[Editor’s note: The facts of how Carmen Giminez came to be injured are disputed. What is known is that after arguing with a man, she fell from a third-floor window and suffered a complete spinal cord injury that resulted in lack of mobility from the navel downwards.]
On the evening of March 11, 2010, my then partner and I had a huge argument at our apartment in Madrid. I contacted a close family member and asked her to come and spend time with me. She asked if she should stay the night with me at the apartment, but I told her not to, I didn’t want to cause her any inconvenience.
The next morning when I woke up, my partner wouldn’t speak to me. All I remember is him saying: “You don’t have to go to work, but there are people who do.” I have no memories after that, but somehow, I ended up falling out of a window of our third-floor apartment and landing on the ground outside.
I spent the first month after that in the intensive care unit (ICU) and in the first few days I was so heavily sedated that I hardly remember anything. I was intubated and couldn’t speak initially, but when I realized that I couldn’t feel my legs, I started to become aware of the injury I had suffered; a complete spinal cord injury that has resulted in a lack of mobility and sensitivity from my navel downwards.
At first, I was barely able to do anything. I couldn’t transfer myself from a bed to a chair and I couldn’t get dressed or take a shower. Even simple tasks were extremely difficult. And though I was eventually able to learn how to complete day-to-day activities as quickly as I would have done them before, it took me many months to accept my injury. I was convinced that there would be a cure, that it would be reversible, and I would walk again.
The first year living with my injury was very hard. Of course, I adapted and learned to live with my new circumstances, but it was a slow and complex process. And I still feel the justice system failed me. There was a police investigation about my fall, but the case was archived because of a lack of evidence.
Several years passed and I met someone else. We married and my daughter Ana was born in 2013. Then, after my husband and I divorced, I fell pregnant in 2018 with another partner.
I was perfectly fine throughout the duration of the pregnancy and at 34 weeks pregnant, on April 9, 2019, I went to bed as usual. But shortly after, I began to experience shakes and chills and I started to bleed. Of course, I immediately called the emergency services and was told that they were sending an ambulance. In the end, it took four calls and 62 minutes for them to arrive. My son Bruno was born in the middle of that wait, and although he was perfectly healthy, at only 34 weeks old, his lungs had not reached maturation so he could not breathe on his own. Bruno arrived at the hospital alive, but he died a few hours later as a result of hypoxia, a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Bruno’s short time on earth made me even more aware of the true value of life. I felt the obligation, out of respect for my son, to live intensely so that he could live through me. Nine months after Bruno died, my daughter, Valentina, was born and a few months after her birth, I started training as a wheelchair runner with a coach Roberto Alvarez. Bruno’s name is on my athletic chair, and I wear his footprints around my neck on a necklace, so I feel that I am allowing him to run the streets of the world he should have run himself.
My first competition as a wheelchair runner was the Spanish Championship of Adapted Athletics, in 2020 and I finished as a runner up in the 100, 200, and 400-meters wheelchair running races. Then, at the same competition in 2021 I won first place in the distances of 100, 200, and 800 meters.
Winning is an incredible feeling. When I won those races, I felt that I was giving Bruno back part of the happiness that his existence had given me. I put my body and my heart into winning the competition, but I also felt as if Bruno’s wings were there with me. To me, my son and I cross the finish line together and I share the emotion and happiness of a win with him. In that way, I feel I am able to give Bruno back his place in this world; he is able to walk through the world with his mother.
My life has completely changed since 2010, but for the better. Now I feel that I live a conscious life, I value things that I didn’t before, and I can recognize what is most important. I hope to convey a message of positivity. Life is a gift. While we have life, we have options. Now that I am aware of the gift of life, I can look at people with a sensitivity that I didn’t have before. And I look at myself with a new respect and affection. My spinal cord injury was not the end; it was the beginning of a life full of hope.
Carmen Gimenez is a wheelchair athlete living in Madrid. You can follow her on Twitter @runforbruno and on Instagram @carmenysusaventuras and find out more at runforyou.es.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
[Originally reported in Newsweek.]