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Paralysis doesn’t stand in the way of Colonial Heights’ Marchiano

Updated: May. 18, 2021 at 6:38 PM EDT
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COLONIAL HEIGHTS, Va. (WWBT) - As a kid, Mandy Marchiano enjoyed playing sports and being active. Cheerleading, dancing, swimming and soccer were all activities in which she took part.

But on November 28, 2003, everything changed. During a trip to Williamsburg, her family’s van was struck from behind by a distracted driver while waiting at a stoplight. Mandy, who was 13 years old at the time, was sitting in the back seat and suffered serious injuries.

“The impact crushed my C-4, 5, and 6 vertebrae,” Mandy recalled. “That spinal cord injury left me with being paralyzed from the chest-level down.”

As one can imagine, years of physical and mental challenges would follow the accident. Intense physical therapy became part of Mandy’s everyday life and she had to re-learn many basic skills.

“It’s a long journey of lots of ups and downs,” she said. “With each challenge, you overcome them, and with that comes the confidence that if you get through one thing, you can get through another.”

“If anybody has a right to complain in this world, it would be Mandy Marchiano,” said Randy Saunders, a trainer who works with Mandy at DefyGenetics in Colonial Heights. “That’s not part of her. That’s not part of her DNA. She has an amazing fight, amazing spirit.”

Mandy focused on her education and recovery following the accident, but after college, she wanted to try to get back into sports. She discovered Sportable, a Richmond-based adaptive sports organization, and decided to get involved, trying activities such as rowing, hand cycling and archery.

“I just went and signed up for as much as I could,” the 30-year old adaptive athlete explained. “I filled my time, got to meet a lot of cool people and made a lot of new friends and found this new interest.”

Now, staying fit is part of her regular routine. She works out with Saunders twice a week at DefyGenetics and has found her new sport of choice- rugby. She enjoys the competition, but her favorite aspect is the team camaraderie.

“You’re able to benefit from being around them and learning how they do things and share with one another tips and tricks of life,” Mandy said.

The first chapter of Mandy’s story might have been a tragic accident, but she’s turned it into more- an example of inspiration to anybody going through struggles that it might just take a positive outlook and mindset to overcome even the greatest of hurdles.

“No matter what happens to you in this life, you can have an amazing life,” Saunders noted. “You can touch and influence people everywhere.”

“Success happens outside of your comfort zone,” pointed out Mandy. “Knowing that when you’re faced with these challenges that not all hope is lost. just to press on and move forward.”

In addition to being paralyzed from the chest down, Mandy also does not have use of her hands. She uses specialized gloves when lifting weights and to move her wheelchair when playing rugby.

For more information on Sportable, click here. To learn more about DefyGenetics, click here.

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