Photo Credit: Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash.com

Written by Tony Degliomini
July 17, 2019

Sunday, June 17th, 2015, is etched in my mind forever . . . some call it fate and some may call it destiny–or something more personal and profound.

I decided to enter a 25-mile Phillies charity bicycle ride that would take me on a tour of the city of Philadelphia. I thought, short but sweet . . . but bittersweet it was.

That summer morning, I left with the birds singing and a fresh dew on the lawn. A perfect day for a ride, I thought, as I packed up my gear and bike. I arrived early enough to be one of the first cyclists at the starting line, talking to bikers from all over the country.

I started to ride, not knowing I would never finish it . . .

I rode with great confidence as I came to the 24-mile marker where I could see the finish line. The last thought that I remember was “finish strong, Tony.”

Then, the sound of a bike chain. 

Nothing. Silence. Blackness . . . like falling asleep. Only to wake up to a nightmare. As I gained consciousness in the arms of a stranger, I came to the realization I had no feeling in my hands and legs.

My mind couldn’t comprehend what was happening. I’d ridden into an unmarked 16 square foot sinkhole. As I lay there on the street, fearful thoughts consumed me all at once.

Wife . . . Son . . . Daughter . . . Work . . . Life . . . Death . . . Life . . . would be different forever . . .

Too many thoughts flashed before my eyes–as I spit my teeth out and felt the rush of blood rolling down my face. I heard the screaming of people all around me and the call for an ambulance.

Time stood still for the first time in my life.

Does anyone ever really see “it” coming? 

Job loss, accident, loss of a loved one, or sudden illness, are all out of our control. Helplessness engulfed me. I was then rushed to Jefferson Hospital where they would perform a five-hour emergency spinal fusion.

I was in ICU for a week and then transported to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, PA where I’d learn how to live again. 

In my first week at Magee Hospital, I spent many days and nights lying in

 bed wondering when I would ever go home. Panic and fear would grip me at night, not knowing if I’d walk again and use my hands.

This was the beginning of recovery and rehabilitation to the new me.

Little did I know that this journey would lead me to places physically and emotionally that I never explored in myself before. I was virtually a baby again–relearning to do all those things which were once second nature to me.

Starting over again wasn’t what I had in mind at age 53. Exhausting hours of PT, OT, and counseling sessions. Many days and nights of muscle and nerve pain shooting throughout my body would bring me to the brink of surrendering.

But in the end, I only ever had two choices: give up or live a new life!

Discovering the Essence of My Being

Many of the lessons I experienced while at Magee aren’t taught in books, nor can they be found in the classroom: determination, resiliency, commitment, humility, love, and acceptance.

More importantly, I WALKED away with a new awareness of my purpose in life and a sense of who I am. I felt like a veil was lifted–in not pretending about how I could act and feel around people; the awareness that my life was a gift to show love and compassion for, not only others, but more importantly, toward myself.

Not a selfish love, but a pure love of who I really was and had always been since I was a child. Stripped of all opinions and preconceptions of myself that had built up over the years, now I was able to be “me” with no fear.

While this new awakening was manifesting in me, a new acceptance of who I was and was meant to be in my life was very evident. The acceptance of myself was somehow different now–not only physically different but also the “me” was different. I now see life as an opportunity to live day-to-day with a new appreciation of nature and people.

Nature, with all its glory; and people of all walks of life, living their own unique journey.

I’m far more accepting of things in everyday life, both good and bad. Each sensation, feeling, or emotion serves a purpose in our lives and I have the presence now to embrace them all. 

The road back has left me with so many blessings, and none greater than my ability to feel connected to people in a deep way and to suspend all judgment while only acknowledging what’s happening in that moment.

#BelieveLikeMe

My visions to provide guidance, inspiration, and accountability in reaching your goals and aspirations in life and/or work. I have a unique skill-set of intuitive thinking and active listening with an emphasis on empathy and compassion for others.

My authentic self and core values of Integrity, Accountability, Diligence, Perseverance, and Discipline drive me personally and professionally. Through this journey, I found my purpose to inspire others to achieve the maximum they can out of life by finding their personal vision of their finest self. In the final analysis, I was able to discover the essence of my being⁠—my authentic self. 

Want to hear more of Tony’s incredible story? Check out his recent interview on the One Idea Away Podcast!

Photo Credit: Gaelle Marcel, Unsplash.com