I Will Walk with You

Updated: Jun 29, 2020


| This is the 308th story of Our Life Logs |

With tears in her eyes, she softly said, “I am glad you are here, Papito, and even if you’ll be in a wheelchair, I still want you to go with me.” I looked at my darling sister and told her, “No way. Not in a wheelchair. We are going to walk!”

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In August of 2017, my sister, Daniele, had asked me if I could walk her down the aisle at her wedding the next spring. It had been one of the proudest moments of my life. Then the accident happened, and everything changed.

I was born the eldest of four in Chapecó in 1970, a small town in south Brazil before we moved to São Paulo when I was very young. Simone and Ricardo came soon after me, and then when I was 16, baby Daniele was born. I was a very happy boy growing up, finding the positive in every situation. I likely gained that trait from my father who was always supportive and loving. He allowed his children to dream big.

Little me on horseback, 1973.
Little me on horseback, 1973.

For me, my dream was to explore my beautiful country on a motorcycle. I dreamed of rolling the throttle back and taking off down the road with the wind rushing past me. Cruising through the countryside, having lunch in tiny towns, and then back to the city—I could see it all. When I was 19, I made that dream a reality and purchased my first motorcycle. Over time, it became my passion and part of my daily life.

Outside of riding, I built a career in banking and started a family of my own, having two sons, Pedro and Matheus. Then my life changed when I was 28 and my father passed away. As a family, we surrounded each other for support as we grieved. Daniele was only 12, so I took care of her. She lived with me until she turned 20, and we became very close. Ever since I took her in, she’s called me Papito: little daddy in Spanish. Even in the despair of losing my father, I found the positive of becoming closer with my baby sister.

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Life continued and as my sons grew up, I started taking them with me on my motorcycle rides. I bought a big motorcycle in 2012 and since then I would go for rides almost every weekend. My boys shared the euphoric feeling from driving through the streets with me. I’d pop them behind me and instruct them to hold on tight. Then off we’d go down the city streets, laughing with delight.

Me on my motorcycle, October 2015.
Me on my motorcycle, October 2015.

On October 17, 2017, I was riding through the city with my eldest son Pedro perched behind me. We weren’t going fast, just 15 mph. I turned onto a street and then I suddenly lost control. We started tipping to the left and reality seemed to slow down. In a moment like this, you understand what a powerful machine you’re sitting on. I realized instantly that if I didn’t do something, and fast, Pedro and I would get hurt very badly.

It’s a weird feeling. One moment you’re controlling the bike, the next you’re not. Realizing my son was in danger was horrifying. As the bike swerved, I grabbed Pedro in a reflex and threw him off out of danger. Unfortunately, to have the strength to push him, I had to keep my left foot on the pedal. There was no more time after that. My son was okay, but I had to sacrifice my left foot.

 The motorcycle crashed down, and I was stuck underneath it. The pain was excruciating, and I was losing blood fast; I kept thinking, “I’m going to die. I’m going to die right there in front of my son.”

It took 40 minutes for the first responders to arrive, but Pedro was resilient in that moment. He stayed by my side, whispering encouraging words to keep me from spiraling. I truly believe he kept me alive that day. The accident changed both of us. In my eyes, he was a kid before, but from that moment on he was a man. Although, I could see from the look in his eyes that he was having trouble accepting the reality that I was just a fragile human, not some indestructible hero like he used to believe.

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What followed were 27 days of hell, in which I had seven surgeries, five blood transfers, and four bacterial infections. The entire time at the hospital, the fear of dying loomed over me. It was a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. Each day brought a new complication.

The doctors tried everything to save my leg. Every two days, I would go into another surgery, but nothing was helping. And given the wound, I wasn’t surprised. Trust me, it wasn’t pretty. While it was an exhausting time, I was still ecstatic every day to be alive. I told myself I had to do my part in recovering. I could not let myself slip into a depression or give up the fight. I had to set an example for my boys and stay optimistic and do my best to help the doctors.

After the sixth surgery, one of the doctors said to me, “Listen, Marcelo. We’re doing our best, but it’s going to be difficult for you to have a normal life. You are going to walk, but you will never walk normally. You will need many more surgeries.” My heart sank.

“Will I ever be able to run again?”

“Definitely not.”

In that moment, my whole world fell apart. I would never be able to forget, never recover, not completely. This accident would define me for the rest of my life.

“However, amputation is a possibility,” the doctor added.

“As an amputee, could I ever run again?”

“With a prosthetic leg, definitely yes!”

I let his answer sink in. “Can I think it over?”

“Of course.”

Ultimately, I realized that getting the amputation was my chance for a fresh start, the best way to move on with my life. Nevertheless, it was the most difficult decision in my life. Allowing doctors to remove a limb is not something anyone wants to be faced with, but I knew it was the best decision for me.

Going into surgery was terrifying and my nerves were at an all-time high. I second guessed my decision as they rolled me out of my hospital room. Had I made the right choice? How would it change me? Then I looked over and saw my siblings—even Ricardo who came from Canada—and my sons smiling at me, encouragement and love shimmering in their eyes, and I felt comforted and confident in my decision. Like when my father died, we surrounded each other. With their support, I knew I’d make it through this.

With my family at the hospital, 2017.