A friend shot him by accident and was left in a wheelchair: “I didn’t get mad because I knew he was also a victim”
On April 20, 1990, Luciano Cruz Llosa was in the house of a classmate in San Miguel del Monte. It was already a few minutes past noon. After a while, another friend of his joined who was a year older. The three of them were alone. Around 2:00 p.m., the homeowner was absent for a few seconds and returned with a large-caliber firearm (Smith Wesson 357 Magnum). Suddenly, the revolver accidentally fired, hitting the projectile in Luciano’s chest and exiting through the back. Then, he made a large hole from side to side of one of the walls of the place.
“As soon as I received the shot, I stopped having mobility and sensitivity in my lower limbs. They took me to the Zenón Videla Dorna Hospital where I had an emergency operation for the condition in my right lung. In that procedure All the doctors of the town participated, to whom I owe my life. The next day I had neurosurgery to remove bullet shrapnel near my spinal cord. I was on the brink of death for a few days. My state of health did not allow the transfer, not even by helicopter, to Buenos Aires or La Plata. In the Public Hospital of Monte they saved my life. The nurse who assisted me from the first moment made the difference. He managed the operating room, activated the blood donation, ”recalls Luciano, from a distance.
Luciano’s injury was in the eighth dorsal vertebra with loss of sensitivity and mobility. Logically, one of the questions he asked the doctors after the extremely serious condition was if he would walk again. The professionals explained the level of neurological compromise he had and that he had to wait a few months for the affected area to subside and stabilize. In the following months, he says, he began to realize how irreversible the situation was.
Despite the extreme nature of his case, he says, the reaction was not so bad, or at least he remembers it that way. “I was very content and cared for by my family, friends and school. They were all extremely important. I think I was always forward. I usually saw the positive side of things. I had to live this situation, I tried not to stop asking myself `why me?`. That question makes no practical sense. On the contrary, it distracts you. I became aware that I had to live this life with a different reality than most. I learned that other people with similar experiences had achieved important achievements: work, careers, family, independence. That’s where I put the focus.”
Despite the fact that he was only 13 years old and that he was going through an unimaginable situation, Luciano was convinced that the boy who shot him was also a victim of the tragedy. “I consider that both my friend and I were victims of the accident. As far as I remember I didn’t feel angry with him. The reproach would perhaps be directed against the elderly who leave such a dangerous element within the reach of a child. Logically, I had moments of anger typical of the traumatic situation that I had to live through at such a young age. I took it out on those around me. I also had religious questions,” he says.
After about 15 days in the Monte public hospital, Luciano was discharged and stayed a few days at home with his parents and siblings.
Later, he went to ALPI (a non-profit civil association dedicated to the neuromotor rehabilitation of pediatric and adult patients), but due to a pleural effusion, he was referred to the María Ferrer Hospital. A few days later he had a thrombosis in one of his legs, for which he was admitted to the Garrahan Hospital. “I had a nice tour,” laughs Luciano.
Once he recovered from all the complications he suffered, he was able to complete his rehabilitation at ALPI as an intern until November of that year. “They gave me several guidelines, but then there are issues that one learns on a day-to-day basis. I had a maxim that was ‘to want is to be able’. I also had the chance to travel to Cuba on two occasions to perfect my rehabilitation.”
Luciano says that many things were known only by force and that in others he had allies who offered him their hand of support and containment so that he never gave up his arms. “To drive a car for the first time I had the help of my brother Santos. We adapt the family’s Renault 11 in a completely homemade way. For that, we have the advice of Quique, a lame man with a lot of experience. The same for riding a horse. In that case with the help of my cousins. My other three brothers were also very important at other times. Juan, for example, accompanied me to Cuba, with Jacinto we made the graduate trip and with Mecha we shared a house and the fanaticism for Estudiantes de La Plata. To swim, I found out a bit, I saw that it was possible and one fine day I left and came out as well as possible. So I was exploring. School, night, alcohol, girls”.
Far from seeing it as an inconvenience, Luciano began to perceive his wheelchair as an ally and a cane that was helping him to carry out each of the things he proposed. “I remember that in ALPI they were afraid of me because I was walking at a thousand, haha. Soon I learned to make `willy`. I always liked having the latest medical equipment (cushion, backrest, wheelchair). It is essential that people with disabilities have good tools”.
The years passed along with the adaptation that Luciano was making to his new life. In fact, he wasn’t about to give up anything he felt like doing. That is why he studied Law at the Catholic University of La Plata and says that, in general, he had no obstacles or architectural barriers.
In 2000 he joined the Ministry of Justice of the Province of Buenos Aires and in 2008 he began working in the Public Ministry in the position of Legal Assistant of the Judicial Office of Unit 15 of Batán.
In relation to love, Luciano met Upe in a folk club in Buenos Aires and says that the first day he even helped him get into the wheelchair in the car. After a little over a year they got married, eager for the arrival of children. “A few years later, God blessed us with the arrival of Antonia. It was really sensational. We intensely enjoy pregnancy, ultrasounds, childbirth, diapers, naps. I always wanted to be a father. I think that for a person who went through difficult situations like me, the fact of being a father has a special taste. I feel complete. I always say the same: Antonia is the light of my eyes. It is a real sun. Intelligent, spontaneous, sensitive, companion, athlete”, she expresses, with happiness and pride about her daughter who is currently 10 years old.
Since Luciano, who is currently 45 years old, and his family moved to Mar del Plata with his wife, they wanted to practice a sport related to the city. That idea had always been dormant until in 2018 they became aware of an Adapted Surf Clinic offered by Lucas Rubiño, director of the Mar del Surf inclusive school.
“The first time they put me on the board was sensational. I have that moment engraved on fire. I love the water, the sea and physical activity. There I have all that, in addition to the feeling of freedom and adrenaline. This sport makes me look at the sea in a different way, with different eyes. I try to get to know him a little more every day, always with the utmost respect. Surfers make me feel good. They always lend a hand. I go to them a lot and they like the idea of seeing people like me on the water.”
Luciano participated in two Adaptive Surfing World Championships (in San Diego and California), in two Latin American championships in Chile and in two South American championships in Mar del Plata. In addition, he competed in several national championships. And with great joy he says that he became the South American champion and champion in the first national Adapted Surfing competition (open category) in 2019. In addition, he obtained two Latin American runner-ups and one national runner-up.
Luciano he believes that in recent years progress has been made in various aspects related to disability, but he thinks that there are issues that need to be emphasized. “I believe that from the state several actions could be carried out. For example, ensuring compliance with the employment quota for people with disabilities, supervising compliance with existing regulations for the gradual and sustained elimination of architectural barriers, adapting public passenger transport”, he exemplifies.
Finally, Luciano wants to share a hopeful message for people with disabilities who, perhaps, do not find reasons to get ahead. “I tell you that they take advantage, that they enjoy life in spite of what happened to us, mainly to value life. Let them be encouraged, many things can be done. That we can get surprised. There is no need to refuse in advance. You have to try. You have to get used to thinking positive. You can always get positive things out of things. You have to focus on what really matters.”