In just one short year, Paul Kocina, a 29-year-old double amputee, has transformed himself from an angry, self-destructive youth into a courageous, insightful young man who is enthusiastic about life and its possibilities. How did this remarkable change come about?
As Paul tells his story, it all began with a horrific motorcycle accident on a dusty, debris-laden road in Palm Springs, California in August 2008. His fall resulted in 2 open compound fractures, punctured left lung, a torn descending aorta and spinal compression of L3,4,5. After years of failed operations, he was forced to amputate both legs in order to achieve a better quality of life. His left leg was amputated above the knee and the right leg below the knee.
When Paul returned home from Iraq, he was anxious, pill-dependent and "messed up." Losing both legs due to his accident brought him to the breaking point. One night he put a gun in his mouth and came close to killing himself. The only thing that stopped him was imagining his mother's wrath at the mess he would make.
Suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress and the loss of both legs, Paul was told he would never walk again. It was only when he met other patients at a prosthetic facility that Paul saw how others bore their loss of limbs. He met disabled athletes who participated in the Paralympics, professional cyclists, and high-caliber competitors who lived amazing lives despite their limitations.
This awe-inspiring group of friends motivated Paul to examine his own life. The first thing he did was put distance between himself and others who didn't understand the journey he wa
s on at that point in his life. After dealing with substance abuse issues for eight years, he took time to think about the changes he was prepared to make to finally build the life he wanted to live. And he also decided to contact Wave Academy after hearing about the progress his buddies had made.
These days Paul drives 75 miles each way to attend his own WA warm-water-therapy sessions. During his first few sessions in the water, Paul was terrified he would drown without his prosthetics. With the help of his therapist, he gradually learned to trust and accept assistance from others. In time, he gained strength and mobility. Sore muscles began to heal. He felt calm. In fact, now Paul is so relaxed, he can easily fall asleep in the water.
Paul's current game plan is to surround himself only with people who bring out the best in him. A big fan of Wave Academy, he is living proof that with the right help, you can become the person you want to be. "It takes patience, courage and some luck. But it can happen," says Paul. "Just look at me!"