'No complaints': Double amputee refuses to slow down no matter what life throws at him

Bridget Condon Image
Thursday, August 20, 2020
Double amputee rowing through life despite COVID-19 pandemic
Double amputee rowing through life despite COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus shutdown isn't stopping Eric Gabriel who's been making the best out of the past few months.

The virus may have made travel difficult (if not impossible) for most people, but Gabriel has logged 497 miles since March, without ever leaving his garage.

"Like clockwork I wake up every day at 4 in the morning," Gabriel said. "I have a cup of coffee, row for about an hour. I lift weights for 2.5 to 3 hours."

Gabriel played competitive softball for 18 years which led to major wear and tear resulting in a lot of hospital visits, surgeries and ultimately the amputation of his right leg in 2009.

"When I had my right leg taken off, I didn't know what to do," he said. "I didn't know how to work out. I couldn't jog. I go to the computer; I found a rowing machine. I can sit on the machine, and I can pull; it's all upper body. I can do this."

"He'll always find something to do. He's the busiest man I know," said Gabriel's wife Melissa.

Two days after getting his first rowing machine, Gabriel decided he was going to compete in the indoor rowing adaptive championships. He won a silver medal and earned a tryout with the US Paralympic rowing team.

"A year ago I'm sitting in a Duke hospital bed wondering what I'm going to do with my life, and now I'm rowing down a river. More people have to know about this."

Gabriel kept his word. He went back to school for his doctorate degree. He wrote his dissertation about adaptive rowing and earned his degree in 2018--the same year he lost his second leg.

Over the past year and a half Gabriel has learned how to live as a double amputee.

"I've had the best of two worlds," he said. "The first 50 years of my life. I lived in on two legs, and dealt with people able bodied people and their way of life. And that was cool. The other 50 years of my life now I'm sitting in a wheelchair, and I'm looking at it a lot closer to the ground. And I've met the most amazing people in the world, and I saw--I've had a taste of both worlds and you know, I have no complaints, very fortunate. "

Gabriel still has big dreams, he hopes sharing his story will help him to get a van so that he can teach, speak and continue traveling to rowing competitions. He's raising money for that venture through this GoFundMe page.