Felipe Adams Hero Story
“Before I roll out the door every day, I tell myself ‘life is good,’ ” says Felipe Adams. Those three words make the difference in whether Felipe wallows in self pity or revels in life’s next chapter. “I must remind myself that every day is a struggle and that life will throw obstacles in my way but it is up to me to overcome them.”
Felipe suffered a paralyzing injury on September 30, 2006, while serving in the U.S. Army. He was patrolling a neighborhood in Baghdad, when he and his platoon were ambushed in an alleyway and a sniper’s bullet shattered his spine. “I remember seeing a flash and a bullet hitting the wall next to me,” he recalls. “I saw another flash and I went down, I immediately knew something was terribly wrong.” Surveying his comrades’ faces, Felipe knew that his thoughts were correct, he would suffer major injuries.
Felipe had decided to enlist in the U.S. Army in September 2003 to continue the family tradition of his father and uncles. Even after spending seven months in an inpatient rehab program and undergoing nine surgeries, Felipe says he would not change his mind about enlisting if he had a chance to do it all over again. “I don’t have any regrets about my time in service and I loved the interaction with different cultures.”
Before his injury Felipe lived a fast-paced lifestyle. “I was loner and always pushed the envelope. I really enjoyed traveling and playing basketball.” Now after his injury, Felipe is still maintaining his loner profile but realizes that he has to break out of his shell. “I’m still in my loner mentality but since my injury I’ve learned that I need people to help me cope with my situation. So my family provides the support I need on a daily basis.”
Through familial support paired with his “great physical therapist,” Felipe was able to get through his rehab and keep a positive attitude toward his future. He said that during his recovery he was continually reinforced with the thought that even though he was seriously injured, his life was still worth living.
During his recovery at the Long Beach VA Medical Center, Felipe met with Paralyzed Veterans representatives from California Paralyzed Veterans. “They actually found me when I was in the hospital. They came to my bedside and before they even got my whole story they asked if my needs were being met as a disabled veteran and how was I being treated? They introduced the organization to me and asked if I wanted to join, I said yes.”
Felipe has been a member of the California Paralyzed Veterans Chapter since December 2006. “Paralyzed Veterans gave me the opportunity to open up and (they would) listen to whatever turmoil I was going through at the moment.
“Every day is a learning experience for me. I get frustrated at times because of all the limitations I must learn to overcome. But that is what keeps life interesting. I can still do things any able bodied person can do. Some things I think disabled people can do better.”
Currently, Felipe is enrolled at Santa Monica College studying computer science. His future plans include traveling more and finishing school. “Depression was never an option for me, so I realized life must go on, and that is what I am focusing on. “Paralyzed Veterans helped me to see that life does go on after a tragic injury.”