To watch Octavio Mendoza pedal his three-wheeler around the bike paths in Eagle Ranch is to see true grit in motion.
Two years ago, Mendoza was driving home from work when he was involved in a car accident along U.S. Highway 6. He was critically injured and spent the next two months in a coma. When he awoke, his doctors told him his neck had been broken and it was unlikely he would ever walk again.
For the first year, Mendoza was confined to a wheelchair but he wasn’t willing to accept the idea he would stay there. Through sheer will and serious dedication, his rehabilitation has progressed to the point where he now walks with the aid of a cane. He made that improvement after using a walker for 10 months. As the keystone of his current rehabilitation regime, Mendoza regularly rides his bike. He rides that bike a whole lot.
Mendoza spends six to seven hours riding Monday through Friday. On Saturdays and Sundays, he cuts his schedule back to three or four hours each day.
“I have never seen anyone as dedicated to his rehabilitation in my 15 years as a physical therapist,” said Brady Baker of Axis Sports Medicine.
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Back to work
Mendoza has a clear and ambitious goal — he wants to return to work in three or four months. He has a family to support.
Mendoza’s wife Martha works at City Market in Eagle, but she is currently on maternity leave. The couple welcomed a second daughter — Natalie— last week. Her big sister Carly is 3.
“It is expensive with the girls — food and school and clothing and everything,” said Mendoza.
But Mendoza isn’t really complaining too hard about those expenses and his face lights up when he talks about his family. He says that they are one of the things that motivate him to keep working his sore and often uncooperative muscles.
His rehabilitation is hard work but Mendoza said when things get tough he just forces himself to power through it. He loves surprising the people who didn’t think he could recover from his injuries.
“He is a super trooper,” said Baker. “Every day he is pushing himself to get back to work.”
The Axis team works with Mendoza one day a week and the rest of the time he is in charge of his own routine. That’s when people regularly see him riding the bike paths around Eagle. He particularly enjoys the trails around Eagle Ranch. According to Mendoza, everyone he meets is nice to him. That compliment is often turned back in his favor.
“He is just the nicest guy,” said Baker. “He inspires people who he comes into contact with”
Considering that he rides his bike so many hours along the most popular trails in town, that’s a lot of people.
“The doctors said I wouldn’t walk again,” Mendoza said. A huge smile lights up his face when his physical therapists notes, “You sure proved him wrong!”