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Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

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Venturing Out While Lying Down

Dave enjoying the outdoors

Dave enjoying the outdoors

: Amy Wilson

Name: Dave Callazo
Injury: C6, C7
Mechanism of Injury: Wrestling Accident
Date of Injury: 1965

For Dave Collazo, a love of the outdoors is something that he has taken with him everywhere throughout life. After a wrestling accident in high school that paralyzed him from the waist down, he has had to rely on something else to take him around in the outdoors: a motorized bed.

"A bunch of bologna"
At the age of seventeen; Callazo was told by his doctors that he would never again move anything below his neck. Luckily, this did not end up being true, as Callazo regained movement of his arms within a year-and-a-half.

"They told me I'd never move anything from the neck down and that was a bunch of bologna," says Callazo, "I can use my arms, my chest, and shoulders. They were way off on that part."

Despite the improvement of his condition, Callazo soon faced another problem; he was no longer able to use a wheelchair as a tool for mobility, since the position he was in while sitting in his wheelchair was causing bleeding in his urinary tract.

After no longer being able to use a wheelchair, Callazo spent most of his time lying in bed, but he still missed the mobility of his wheelchair. One day, while sitting and talking to a friend, Callazo said, "God it wouldn't be so bad, being stuck in bed and rolling it around like an electric wheelchair."

Dave with his mobile bed

Dave with his mobile bed

And, because of this comment, his friend, "Just stood up and walked out the door and he came back two weeks later with the bed. He made it on the spot."

While Callazo was now mobile again because of his motorized bed, he still could not go out and experience nature the way he wanted to.

Losing legs to gain mobility
In a move that was as unconventional as it was brave, Callazo decided to have both of his legs removed, so that he and his bed could fit inside a modified van that he would eventually use to explore the Western United States.

When Callazo introduced this idea to his doctor, his plan was initially met with resistance. "I went to my doctor and told him that I wanted to get rid of my legs and he thought I was crazy," says Callazo, "so he made me go see a psychiatrist. I talked to a psychiatrist and he understood. I talked to the surgeon and he was a real bother because he was used to saving legs, not getting rid of them!"

Despite the fact that he did not initially receive a lot of support for his plan, Callazo credits the amputation of his legs for the exciting life that he has led ever since his accident.

"I was six feet tall," explains Callazo, "I wouldn't have been able to fit in the van if I was as tall as I was then. It's been a real blessing. Without it, my life would have been really, really dull."

Once Dave was able to fit his bed into his van, he and his friends knew no boundaries when it came to exploring. Dave went hunting throughout his home-state of Arizona, and has seen almost all of the Western United States.

Dave and his van he dubbed “Behemoth”

Dave and his van he dubbed “Behemoth”

Words to live by
Despite the new freedom it gave him, when the terrain became too tough, Callazo did not let his van limit his adventures.

To make sure he was able to explore everything he wanted to, Callazo would attach his bed to a friend's ATV and would use that to explore unchartered territory. While flying in an ultra-light aircraft in Mexico, with nothing between him and the ground aside from the chair he was sitting on, Callazo was able to experience a different view of the world, one that changed his views on life.

"When you're away from the earth, you look down on it, and it will give you a different perspective on how things are, explains Callazo, "It helped me figure out that it was beautiful and worth living for."

Because Callazo's experiences in the outdoors taught him to appreciate life, he believes that exploring the outdoors is something that all people living with a disability should do.

"There's no reason to sit at home and do nothing," says Callazo, "I don't believe that I found the only good people in the world. There are a lot of people out there who are willing to help if you just allow them to. You'll find that if you just open yourself up and let people offer to help it's just wonderful. So many good things happen for you."

Tell us your story

Telling your story is one way to let anyone touched by paralysis know that they are not alone. We've created a place where you can share your journey for your benefit, and the benefit of others. Your story matters. Share it!

Access-Able Travel SourceHi, we are Bill and Carol Randall and we live in Colorado. We have always liked to travel and like many of you don't get to do it enough. Carol has MS and uses a wheelchair or scooter. This has given us some first hand experience with unpleasant surprises and access problems. That's why we started Access-Able Travel Source. We are an information service! We are not travel agents, just travelers. We think we have come up with a way to help fellow travelers.

Access to RecreationOffers some interesting products that may come in handy during your travels.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Medical Air Transportation (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Medical Air Transportation (PDF)(Spanish)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Travel (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF) - EnglishA Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF) - Spanish

AmtrakAmtrak enjoys a good reputation among travelers with disabilities, offers information on reservations, accessible coaches and sleeping accommodations, boarding, use of oxygen, etc.

Emerging HorizonsLots of information in this accessible travel magazine covering news, resources and travel tips.

Environmental Traveling CompanionsOffers outdoor adventures.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)Information on laws regarding air travel for persons with disabilities.

Mobility International USAThe National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange has programs to increase the participation of people with disabilities in international exchange programs.

The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality (SATH)A clearinghouse for accessible tourism information, dedicated to a barrier-free environment throughout the travel and tourism industry.

ScootAround IncOffers scooter and wheelchair rentals in dozens of North America destinations

Special Needs GroupGlobal provider of special needs equipment rentals including mobility scooters, wheelchairs, powerchairs, oxygen, patient lifts, hospital beds and more. Equipment is delivered to cruises, hotels, convention centers and other requested locations.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

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The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship areencouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.