A journey that still goes on

Alexandru Luchici. Founder of the “euRespect” Foundation, responsible projects creator, a lobbyist for people with disabilities to have a beautiful life. Because Alex does love life. He loved it in 2006 when diving into the shallow waters of the Danube’s Delta left him paralyzed from the shoulders down and before that. But, most importantly, he kept on loving it afterwards.

Alex’s dream was to become a tour guide. To him, the nature which he had admired in all its forms meat home. As a child, he was passionate about animals, biology and especially about the beauty of the birds, he grew up with the song of the birds, as he used to travel to the Danube’s Delta and to climb up the mountains. The summer vacations spent with his grandmother were the best, so one day he would put that house on the must-see travel list for the tourists to come. He was aiming to show those passing by something wonderful they could keep in their hearts.

Active and optimistic as he was, Alex returned home from Iasi, after graduating the first year of college, to attend an independent film festival that took place at Sfântu Gheorghe, in the Danube’s Delta. He met there with some tourists and he was going to show them a shipwreck, when Alex decided to first take a dive into the water of the Delta, to cool-off. His life journey would completely reroute on that day of 18th of August.

Aware that he had just broken his spine and not being able to move anymore, Alex tried to keep his head up and not let his mind dwell. He was telling the others how to get help, encouraging them. They were expecting some pretty long hours back to the shore, with a water ambulance, then a land ambulance transport and a helicopter transfer to Bucharest.

Starting the moment of the accident, Alex realized that his optimistic nature was a gift that, more than ever, had to be put to use. He spent three months in the intensive care unit in Bucharest, intubated, and another year in all kinds of hospitals, because of the complications that occurred afterwards.

Although sometimes he felt like he was overwhelmed by pain, his ultimate suffering was seeing his family and friends hurt. “I couldn’t stand seeing them like that, they were petrified. I would look at them and, you know, I don’t have a hard time smiling, so I would smile and tell them to just talk, to defuse the situation a bit”, Alex says.

While Alex helped them smile, his family and friends helped him go through the recovery phase. Crowdfunding campaigns were made, to cover the surgery and the recovery procedures costs, as well traveling to Germany, Budapest, and China. Almost 120.000 Euros were transferred into Alex’s bank account, some of it donated by complete strangers, and his heartfelt emotions are still vivid to this day when he recalls his experience.

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The day he left the hospital wasn’t by far a sad one, as we might think. In spite the fact he was in a wheelchair now, Alex was focused on something else.

“I yearned to get out, to breathe fresh air, I couldn’t care less about the wheelchair. I had lost so much weight, but it didn’t bother me. It was my inner state that was important”, Alex says.

He tried even an experimental stem cells treatment, hoping that his bone marrow lesion diagnostic could be changed. He felt better, being able to breathe without a nebulizer, but he couldn’t still regain his mobility. And I’m saying still because Alex never ceased hoping. He is confident that someday physics will advance enough to find the cure he needs. Until then, he calmly continues to smile, turning every day of his life into a precious one.

The road he had walked along with his girlfriend before and after the accident, for many years, has split and became one of friendship and giving. They founded “euRespect” so they can support other people with disabilities.

When I had the accident there weren’t all these information channels. I have had, for a very long time, the impression I was an isolated case. But, through the recovery phase, I have met many people with the same problem as mine, after diving or another type of accident. So I started to connect with them, to see what we can do to overcome this. I started a blog and wrote about myself and after that, I have received a lot of messages from a lot of people, family or friends of those who have suffered an accident. I think this it’s very important: an advice given at the right time regarding the medical evolution or a good word can change one’s life when is facing hard times”, Alex says.

And so he decided to do more than writing on his blog. Although he had lived difficult moments, not knowing what his life will look like after the accident, Alex knows that he is part of the lucky ones that didn’t isolate, that weren’t put down by depression. Keeping his memories before the accident intense, willing to create new ones and connect with people, he was aware that it’s not his state the one stopping him from having an active life, but the social barriers.

The fact that some people have the tendency to keep the distance, not knowing how to react, the absence of a wheelchair ramp in a public transportation vehicle or that he would bump against a sidewalk, trying to go get some fresh air, made Alex to expose  all these problems and even take action to change it, through his foundation. The donations, the 2% income tax or the tax on profit are the ones that make his dreams come true. The Foundation has different awareness projects that bring people together, the ones with disabilities along with the ones without them, so it can change the general perception about disabilities and develop an inclusive society.

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We want to emphasize the value of the people with disAbilities in order to create opportunities for them, to become active citizens, being hired or having a dynamic life in any other way. Through our projects, we managed to help financially those who needed recovery procedures or to offer school materials to students with special needs at a high school in Iași. These are small projects, but powerful. Now we are keen on a new one, we wish to create tourist routes for people with disabilities in Iași. Actually, I have found my way back to my passion for Geography, I could say that I have discovered a new route towards it”, Alex says.

Invited to Brussels and Iași to speak about the access the people with disabilities have to assistive technology and a tourism strategy, Alex has managed to bring his ideas to light and he hopes that the municipality will cooperate so they can put them into effect. With an income around 200 Euros, insufficient to cover all expenses, Alex has learned, by himself, to work as a graphic designer as he still needs regular medical assistance and recovery procedure. A significant input was his brother’s breakthrough, QuadJoy, a machine that helps Alex work on a laptop, by moving his lips.

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Alex also managed to get a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree, after the syllabus was adapted for him, so he can send projects and be evaluated. At the same time, he has adjusted his car, so he can get in easier, with an elevator, and along with his care giver, he goes on many trips,  including to the Danube’s Delta, in Tulcea. Because, as I said, Alex never stopped to really love life.

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This coverage is part of the #saniting project – “One step on the edge of life”. Any donation for building an emotional balance support center is welcome.