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DOWNEY – Jay Cramer and Katy Sullivan know how to overcome obstacles.
Jay suffered a spinal cord injury in 2006 when he fell while rock climbing as he was preparing for the reality show “Survivor.” Katy was born without legs.
They have been affected, but not afflicted, by their disabilities. As fate would have it, Jay was on the mend at Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center when Katy walked by.
“It was love at first sight,” Jay said. “Her titanium legs were so sexy.” But the beautiful red-haired woman walked past him without a word. He was crushed.
A few days later, Katy was back at Rancho for a therapy appointment for a serious back injury. This time, she walked over to Jay and began talking. And they have been talking ever since.
They are now husband and wife, and what a team they make. Jay took his love for the stage into standup comedy. Last year, he was the comedian of the year in Los Angeles. Katy’s acting career took her to stages throughout the country and to a recurring role on the TV series “My Name is Earl”. She also found a different spotlight as a sprinter in the world of track and field, and has qualified to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
Last week this incredible couple debuted a new motivational presentation called “Perspectives” for Rancho patients and employees.
In between poignant stories and hilarious jokes, Jay and Katy spoke about their own perspectives in life and how they overcame the many challenges placed before them.
“I always wanted to do stand-up comedy, but never had the guts to try it until after my accident,” Jay said. “I figured, how bad could it be after what I had been through?” Jay credits his Rancho treatment team and his many friends for helping him remain positive throughout several months of intensive rehabilitation at Rancho.
“I also drew inspiration from my comedy heroes, Mel Brooks and Bill Cosby, who are two of the funniest people on the planet,” he said. So Jay became a standup comedian in a power wheelchair. And he was a hit from the start.
Of course, a large part of his success is directly related to Katy, and vice versa. “I have no fear, because I know that no matter what happens out on the stage, I have Katy,” he said. “You should have seen her at our wedding…she was the ultimate Terminator Bride. I can’t believe I found someone so right for me in every way.”
Katy’s challenge began at birth, but her family was always there for her, helping her understand that she could do anything that any other child could do. When she met Jay, she found the courage to give sprinting a serious try.
“He has the sweetest heart of any man I have ever known,” she said. After working with Rancho physical therapist Julie Kasayama, Katy opened a new chapter in her life as she learned to jog and then run on carbon fiber prosthetic legs and feet. Katy became a track sensation, breaking the world record in the 200 meters for above-the-knee amputees. She was also the first person to compete in an international track meet with two legs that ended above the knee.
“Jay has been my rock,” Katy said. “He makes it easy to take risks, because he gives me so much love and support every day. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling life than being with my husband.”
They shared their philosophy of success and happiness with the audience by counting down five key words that can help individuals take control of their lives.
Word number five was “perspective”: “It doesn’t matter if you are born with it, or if it is thrust upon you, you can still achieve greatness,” Katy said.
Number four was “dedication”: “Work hard and play hard,” Jay said, “But don’t take life so seriously. It’s serious enough on its own.”
Number three was “change”: “When you shake up the snow globe of your life, it takes a while for the particles to settle,” Katy said. “Remember to breathe, because ‘this too shall pass.'”
Number two was “attitude”: “No is merely a suggestion,” Jay said. “”Say yes more often, and you will find that having a positive mental attitude can make all the difference,”
The number one word was “challenges”. “Obstacles are placed in your path to demonstrate how badly you want something,” Katy said. “You will find that opportunity sometimes comes in the most unlikely of packages.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a prosthetic leg, a wheelchair or something else,” Jay said. “Take the hand you have been dealt and be grateful for the lessons you have learned.
“And live your life with every fiber of your being,” Katy concluded, as the audience burst into applause.
These five powerful words have dramatically changed two lives. And when we put it all into perspective, by the time Jay and Katy are through, they are certain to change many more.
For more information, please call the Rancho Los Amigos Foundation at (562) 401-7053 or visit www.rancho.org
Published: July 14, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 13