Romulo “Romy” and Gabriela Camargo’s dreams came true earlier this month with the opening of the Stay In Step Recovery Center. The organization offers world class rehabilitation and collaboration for spinal cord injured veterans and civilians in the Tampa community and surrounding areas.
The Camargo’s journey to founding Stay In Step began nearly seven years ago when Camargo was in the Special Forces touring Afghanistan. He and his fellow soldiers were ambushed on September 16, 2008 and Camargo was hit by a bullet in the back of the neck resulting in paralysis from the neck down. Despite a difficult battle to live and temporarily needing a ventilator to breathe, Camargo pushed through and defied doctors’ expectations.
Returning home after a long haul in an in-patient hospital, Camargo was unstoppable. In a recent interview with TBO, he stated, “So when I left, the first day I came to the house I was like, ‘Whoa.’ And then I realized, it’s a new day. Let’s get up and do something.”
Since then, Camargo hasn’t let his injury slow him down. He raises money for multiple charities and delivers inspirational speeches around the country; all while maintaining a grueling physical therapy schedule five days a week.
For years, Camargo had to travel to Project Walk in Orlando for specialized activity based exercise therapy. However, thanks to the recent donation from Toyota Motor North America, the Camargo’s were able to launch Stay In Step in Tampa – greatly reducing their time spent driving. The Stay In Step Recovery Center has also received generous donations from the James A. Haley VA Medical Center and the University of South Florida.
Stay in Step will aim to provide functional electrical stimulation (FES) and activity based exercise training to help get SCI clients out of the wheelchair environment and up moving. According to Dr. John Merritt, retired chief of the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the James A Haley VA Medical Center, high-activity therapy such as this helps prevent disease and secondary medical complications. Merritt will be acting as Chief Medical Adviser for Stay In Step.
Gabriela Camargo has dedicated herself to the well-being of her husband. She understands first-hand how a seemingly simple trip to therapy and back can be a challenge for other caregivers. So, in order to provide a safe and comfortable place for the families of people affected by a spinal cord injury, Stay In Step has a family room available that includes computers with internet access, resting space and even a state-of-the-art massage chair. Their is also a kid’s room with arts and craft tables and video game consoles. The clinic wants to bring hope to families like the Camargos in pursuit of its vision to offer SCI survivors and others facing paralysis a real possibility for taking steps toward recovery.
TBO Online: Tampa Spinal Cord Injury Center Comes to Life