SCI Superstar: Albert Llovera

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By: Tiffiny | October 29th, 2014 @ 10:15 pm | SCI Superstars |


Hailing from the principality of Andorra is the epic rally driver Albert Llovera. Known for his athletic abilities and his smoldering Spanish good looks, Albert is above all known for his tenacity in the face of some serious lifechangers.

We won’t give it all away, but he went from a star Olympic alpine skier to a paraplegic in the blink of the eye. He knows exactly what it’s like to have everything in the world then have it all taken away. But his story isn’t about loss, it’s about self-reinvention.

Why he’s fearless

Growing up in Andorra, Albert’s life was picture perfect. He loved to ski and soon found himself on the competitive circuit in his teens. He had some serious talent on the slopes. Huge. And when he was 17, Albert was the youngest person to ever compete in the Winter Olympics, competing in the 1984 games in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia.

He had a good showing at his first Olympics (no medals, but still a good run), the next year he found himself at the European Ski Cup. But all didn’t go so well at this event. While in a descent, Albert crashed and broke his back at the lower level. He became a paraplegic, and out went his career on the slopes.

Devastated, Albert had an innate desire to continue competing in any sport at a elite level and he wasn’t interested in any adapted sports. Instead, he found a sport he could still do just as good as able-bodied athletes, and that was motor racing.

Two years after his injury, Albert entered his first motor sport event – the Championship of Andorra – a competition for quad bikes, and by 1989 he was winning rally races, winning the Peugeot Rally Cup in Andorra that year. Throughout the nineties, Albert improved his speed abilities, ranking high in the Speed Championships of Catalonia on numerous occasions.

In 2001, something amazing happened, Albert scored a sponsorship with Fiat, and his career was never the same. Since, he’s competed in the Junior World Rally Championship, finishing 7th in Rally Finland in 2010 and 8th in the Tour de Corse. Albert raced in a Fiat Punto S1600 when he started and now races in a Fiat Abarth Grande Punto S2000.

What’s next?

Currently, Albert is getting ready for Dakar 2015, an off-road race in January that crosses three counties – Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. He participated in Dakar 2014 as well. This time around he’ll be driving a brand new vehicle, an Optimus Buggy, which he’s currently testing at a racetrack in Rome, making sure the hand-controls are accurate.

This 16-day race in South America is huge. The Dakar rally race spans a massive distance, 8,500 kilometers, and traverses deep canyons, sandy valleys with little to no roads to speak of. This race is the definition of epic. Watch a video of Albert at Dakar 2014

When he’s not racing, Albert is a father to his daughter Cristina and he’s been able to test pilot the Ekso exoskeleton. He also hobnobs with celeb friends like Javier Bardem, volunteers for UNICEF (helping deliver wheelchairs to those in need) and gives motivational speeches for TEDx, schools and businesses and beyond.

Must be the life; traveling internationally, driving expensive cars, wonderful family, famous friends, Albert shows the world that being paralyzed doesn’t mean you can’t live a full, cool and dare-we-say even enviable life.

Yup, it’s true.

How have you reinvented yourself post-injury?

- Visit his site: Albert Llovera Official

- Watch his documentary: “Las Alas del Fenix” (“Wings of the Phoenix”)

Watch the videos!

- Levatándome cada día (“I Get Up Each Day”): Albert Llovera at TEDxAndorralaVella

- Albert Llovera World Rally Cup 2011

- Albert Llovera UNICEF Andorra Ambassador visits Mauritania

- Albert at Dakar 2014

Every Wheelchair-User’s Fear: Choking

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By: Tiffiny | October 23rd, 2014 @ 10:39 pm | Feature stories |


We’ve covered all different kinds of situations here on our blog, but what about the scary stuff, like choking? A SPINALpedia fan and wife of a quadriplegic recently wrote us about a scary situation recently that happened to her husband.

While home alone, her husband began to choke and at the worse time possible – there was no one around. Fortunately he was able to drink enough water until help arrived, but what if this happens to you? And how can you help someone in a wheelchair who’s choking?

Here are three videos that show how to save someone in a wheelchair who’s choking both quickly and easily, which in a choking situation is a mighty good thing.

Video #1:  Slap the back first

In a training video for caregivers, this video shows how to help someone in a wheelchair who’s choking. First, you should approach the individual and ask if they’re choking, if they cannot answer and it’s obvious that they are, put on their brakes (if they use a manual wheelchair) and yell for help.

After, go behind the wheelchair-user and slap their upper-back five times to see if that dislodges what’s in their throat. And if that still doesn’t work, stand behind the wheelchair-user, reach your arms around their torso and under the breastbone, and pull five times.

Watch: How to deal with a choking wheelchair-user

Video #2: Wheelchair hockey players learn the Heimlich

Everybody’s heard of the infamous Heimlich maneuver, but how do you perform it on a wheelchair-user? The Wheelchair Hockey League of Michigan felt it was important that their players learned, so they brought in an expert to demonstrate how it’s done.

First, lean the wheelchair-user forward and do five back blows. Next, she shows abdominal thrusts, but from the front of the person in case reaching around from behind isn’t possible, which for many wheelchair-users is the case.

And if for whatever reason you can’t get from behind them or from the front, she recommends finding a place on their upper chest frm behind and pressing/pulling there.

Watch: How to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a person in a wheelchair

Video #3:  Get on your knees to do a better job

In this video from Roy on Rescue, a guy who teaches basic first aid techniques online, he shows how to help someone in a wheelchair who is choking when it’s impossible to get them out of their wheelchair.

Roy gives a great tip when reaching from behind a person in a wheelchair – get on your knees so you can grab them easier. This is really what every able-bodied person should do, unless they’re really short, when they reach behind a person in a wheelchair

For manual chair-users, he also shows how you can lean a wheelchair all the way back to the floor so that the user is in a near-laying position to perform chest compressions.

Watch: They’re Choking And I Can’t Get Them Out Of The Wheelchair!

Like a spinal cord injury, choking can happen in an instant. We must always be on our toes. Always be careful when you’re eating and drinking, spinal cord injured-people of the world. This is your first line of defense, and your best one.

Have you had any choking scares in your wheelchair? What happened?

Watch the videos!

- How to deal with a choking wheelchair-user

- How to perform the Heimlich maneuver on a person in a wheelchair

- They’re Choking And I Can’t Get Them Out Of The Wheelchair!