Published: November 23, 2005
On July 13, 2000, PJC student Chris Lynch fell 2 « stories during a combat training exercise in France with the U.S. 82nd Airborne division and suffered a massive brain injury. He lay in a coma for 45 days and doctors believed he would never talk or move again. Five years later, his impenetrable determination, contagious positive attitude and optimistic spirit led him to the finish line of the New York City Marathon.
“People have told me that I would never be able to do this or that again. I want to get out there and prove everybody wrong,” he said.
“When I was at a hospital in Germany, a doctor had the audacity to walk up to my mother and tell her that I would be a vegetable for the rest of my life. Well, this is me being a carrot. I am very lucky and very motivated. I want to inspire people and help people out. That’s what I want to do is help people out.”
As Lynch spoke, passion resonated throughout the room.
Lynch, a recreation technologies major at PJC, has been competing and volunteering in marathons for the last two years using a hand cycle- a bike that sits low to the ground and is propelled by the rotation of the hands instead of the feet.
“You have to suck it up! You have to crank, crank, crank that hand cycle,” Lynch said. “I decided to compete in the New York City marathon after I won the Pensacola half-marathon. The marathon was very exciting and kind of overwhelming. There were 37,000 runners and only 123 hand cyclists.”
Lynch exceeded his expectations by finishing the marathon in only 2 hours, 48 minutes, 33 seconds. The race is 26.2 miles.
“All the way throughout the entire marathon there are people lining the streets, yelling, clapping and cheering you on. That made me feel so great. When I was going through the race I was nodding and thanking these people the whole time. Once you get that medal around your neck it is unbelievable,” Lynch said.
While attending a Disabled American Veterans sports clinic in Aspen, Colo., Lynch met Josh Sharpe. Eleven years ago Sharpe was in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Today, with the help of adaptive sports technologies, Sharpe keeps busy playing tennis, rock climbing, snow skiing, weightlifting, swimming, cycling and is considered the area’s premier hand crank cyclist and wheelchair racer.
“A friend of mine named Josh Sharpe from Navarre, got me into hand cycling. He asked me if I had ever heard of hand cycling. He showed me what it was and I was like ‘hell yeah, lets do it to it,'” Lynch said.
Lynch provides motivation to many on campus.
“Chris is very inspiring to me. He always has a smile on his face and is very excited about what it is that he is going to do. He certainly has a great future in the education field and will be able to help a lot of young people with similar circumstances,” Sharon O’ Gwynn, PJC secretary of athletics, said.
While Lynch is an inspiration to many that meet him, he says that it his mother that inspires him most. At his website, www.crlynch.com, Lynch tells his story in detail using pictures and long introspective and equally inspiring journal entries. Here his mother, Cheryl Moore, takes time to share her own thoughts and experiences. At times, the entries are filled with fascinating details that follow Chris and his mother around the world from the day of the accident through the long and frustrating recovery process. Then, at times in the entries there are beautiful, almost poetic, moving moments when the impact of the experience shines light on the brilliant triumph that can emerge from tragic adversity.
“Life has to be lived. It is not enough to just exist or function. Make your lifeÿthe thrill of victory. Don’t ever allow the agony of defeat. Next time you see someone who has a disability remember a smile doesn’t just change your face, it changes your heart. These have been valuable lessons, not the way I wanted to learn them, but possibly I’m a better person because of it,” Moore wrote in a journal entry on Lynch’s Web site.
Now Lynch is looking forward. In May he will be graduating from PJC and plans to continue training on his hand cycle, and to compete in the Blue Angel marathon, Pensacola marathon and the New York City marathon next year.
And he will travel to Colorado again for the sports clinic.
“I will be going to Colorado twice this year. I am going for two weeks in the end of March for the DAV sports clinic,” he said.
Lynch’s eyes light up and a smile spreads across his face.
“I love it. I love it. Last year I won the most inspirational award. I really look at myself as a motivator, as an inspiration. Whenever I get my degree, I want to show all the handicapped and disabled people that there are sports that you can get involved in with adaptive sports equipment. For some people, like myself, the use of adaptive equipment is the only way to be included in main stream sports,” he said.
“I guess that’s the point. A disability can single you out and make you feel excluded. Inclusion is what we really need. The more I help others, the better it makes me feel.”