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YOBERLY "lilly"
ZAMBRANO

I decided that I could not continue living for my disability, that I had to learn to live with a disability.
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MIAMI - USA

I was only 17 years old and with the enthusiasm of any teenager in his last year of high school when my life changed forever after a car accident that left me completely paralyzed from the neck down. I only remember waking up with a terrible headache and unable to feel the rest of my body.

After three days, I was at home with the conviction that in a couple of months I would be fully recovered, nobody in the hospital told me that my life would never be the same, they just said you will need a lot of rehabilitation.

But as the days went by, reality came out.  No matter how much rehabilitation I did, my recovery was very slow and difficult, because being quadriplegic is not just about walking, it's losing your independence, it's not being able to scratch your nose or go to the bathroom by yourself, it's losing your breathing capacity, is to know that you drag your family with you, that they suffer with you, full of debts, a very difficult situation because you cannot control it at all.

After many tears, depressions and frustrations, the smiles were back, each small movement was an achievement, doing again a gum bomb was a huge victory at home.

After two years dedicated to rehabilitation and having lost practically all my friends, I realized that this path might be for a lifetime.  And I decided that I could not continue living for my disability, that I had to learn to live with a disability.

Full of fear, I decided to return to my studies, I graduated from high school and college and I got a job in an excellent company.  Along the way, I met the love of my life, now my beloved husband and support the last 16 years.

It was a very long road with many obstacles, which I have only achieved thanks to the unconditional support of my family.

However, I felt that I should do something else to raise awareness about disability, I managed to produce a small radio program about the rights of people with disabilities in my home country (Venezuela) but I had to leave it and emigrate to the United States 4 years ago and start from scratch.

Just three months later, I received a message from Nirvana Project inviting me to a 5k race, I remember telling Ruth: "I move my wheelchair just a little, and she told me: we push you", since then Nirvana Project stole my heart.

Nirvana has impacted my life personally because it gives me the opportunity to stay healthy, to create awareness, meet other people with disabilities and many cool people who wants to push me on races, especially my #1 Running Partner / Friend, Dr. Daniel Sámano.

Since Dani and I met at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis when I was his patient, he always asked about  Nirvana and wanted to be part of the team but the months passed by and we never planned.  I knew he was working and travel a lot, so didn’t want to pressure him. Until Nirvana hosted a wellness event at the end of the year (2018) and I asked him to be part of the panelists as a MD and of course he said yes!

Honestly, I never thought this would be the moment when something made click inside Dani, maybe were the emotional videos of the team or the fact that the very same @frankieruiz shared with us his own story about the Miami Marathon, but at the end of the night he told me “We’ll do Miami Half Marathon next year”  I replied: are you sure? He said “Yes, I’m!”.... and I said let’s f#%g do it!. I believed him, even though I knew was insane, we had less than two months for the marathon and Christmas and New Year on the way.

Our first training was at @brickellrunclub January 8, 2019. I most confess my heart stopped more than once that night, this run club is really challenging: bridges, stairs, traffic, crowds, holes, bumps and Dani was pushing me as if a monster was chasing us! 🤣 We both loved the experience!

A week later, we did our first 5k with my team at @zoswinter 👩🏻‍🦽🏃🏻 he bring his friend Oliver Malik AKA #Speedy to “train” with us, Speedy would join us to the Half 🙌🏼...just what we needed (emotionally and physically) to make it happen!! Since then Dani & I couldn’t stop running together and became “Wills 2 Run” the #InspiringDuo! Check out our Instagram page @wills2run to know more about our journey!

Right now, after 4 years of races, I just only can be grateful with Ruth and Carlos who gave me the opportunity to be a Nirvana Project co-founder and part of Board of Directors, has been such an honor. Nirvana Project is a personal and professional purpose for me, to continue working for inclusion, learning and giving a message of a healthy lifestyle, awareness and hope to all people who, like me, every day they face obstacles to integrate into society, and to let them know that even with a disability they can make their dreams come true.

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