"Life is amazing in a wheelchair, pretty much everything is amazing".
2019 Participant Bio
“Live fast, die young” was a motto Thomas Sagpao followed as a teenager. Fast forward a few years and he is doing everything is his power to live as long as possible.
When Thomas was in the U.S. Army, he served as a cook just short of two years. Doctors found a tumor in his spine and by process, went for a biopsy. Once the anesthesia wore off, Thomas was paralyzed from the waist down. The biopsy had caused paralysis. “I was so tired, I didn’t even realize what happened,” Thomas said. “I woke up and the doctors came in. They asked me to wiggle my toes, but I could barely do it. They told me later on that they didn’t know how long the paralysis was going to last.”
The paralysis is here to stay. However, it’s not holding Thomas back – it’s propelling him forward. “Life is amazing in a wheelchair, pretty much everything is amazing,” said Thomas. “I would have never skied before my injury.”
A Texas native, Thomas never skied before the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic. He described his first time in Snowmass as “overwhelming” and something he always wanted to do. “When I was in kindergarten, my teacher had a slogan on the board,” he explained. “It said ‘It’s been to try and fail, then not try at all’. That really stuck with me.”
Finding new ways to challenge himself is what Thomas is all about. He feels that sports are beneficial for everyone, especially healing veterans. A mentor to others, he wants them to not be scared because fear will only limit them. This year, Thomas helped another Texas veteran on his first journey to the Clinic.
“I don’t want anyone to feel left behind,” Thomas said. “I wanted him to learn stuff on his own because that’s the only way he’ll learn what’s best for him. I told him to stay positive and he’ll be taken of. I’m a rolling testament of what’s possible for spinal-cord injuries.” To prove that he is unstoppable, Thomas uses adaptive CrossFit to stay in shape when he’s not hitting the slopes. He’s been attending CrossFit consistently for the last two years. An advocate for active lifestyles, he plans to attend Galveston College to pursue a degree in Kinesiology to better understand body movement.
“The people around me improve my life,” said Thomas. “I want to give back.” And give back he will, unafraid and unstoppable.