Everyone who knows 47-year-old Army Master Sergeant Cesar Cuenca can attest to how active he is. Be it in running, exercising, or biking – he does them well and regularly.
“I became used to being active before the sun rises. It not only helped me develop the right physique but also self-discipline,” says Cesar.
He used to win the provincial and regional marathons, most particularly the National MILO marathon in the late 1990s. He is also a recipient of Tarzan awards (given to the strongest man in the class) during his military training and schoolings.
Any physical activity that gives Cesar a challenge and excitement, he’ll be into it 100 percent. This is probably why he fell in love with freefall jumping as it gives him the real “high”–literally and figuratively– especially when he can participate in some friendship jumps in different places with foreign jumpers.
The freak accident
It was supposed to be the last day of the week-long activities during the Freefall Sustainment Training on March 23, 2019 but instead of celebrating, Cesar figured in an accident that almost cost his life.
His co-jumper made a mistake, or he wasn’t able to follow the correct landing pattern that they talked about, but either way, it was a judgment call for Cesar. Instead of colliding against each other, he chose to avoid him. He had to execute a hard parachute landing that caused him multiple fractures or trauma.
“You know when I fell and opened my eyes, I immediately moved my back to check if there’s pain. My face was fractured but there was no blood in my eyes or mouth. Then I tried moving all my body parts. After confirming I’m okay all over, I told myself, ‘Thank God I’m still alive’ then laid down and let the medics took over,” he said.
While Cesar was conscious, his morale was so low. He also felt regretful at the same time that he kept asking himself, “Why did it happen to me?”
He was distraught. But he gathered his thoughts together and helped himself by envisioning that someday he’ll be able to jump again.
“I must rise again. At least I’m alive,” he says to himself repeatedly.
Two weeks after his surgery, Cesar had undergone self-therapy. He bent and raised his legs, did backbends and sit-ups upon waking up and before sleeping.
“I did everything, so my therapist won’t have a hard time. In five months, I was able to stand up and proceed with the therapy thrice a week. I did it at the gym to strengthen my upper and lower body,” he reveals.
Cesar made sure to practice self-therapy every day without fail. Little by little, he regained the strength that he needs and with God’s grace, he was able to jump again after two years.
Life after the accident
Admittedly, Cesar is still suffering trauma from the accident. These days, he can only sleep two to four hours a day, and when he wakes up, he’ll have to exhaust himself by exercising so he can go back to sleep.
“[The incident] is still relatively new. If I can run long distance again, I can probably sleep more,” Cesar admits.
Compared before, Cesar couldn’t move as fast as he can due to his several fractures. He’s more careful now so his movements are also restrained. But at the end of the day, Cesar believes that only he can help himself to recover and heal fast.
“My family and those people I cherish the most are there to guide me and care for me, but only I can help myself. I must discipline myself. I must know myself more– my body and its needs. Most importantly, I always thank the Lord for giving me another life and a chance to live,” he concludes.