In October 2012, Donnie Savella suffered an injury that eventually led to paralysis of his legs. He set a goal to get back into competitive shape by 2015. This year, he competed in the CrossFit Games Open, one year ahead of schedule.
“One day I was fit, I was working out, and the next day I was in total paralysis. The reality of being in paralysis was frightening for me,” Savella says.
After completing his four-month physical-therapy prescription within one month, and with the help of the CrossFit Ohana community in Lompoc, California, Savella began his recovery.
“(The CrossFit community) has impacted me in such a profound way. Everyone who knew me prior to the injury knew me as a fellow athlete, and when I came back here in my wheelchair, they still recognized me as a fellow athlete,” Savella says.
Savella’s son Darren—owner and head coach at CrossFit Ohana—never doubted his father’s ability to fully recover.
“Just knowing my father,” Darren says, “and the type of man he is, after that accident and when we heard that (the paralysis) could or could not stay, I knew for sure that it wasn’t gonna be there long.”
Video by Mariah Moore.
Additional audio: CrossFit Radio Episode 334 by Justin Judkins, published June 14, 2014.