Almost five years ago, in a dusty Afghan village thousands of miles from Tampa, Florida an event occurred that forever changed the lives of one young American couple. Through their journey of sacrifice, struggle and determination, the concept of the Stay in Step Recovery Center was born.
On that fateful day, Chief Warrant Officer Romulo “Romy” Camargo was out conducting operations with his small team of Green Berets. The mission was to locate the whereabouts of an infamous Taliban Commander. Leading from the front, as was his style, Chief Romy Camargo stood in the turret of his vehicle as the team withdrew from the village. Suddenly, the team came under heavy enemy fire. Romy immediately began organizing his men in response to the attack.
In the midst of the fire fight, Romy fell backward into the vehicle, where he lay motionless. Bleeding from a gunshot wound to the neck, Romy was gravely injured and fighting for his life. His team bravely countered the enemy attack while withdrawing under fire. An immediate air evacuation was called in and Romy was taken unconscious and bleeding from the fight.
It was touch and go at first. Through the unwavering efforts of countless military and medical personnel combined with the miracle of modern medicine, a few days later Romy arrived at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington D.C. Still fighting for his life, Romy was met by his young wife Gabriella “Gaby” Camargo. Immediately and without hesitation, Gaby stepped in as Romy’s greatest advocate and protector. This role still continues today.
Never Giving Up Hope
After multiple intensive surgeries, the full magnitude of Romy’s injuries was clear. His C5 vertebrae had been shattered. As such, his breathing was tied to a respirator and he was paralyzed from the shoulders down. For most, this diagnosis would have lead to a life of despair. But for the Camargos, this diagnosis began a journey of hope, inspiration, faith, and a spirit of giving back to the community.
Over the next year, Romy and Gaby would struggle through more painful surgeries, more intense physical therapy, and more rehabilitation. After several months at Walter Reed, Romy and Gaby were transferred to a world-renowned SCI (spinal cord injury) Center at the James A. Haley Hospital in Tampa, Florida. It was here they first met Dr. John Merrit, the now Senior Advisor to their Stay in Step Recovery Center.
Working closely with Dr. Merrit and other medical specialists, the Camargos have pursued every medical option available to them. To this day, they have never given up on the hope that one day Romy will recover completely. This optimistic and determined attitude has enabled Romy to make many gains in recovery, including some which many thought could not happen, such as more autonomous breathing.
Moving out of the hospital into their own home was another major step towards recovery and independence. Various charities, along with dedicated Community members and supporters helped equip Gaby and Romy’s new home with the modifications needed for Romy to live the “new normal” in their Tampa home.
Gaby continued to grow in her role as primary care giver, and Romy, remaining on active duty, pursued a furious pace at rehabilitation and recovery. Five days a week, he traveled either to the Haley VA Hospital or to the only rehabilitation center available, located an hour and a half drive away in Orlando, Florida.
SCI Rehabilitation Options In Our Community
There is currently no Spinal Cord Injury Rehab Center of this caliber in the Tampa Area. Most folks have to drive all the way to Orland o for cutting edge SCI rehabilitation work in a gym-like atmosphere The Stay in Step Recovery Center will bring hope for spinal cord recovery right into the Tampa Bay Area. Your donations will not only make this dream a reality for so many SCI patients, but it will also enable a wounded warrior family to lead this valiant effort in providing something far bigger than ourselves.
As a direct result of their experience and efforts, Gaby has acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge regarding current SCI treatment and the recovery environment. As Gaby describes it, “This is my reality, and Romulo’s reality, every day. We know it better than almost anyone”. Motivated by her own personal experiences combined with her awareness of the need for SCI rehabilitation options for the community in the immediate Tampa area, Gaby decided to create the Stay in Step Recovery Center.
This non-profit recovery center is designed to provide state-of-the-art recovery treatment to SCI patients in the Tampa and surrounding community area. It is open to both military and civilian SCI patients. Founder and Director, Gaby Camargo brings the unique combination of passion and experience from SCI within her own family with the unmatched technical and medical experience of Dr. Merrit and the Stay in Step Staff.
This proactive approach to rehabilitation combined with real-time global collaboration with other SCI subject matter experts and patients, makes Stay in Step a unique and unprecedented center offering SCI patients in the Tampa area a pathway by which to start their journey toward recovery.
How can you help?
The Patriot Families Non-Profit Center and Green Beret Foundation have teamed up to help Romy and Gaby pursue this dream. I hope you’ll join us as well. We encourage you to donate what you can, this includes time and talents, and to share this wonderful initiative with all the people in your personal network.
Please Donate to Stay in Step Recovery Center at http://gbfsupport.org/stay-in-step/