From a Coma to Kitesurfer: Mindfulness in Extreme Sports and Keys to the Development of Brain Elasticity

We welcome Andrea our foilboard racer and foilboard instructor and kitesurf instructor to our La Ventana team. Please read up on her story written in her words and you will be as impressed with her as we are!!

Fear: when you know you are going to die, for sure, you make peace. When you face death every day for over fourteen years and have a great passion for living, you must find healthy coping mechanisms. After being diagnosed with brain damage in 1998, I lost the use of my hands, legs and eventually my ability to communicate. While mostly in a vegetative state-I was provided the opportunity to learn the practice of meditation. My aunt arranged a meeting with the Dalai Lama’s rempoche early on in my illness. At the time my physicians told me I had five years to live and was gravely ill; however, the rempoche put his hands on my head and whispered, “You are well”. There is nothing wrong with you, learn the practice of meditation. I chose to believe him. I never invested in my illness or my death. I invested in the “extreme sports” of recovery and reclamation of my body and mind. Through the practice of meditation, and after over 16 years of experimental treatment including: chemotherapy, fentanyl, 1 multiple opiates, psychotropics and almost every other medication was trailed on me as if I were a guinnea pig. When I asked to be rehabilitated, I was told you will never walk again and you will never be able to stop your treatment protocol. At the end of 2013, I turned my back on my protocol and after 33 days of medication and detoxification -I could use my hands for the first time. I held on to the handle of the door to strengthen my legs. The agony I faced was indescribable.

My goal was to walk again! I never could have imagined the resilience of the Brain. It took well over a year and half before I could track one day into the next. Most days were the beginning of the first day I recovered. I struggled to walk with a steely determination.

How could I ever have dreamed less than two years later, I would become an international kitesurfing instructor and one of the first female hydrofoilers in a truly male dominated sport?

I am not a ‘miracle’. I have intrinsic knowledge about the power of faith, which is the ability to believe strongly in something you cannot see, while acting as if you can. I can do it in a coma and I can do it miles out in the ocean, and now…my faith has become who I am.

I have a hypothesis on healing trauma, disease, mental illness and obesity. I claim my personal experience as valid, tested, triable proof that alternative means to recovery and cure exist. Every medical means available to me did not cure me. Yet I am not opposed to medical care. It was the determination to walk, which led me to the empty winter beaches to slowly step after step carry my 200 lb frame in extreme pain. An orthopedic brace supported my core which had atrophied over the last decade. I was embarrassed of having no hair from years of chemotherapy and toxic medications, but experienced so much pure joy that I was alive and walking that people everywhere were drawn to me. They wanted to know what was making me happy? They wanted to know why I smiled. As I slowly revealed my recovery, my friends suggested my story be shared in hopes others could relate to parts of it.