<b><i>Don't think about what you can do--think about what\r\nyou want to do. And start trying to do it.<\/i><\/b>\r\n\r\n<img style="float: right;" src="https:\/\/opedge.com\/Content\/OldArticles\/images\/2004-02_13\/Paraplegic-1.jpg" hspace="4" vspace="4" \/>\r\n\r\nThis is Jason Pipoly's philosophy, and he lives by it. For over three years, Jason trained three hours a day, six days a week, to become the first paraplegic person to swim the Catalina Channel--21 miles from Los Angeles Harbor, California, to Catalina Island. And on September 4, he achieved his goal.\r\n\r\nParalyzed as a result of a car accident in 1998, Pipoly, 32,\r\nrefused to let this setback derail his dreams. The San Antonio,\r\nTexas, resident has long been an ardent swimmer. In 1982, Jason at\r\nage 11 became the youngest person to attempt to swim the English\r\nChannel, a 21-mile course between England and France. He fell just\r\nfour miles short after swimming 17 miles in rough, whitecap water\r\nfor eight hours.\r\n\r\n<img style="float: right;" src="https:\/\/opedge.com\/Content\/OldArticles\/images\/2004-02_13\/Paraplegic-2.jpg" hspace="4" vspace="4" \/>\r\n\r\nJason faced formidable odds in his Catalina challenge. Strong currents, rough waves, and freezing cold water greeted him as he got underway. Rules forbid the use of a wet suit, so cold was a problem. Paralyzed at the T-8 level, Jason can't move his trunk and head from side to side, so he uses his powerful arms to propel himself through the water.\r\n\r\nThings improved when Jason hit warmer water, although strong waves and wind continued their attack. Cheering him on were the boat crew, including his sister Gina and Hanger Orthotics Director Kaia Halvorson, CPO, LPO.\r\n\r\nStaying hydrated enough was a problem, Jason said. "It was hard to give me enough fluids. Toward the end that started taking its toll." The longer-than-expected swim took 18 hours. Around 3 AM, as Jason continued thrusting through the dark water and the boat crew dozed, a pod of dolphins joined the swimmer for about an hour, lightening his spirits at the amazing sight.\r\n\r\nAlthough strong currents forced him to abandon the return trip\r\nafter about six hours, Jason is happy about his feat, and he hopes\r\nthat his accomplishment will inspire others to go beyond their\r\nperceived limitations.\r\n\r\n"Challenges are often a matter of our perception," he said. "If\r\nwe stop perceiving them as challenges and see them as something\r\nnecessary to achieve our goals, they will be easier to overcome,\r\nand we can reach our potential." He gives the example of swimming:\r\n"It might be hard to do in the beginning, but if you do it each\r\nday, after a while you're not going to perceive it as being hard.\r\nYou're going to perceive it as being normal."\r\n\r\nWhen back on land, Jason has hugely been enjoying his Fillauer\r\nreciprocating gait orthosis (RGO) from Hanger Prosthetics &\r\nOrthotics, his sponsor. "I can't say enough good about it!" he\r\nexclaimed. "It stretches my muscles more, makes my bones stronger,\r\nand helps me physically in a lot of other ways. It also has been a\r\ntremendous boost psychologically to be able to stand up, walk\r\naround, and look people in the eye. I don't think RGOs are promoted\r\nenough."\r\n\r\nWhat is Jason planning for the future? "I'm looking at maybe\r\ntrying to qualify for the open swimming event in the Paralympics in\r\nGreece," he said. "I need to see how the times are, how I compare\r\nwith other swimmers. And there are also several other swims I'd\r\nlike to compete in."\r\n\r\nJason Pipoly has certainly achieved an impressive "first" with\r\nhis Catalina triumph--which likely will not be his last!