOD lead me to Teresa in South Carolina, who got me started. Afterwards I met with Coach Jackson who took me to the NEXT LEVEL!
What was it like meeting such socially influential people such as Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela? Those were life-changing experiences! Queen Elizabeth personally offered me a job. Not many people can say that! The late Nelson Mandela encouraged me to go for more. Although he was The Nelson Mandela, he was amazed by my accomplishments. He said, “You mean a black man holds (at that time) 6 World records in swimming!” I told him “Yes Sir! Me! Not only that Sir but the 1st African American to win GOLD in swimming & fencing for USA!” He told me it was an honor to meet ME. I let him know that the honor was all mine. Just being in his presence had me praying that some of his wisdom, blessings, and honor would fall upon me. Overall, I think that being in the presence of President of the United State: Barack Obama & Michelle Obama was the highlight of my life. It was a DREAM!
What advice would you give to parents on helping their children deal with adversity? You MUST protect your children and try not to let them be a part of all the craziness going on in the World. They will see the trouble of the World, but your reaction is most important. We need to provide them with as much wisdom as possible so that in the event they do fall, they will know what they need to do to pick themselves back up.
What advice would you give to someone who may want to try out for the Olympics? It has to be in your HEART, maybe even from the time you are a child. It takes a special person to help you keep your eye on that GOAL! It is just like the blood running through your veins; it is always there in your system. Being a Paralympian/Olympian requires you to know that you were chosen by God to have a life full of greatness and you have been specifically selected to change others life through sport. You have to put your all into it and remain focused even when you feel like giving up.
How did your car accident change your perspectives on life? God has always been the most important being in my life. My mother taught me to place God first. Once I got past the 30 days of depression and I was able to progress! I had to learn more about my injury, body, work effort, and get ready to do the IMPOSSIBLE! I knew that God had a promise over my life and through his guidance; I have been able to achieve it.
At 61 years old, you have set 13 World records. Is it ever too late to reinvent yourself? The only time it is too late is when you die. As long as breath is in your body, you have faith and God is on your side then all things are possible.
Many people struggle with finding themselves and their passions. What advice would you give to those struggling with understanding themselves? Be yourself, do not get caught-up with these movie stars, singers, entertainers, athletes & fortune 500 CEO. Some of these folks are miserable, depressed & have no passion for humanity (maybe once a year to write off their taxes). Learn to listen to your heart. Ask yourself, if you could do one thing in life that you would do free, what would it be?
What advice would you give to parents who have disabled children? Be patient, because God has a purpose for your child. Let children be themselves & surround that child with lots of Love & Joy. Children did not ask to come to the world! I hope that the children will rewrite history in their own special way and they too will understand that everyone was born with PURPOSE!
Are there any resources you would suggest to those who have become disabled or their loved ones? Yes, there are (2) “bibles” they need to know about:
The Holy Bible: it is full of ALL your questions about the entire family, which include persons with disabilities!
ADA (American Disability Act) law. This is your second HOPE, which will get the ball rolling in your favor. I learned & studied this second book. Educating myself with what was available to me due to the ADA law was the only way that people would listen! You can receive the FREE Stuff that others pay for, nothing second hand, but first class. Both “bibles” work hand in hand, but you just cannot leave out either one! I have shared this information with so many people but they refuse to read it, follow the instructions, be patient & finally fill out the paperwork.