Starting Over: Overcoming Life as a Quadruple Amputee

In the midst of winter, I found there was within me an invincible summer.
Albert Careb

If I was to ask you to pick your favorite “feel-good” movie about overcoming adversity or beating insurmountable odds, how would you respond? Think. Right now. What movie just popped into your mind? Perhaps one of the following (which happen to be a few of my favorite inspirational movies):

Braveheart. Defiance. The Shawshank Redemption. John Q. The Karate Kid. Gandhi. The Pursuit of Happyness. Cry Freedom. Dead Poets Society.

Movies that inspire us beyond our circumstances is different for everyone. Each of us has our favorites that speak into our lives on a personal level. With a sense of hopefulness we watch them each time they air on TV, or play them over and over on DVD. Why? Because at the close of the credits we feel ready to take on the world!

In an era of status-quo lifestyles, social disconnection and ever-growing global turmoil, we turn to such films as a means to remember who we are and where we came from; to remind us of the strength that lies within; to reassure ourselves of the resilience of the human spirit to rise above current circumstances and make a difference in this world; to gain perspective in our lives; and to provide clarity as we seek to refocus or revamp our direction in life.

To this list of inspiring films you can add: Starting Over: The Greatest Comeback Story Ever Told. For the film’s subject, Manuel Salazar is a living, breathing miracle.

Directed and Produced by Indie artist, Martin McGuire, Starting Over is the incredibly moving story of Manuel Salazar’s arduous journey to regain a sense of normalcy after a terrifying work related accident caused him to lose both arms and legs–and nearly his life.

At the age of 22, a crane stationed near a construction site where Salazar was working collided with a high-voltage power line, sending 100,000 volts of electricity straight through his body. Roughly 90% of Manuel’s body incurred severe burns.

The miracle: Salazar survived the ordeal!

The tragedy: burned beyond repair or recognition, all of Manuel’s extremities were amputated.

What is compelling about Salazar’s story, is the fact that in-spite of losing everything–his body, his job, his family–Manuel finds the courage and strength to continue on by using his tragedy to bring hope and encouragement to others. Whether the format is a public appearance on television, or in a high school, corporate conference, or medical facility, Manuel inspires audiences with speeches of hope, patience and persistence. Manuel shares his incredible story, and life lessons, with school children, fellow burn and amputation victims, doctors and disabled war veterans. Manuel is truly an inspiration to all who have the fortune of learning of how he turned a personal tragedy into opportunity to reach out to others.

For this reason, I am inspired by Manuel Salazar’s bravery and compassion. And so, I contacted the film’s creator, director and producer, Martin McGuire, for a *featured* blog interview.

I am asking everyone who reads this article to visit Mr. McGuire’s Kickstarter page to learn more about Manuel’s miraculous story. (See link below.)

1) How did you come to hear of Manuel’s story?

About eight years ago I was video taping a friend of mine, Angela Perry, and a woman she had just volunteered with, Coco Saltzgiver, at The American Red Cross. The two of them had lived together in the back of an ambulance type truck for about two weeks in S. Florida after hurricane Ivan delivering food and water to stranded people who tried to weather the storm.  Angela introduced me to Coco who happened to be Manuel’s caregiver.  Almost immediately upon meeting her Coco started telling me about this miraculous young man she had recently started caring for and the horrific events that had occurred. Coco asked if I’d like to meet him and since I’ve always had a huge curiosity about me I jumped at the chance. Like most everyone else once I met him I was hooked. The rest as they say is history.

2) Of all the incredible people you encounter on a daily basis, and all the subject matter available to you as a filmmaker, what inspired you to produce a documentary about Manuel’s recovery?

I walked into a strange place where sat in a wheelchair a young man without arms or legs, he wore a muscle shirt which exposed his amputations and badly burned body’s reconstruction. He was openly exposed to everyone and he was smiling and laughing. I was shocked to my core and the tears started to well up in me for him and his plight. He was so immensely positive about his recovery and so intense in his work effort – that he helped me and everyone else around him look right past his appearance and straight into what a wonderful person he was. I was touched.

3) You refer to the making of “Starting Over” as a “labor of love.” Please elaborate on the process of filming this documentary to date, and why it means so much to you.

When a man goes into work day after day and labors and toils and struggles and works typically speaking he does it for one reason, for one outcome: A paycheck. I have worked since I was twelve years old in one way or another and I know about earning a paycheck.

When a man spends his own hard earned money, time, efforts and energy – year after year not only not earning money but instead straining himself to the brink of bankruptcy but cannot for the life of him let go of a story… That is what I call a “Labor of Love”.

Manuel Salazar’s story is bigger than he is, it’s bigger than he and Coco combined. It’s bigger than I can put into words but I’m going to try and put it the best way I can into a documentary film. At least a good part of it. Manuel and Coco’s lives and interactions with one another have inspired me in ways I will be eternally grateful for and I want to inspire an audience with their adventures as well. I’ve been blessed to follow the interwoven stories of two amazing human beings and their struggles to cope in a sometimes cold World. Their stories will inspire and warm the hearts of any audience that witnesses it. That’s my mission.

4) In what ways have you been effected by Manuel’s life and recovery?

He’s helped me to begin to know for myself what great teachers have spoken of throughout time. Things like – “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and “Cease to dwell on days gone by”.  He’s shown me what the meanings of patience, persistence and perseverance are and helped me to bring those into my life.

The one that sticks in my consciousness the most is – Manuel helped me to question for myself what it means to be grateful.  Daily.

I was sitting with Manuel one day and told him I had burned my hand cooking dinner the night before. I was saying this from the viewpoint that I was an injured person and feeling sorry for myself.  He looked at me and said “Well Marty, at least you have a hand to burn”. He didn’t say it with judgment or to make me feel bad, just as a matter of fact. Shocked, I fought with every ounce of my being not to break down in tears in front of him.  He was so right. This happened the first year I met Manuel and I’ve never forgotten it.  It was powerful for me and I am truly grateful he said those words to me.  Now, most times I burn myself, scrape myself, bruise myself – I say out loud “Thank you for this body to hurt” –  I appreciate it and I mean it and I feel it.

5) What can people do to get involved?

People can go to KICKSTARTER.COM and DONATE their hard earned money.

No matter it be $5, $10, $100 or more… making a feature documentary is an amazingly expensive venture and I need help to take this project through post production.

Then they can share the link with everyone they know.

Media can get involved and help spread the word so this story can be told on the levels it deserves to be told.

There is also a Facebook page “Starting Over” you can “LIKE” it there.

In advance I’d like to thank any and all people who get involved with making this labor of love of mine a reality.

Thank you,

Martin McGuire

“This story of a young man who became a quadruple amputee after a work related accident is inspirational, educational and a roller coaster ride of emotions.
It will change YOU for the better.”

Director of “Starting Over”, Martin McGuire

  Starting Over: The Manuel Salazar Story


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