Here is the story:
Andre Kajlich grew up in Edmonds, Washington. In 2003, was studying chemistry at a university in Prague, Czechoslovakia for six months. One night, after partying with buddies, he decided to return home, this would be the night that forever changed his life. A train conductor saw Andre lying on the subway tracks, but was unable to stop in time. Andre can’t remember details of what happened that night. He lost his legs that night, but not his will to fight.
“The trauma, the recovery, was such a huge personal challenge. It took me to a place I don’t (normally) get to experience. It’s pretty amazing. I always feel fortunate to (have been there),” Andre said. While in the hospital recovering from his injuries, he came across stories of other amputees competing in Ironman competitions. “It struck me as something that I at some point would like to try; to get to Ironman,” he said. “Some of the Czech doctors were telling my parents that I might not sit again. So they were not really optimistic about my outlook.” Andre had his own optimism three days after waking up from a coma, his sister Bianca Kajlich explained, “He was already making a list of, these are the things I can do. It was never, oh I can’t do this. There were worries about things, but his focus was always , the things I can do.” In 2004, almost a year after the accident, he began walking again for the first time with the use of his first set of prosthetic legs. Asking himself, “what else can I do? What else is next? I started wondering what (life) could be like.”
After the accident, he focused on getting back to Prague to continue his studies, since he had to put many of his goals aside. His love and passion were still in his work, but he soon found a new desire to be “healthy and active,” he explained. His new love was racing in a wheelchair, “It was fun to do something fast. The feeling of going fast on my own power was lacking in my life,” he said.
Andre realized that there were more opportunities that existed for sports in the United States, than in Europe. He felt that hand cycling events were better organized in America; as well as, offering better gear and training that wasn’t available back in Prague. He decided to stay and began training for the Challenged Athlete Foundation-sponsored race. He competed on a triathlon relay team using his two legs. After finishing the race he realized that he became hooked on racing.
His first big competitive test came at the Nautica New York City Triathlon competition. Having had many challenges during the race, he recalls a time when “I spun around and bumped myself in a puddle,” but he grit it out and claimed a second place finish. Andre’s physical and mental training routine was, “work at it, focus, get better, get stronger, be lazy, slack off, regroup, recommit, and repeat.” He admits that he had a lot of small failures in not setting up a training schedule. In Andre’s blog he admits, “I messed up the whole way through the process. This time around. I am most proud because I pushed through the setbacks and flaws,” he explains “I am learning to accept that there are certain things I won’t ever get right and some that, if unfixed will cost me my goals.” Andre was fortunate that his wife, mother and both sisters were able to join in and see his epic experience unfold.
Less than a year after he took up the sport, on October, 2012 Andre finished second at the Ironman World Championships in Kona. He also won a world championship in his classification. The paratriathlete Ironman competitions involve a .46 mile (750-meter) swim, a 12.4 mile (20-K) hand cycle and 3.1 mile (5-K) wheelchair race. Clif Bar is his sponsor and he often lives off of a Clif-bar based diet during his days abroad competing. Andre believes that training isn’t just sweating a couple of times a day, eating right, and planning for the physical task ahead, he believes that “More is required, yet it’s easier for me to go out for a ride than it is to get all my stuff prepared for the next day, after a ride.” he insists that “Diligence pays those dues.”
Andre quotes Rudy Garcia-Tolson in advising others to, “train hard – stay focused.”
His will to fight and the creative mobility using both his prosthetic legs is inspiring many other amputees across the country to explore the use of their new legs. Other amputees, including a soldier from the 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment. He was part of the first Stryker team from Joint Base Lewis-McChord to enter into Afghanistan in July of 2009.
Retired Army Captain Dan Berschinski told KOMO 4 news, “I believe we lost 25 men. Which at the time was the highest of any single battalion that had ever served in Afghanistan.” Improvised explosive devices left the battalion with the highest number of killed-in-action casualties.
“After we had consolidated our positions, I was walking down a dirt path, and stepped on my own bomb and lost both my legs,” Dan described. “And very high up. I do remember reaching my hands down to feel for my legs. I don’t remember feeling anything. I don’t remember if there was anything to be felt.” Seven days later, Capt. Berschinski woke up in Washington D.C. at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The prosthetic team reached out to their network to see if anyone in the world has ever made walking possible. It turns out that one guy, Andre Kajlich from Seattle, made walking possible with the use of full prosthetic legs.
Impressed with his mobility and use of prosthetics, Army doctors invited Andre to come to Washington, D.C. to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center to work with Dan and others. He showed them that simple tasks, like getting up off the floor, can be simple again. Andre and Dan established a lasting connection through their will to live.
Andre said, “They’re tough guys in what they’ve been through. Not just in their injuries but before that. These were truly some of America’s finest soldiers. And they’re very capable.” While watching Andre show shifts, swings and steps with such ease, Dan replied, “If you ask me, ‘Hey Dan, is it possible to walk down this ramp with one cane and then jump down at the end?’ I would say no, are you kidding me? But clearly I’m wrong. So that’s cool.”
Andre believes, “there is never a shortage of possibilities.” He points to his belief that goals, momentum, and positive attitude always have and always will do a lot for him than focusing on the things that he can’t control. Plan, prepare and execute are strategies that he uses. He is committed to, “when I say that I’ll do something I not only have to believe that I can do it but I have to include what I need to do to give it a real shot.” Andre believes that setting goals, dreaming up fantastic endeavors counts for nothing unless you make it happen – day in, day out. “Everything is what you make of it,” adds Andre.
They truly inspire others to live life & Live Victoriously!
Andre has started the website Will.Go.Do with the mission of empowering others (through his personal stories) to do whatever it is that they want to do and to accomplish their goals. Check it out by visiting: http://willgodo.com
Andre supports the Amputee Coalition of America’s Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp and hopes “that every single child who has lost a limb to trauma, disease, or was born with a limb difference, gets to come to this camp to learn, try new things, and share experiences with those who understand.” Andre and (his sister) Bianca helped raise $36,842 for the youth camp and mission. Each year, both Andre and Bianca attend the camp as counselors and are moved by the profound life changing experience it is for the kids.
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