When Lorenz Schwärzler regained his senses in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean on New York’s Jones Beach, he saw his arms floating lifelessly at his sides. He could not move and had completely lost control of his body. The then 19-year-old thought: “Oh God, I’m going to die here. And I didn’t even have children.”
Scenes from his childhood flashed by in his head, from kindergarten and school in his native Austria. His cousin, who was watching him from the shore of Long Island beach was thinking: “Why isn’t he swimming?” She notified the lifeguards, three of whom sprinted into the water Baywatch style, says Schwärzler, and brought him to land.
Al of this happened on 24 August 1987. After this swimming accident, Schwärzler was completely paralysed for 10 days. He had been overcome by the scenery of this lovely sandy beach, jumped into the water, landed on a sandbar and broke his cervical vertebrae.
Doctors diagnosed him with partial paraplegia. This is different from complete paraplegia because the spinal cord is not entirely severed. The doctors told him that he would be able to perform certain physiological functions. But he would never walk again. Schwärzler listened to what they told him, but he didn’t want to believe it. Before his accident he played basketball, was a member of the Austrian Alpine Club, had just completed his apprenticeship as a machinist and was powerfully built. But he had the inspiring strength of the invincibility of youth on his side, and he thought: “I will walk again!”
Today, 32 years later, Schränzler lives a normal life. Although he has to use a cane and cannot stand for longer than 10 minutes at a time, he is mobile; he can even drive. Together with his wife and two daughters (aged 15 and 18), the 51-year-old lives in the Austrian town of Hörbranz next to the farm where he grew up.
He didn’t let his disability prevent him from living life to the fullest. In his younger years, for example, he travelled through Africa, once with a wheelchair-bound friend. When they drove through the Sahara with their modified car, “people really stared when they saw the two of us, one with a walking disability and the other in a wheelchair,” says Schwärzler grinning.
Back then he never would have thought that he would take part in running events. But in 2019, he did exactly that, thanks to the MyoSuit, a suit that acts as a type of additional muscle layer that gives the wearer strength and stability. Schwärzler will be at the starting line of the Wings for Life World Run in Zug on May 5. His goal is to complete at least 2-4 kilometres.
Schwärzler remembers the moment he tried out the suit for the first time. At some point it worked so well that he felt he could fly. At that moment he decided: “I want to be in a marathon.” When he told his wife of his idea later, she was disbelieving at first. “You want to do what now?” she asked.
Schwärzler will turn his dream into reality in Zug. And sometime in the days following the race, he will reflect on it, preferably sitting on his horse Parquita, with his wife leading the animal. Schwärzler has always loved horses. As a child he grew up with them on his parents’ farm. And now, as a person with a walking disability, they are part of his mobility.
The story of MyoSwiss you can find on redbull.ch.