Chico's Story

Chico Garcia offers advice to the LSU cheerleaders after practice.
Chico Garcia offers advice to the LSU cheerleaders after practice.
Garcia tells his story from home.
Garcia tells his story from home.

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - If the ultimate measure of a man is where he stands at times of challenge, then Chico Garcia is a giant.

Two years ago, a boating accident left him paralyzed. There hasn't been a breakthrough miracle he hopes could come, but he's already gone further than his doctors thought possible.

Even from where he now sits. Garcia rarely misses a beat coaching LSU's cheerleaders. It's not the hands-on approach he used when he cheered himself or before that instant when everything he knew changed. But, his message is heard loud and clear.

"You have to fully grasp that everything is a choice in life," Garcia said. "You can either be positive or negative and I choose to be positive."

It's not to say he doesn't think about what happened on the Diversion Canal on August 27, 2011 or still ask the "why me" questions or relive the instant he tried to warn the guy driving the boat to watch out.

"I got the first two letters of his name out 'J-A,' Ja, as soon as I did that, 'pow.' We hit. We hit the pier," Garcia explained.

And with that 'pow,' Garcia was forced into the biggest ad-lib of his life.

"He was enjoying life as a young single man," said his mother, Syrjala Garcia. "I used to always call him 'King Chico.' I would tell him, 'When I die, I'm coming back as you,' because he had it so good."

From so good to so bad, Garcia had to learn life over. His parents also had to re-learn and they've been with him day in and day out. They've been there through the trauma, through the surgeries and doing for him, what he could no longer do for himself.

"Being his hands and his arms and his legs, being that support system, of 'Okay, let's do it,'" his mom said.

Garcia said life as a quadriplegic is, at times, the worst thing imaginable.

"To go from being fully independent, like I was, to being fully dependent now on somebody, there's not one thing I can do by myself and that is mental torture," Garcia said.

To combat that mental torture, he relies on the teachings of Buddha to direct how he thinks. He said his mind is the only aspect of his body he can control. In that daily choice, he's seen remarkable change.

"I'm more kind, more gentle, more appreciative of things," he added. "I love who I am right now, who I've become because of this. It's made me a better person from the tragedy of being paralyzed."

Doctors had said he'd have to live on a breathing machine the rest of his life. He doesn't. Technology allows him to use his mouth and eyes as his arms and hands. What scared him in his darkest moment, he has battled.

"I thought I'd be a crippled guy on an air machine in a house with nobody visiting," he admitted.

He feared he wouldn't be Chico, but he is.

"He has no movement of his feet, hands, legs, but is still doing if he does," his mom said.

And because he does, you can't help but be inspired.

"If there would be one thing you would say, what would that be?" he was asked. "I will make the most of life in the chair. When people see me, they see me. See the chair at the end of the story, not the beginning," Garcia answered.

The aftermath of the boat crash remains tied up in court. Garcia is working on a book, continues to inspire others and living his life doing what he loves - coaching.

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