March 18, 2014

Exams Complete

Written by derekherrera

So it’s been quite some time (almost a month) since I have posted.  A lot has happened since then that has made the last three weeks fly by.

Derek Speaking at Rock the Warrior @2x
I attended two incredible fundraisers in the past two weeks.  The first one was as part of Operation Rock the Warrior, a program created by a young man named Sam Kritzer.  I was connected with Sam and his mother Jennifer through his Aunt, Diana, and heard that he wanted to help out injured service members by raising money as a part of his Bar Mitzvah project.  Sam is an incredible drummer (the youngest to be sponsored by SJC drums) and plays in a band called Melted Vinyl, that is by far the best teenage rock ban dI have ever heard.  The event was held at the Whisky a GoGo two weeks ago and was incredibly successful.

Another awesome part to this fundraiser was seeing how many celebrities came out or sent a video to show their support.  I was lucky enough to meet Walter Jones (the original black Power Ranger) and Jorge Garcia (from Lost).   It was also quite an honor to get shout outs from Chuck Norris and all of the other celebs in the video.

Walter Jones Rick Silkay and Derek @2x

After the fundraiser, I decided to go hang out with all of the guys that came up to LA for the event.  We had a good time partying and I enjoyed it until the next morning, when I had to wake up at 2AM to get ready for the LA Marathon.  I finished the race on my hand cycle in 1 hour and 57 minutes.  Not a great time by any means but not bad for my first marathon.  I had such a good time I also signed up for the San Diego Rock and Roll Marathon on June 1st.  This one I plan on taking much more seriously and devoting a lot more time to training for.

Derek LA Marathon Hand Cycle @2x
The other fundraiser I went to was also an incredible event.  At the event I met some incredibly inspiring people like Frank Portillo.  Frank showed me some of the things he and other employees of the LA Metropolitan Transport Authority have done.

I also just started working as a consultant to a company called RuckPack.  RuckPack is an energy supplement tested and created by some of my co-workers (other Marine Special Operations Officers) that gained a great amount of popularity on the TV show ‘Shark-Tank’.  The project I have been working on is branding, advertising and marketing, and I have been lucky enough to meet some other incredible people also working on the project.  Check out the RuckPack website now to see what they are all about.

I recently began having significant issues with my bladder management.  One of the perks of being paralyzed is that you have to put in a lot more effort just to do things that used to be incredibly simple.  I ended getting an infection and finding out I had some other underlying issues that I will spare you all the details of, but required me to make more than a few trips to the hospital.  I will find out more details when I follow up with the doctor in a few weeks but from the information we have right now, the outlook isn’t so great.

I also met with Dr. Lu, the Neurosurgeon I have been seeing at UCLA, and started the process for trying to get the experimental Spinal Cord Stimulator implanted.  I posted this before but will post it again since I am still rebuilding the website.  The video shows a young man named Rob Summers who has an injury similar to mine, who can now stand and move his legs after training with this device.  There is also a recent article published on the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation website about the latest batch of testing done with the device.  Of all the research I have seen for people dealing with Spinal Cord Injury, this is one of the most promising I have seen and, although incremental, has made incredible progress relative to other research being conducted.  I still believe that there will not be any ‘cure’ for many decades to come, but if the existing technologies can be integrated then there will be significant improvement in overall quality of life.  The meeting went pretty well and there is a good chance I may become the fifth individual in America to conduct this type of training.  There are zero guarantees to my participation but I certainly hope it ends up working out.

I completed my final exams for this quarter today.  I am so glad they are over.  I had one on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Today.  Now I am just trying to get all of my stuff together before I leave the country this weekend.  I am taking a trip to Israel, where I will be taking a five-day course from the Reccanati Business School at Tel Aviv University.  Then I will be flying to Bahrain to visit with one of my friends from the military who is currently stationed there.  I am really looking forward to the trip and getting an opportunity to relax and recharge.

I also got to visit with my mom for a few days since she was out here for an education conference.  We went out to dinner a couple of times and she got to see the new house.  It was a great visit and she had a great time, except for the earthquake alarm clock she got yesterday morning.