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NEW YORK (CBS 2) — It’s too cold to ride outside, especially for a tropical Cuban, so elite-level cyclist Damien Lopez-Alfonso still was doing a training ride indoors. The electrical shock he suffered when he was 13 destroyed both of his arms below the elbows, but he has no trouble shifting gears, braking and riding at a competitive level.
Alfonso told CBS 2′s Dr. Max Gomez that he started riding seriously about a year and a half after his accident. He said that was important not just physically but also psychologically. It gave him something to focus on other than his injuries.
He’s completely independent and self-sufficient but he still wishes for some improvement in his appearance, so the U.S. Cycling Federation helped get him a Visa to come to New York where a world-class team of reconstructive surgeons agreed to take his case.
“There’s a limited amount of good tissue that we can use to rebuild his nose and to rebuild his eyelids, so we are limited in what we can do,” said Dr. Joseph McCarthy of the NYU Langone Medical Center.
Dr. McCarthy will rebuild his nose. Dr. Richard Lissman will reconstruct his eyelid. Dr. David Chiu will work to contruct prosthetic arms. The three have the the help of the National Foundation for Facial Recontruction.
After an extensive evaluation last month, even these experienced physicians were impressed with Alfonso.
“We said several times what an impressive young man he is. Has a great spirit,” Dr. McCarthy said.
Alfonso said he’s hoping for some improvement in his face and a chance to return to cycling competition as quickly as possible.
He returned to Cuba but is s scheduled to come back next month for surgery. It’s a two-stage affair so he’ll be in New York for at least a few weeks.
During that time the Achilles Track Club has arranged for prosthetic arms to be made.