DENISE GORONDY-TODERICO WAS HIT BY AN SUV, OVERCAME STROKES, BRAIN INJURY AND ORTHOPEDIC TRAUMAS TO NOW RUN 5KS, LIFT WEIGHTS

“My scars remind me that I did indeed survive my deepest wounds. That in itself is an accomplishment. And they bring to mind something else, too. They remind me that the damage life has inflicted on me has, in many places, left me stronger and more resilient. What hurt me in the past has actually made me better equipped to face the present.” ― Steve Goodier

Nearly three years ago, Denise Gorondy-Toderico, a wife and mother of two, was out for her typical Sunday morning run. 

It was the same beautiful route she took several times per week for over 13 years. 

“Sunday mornings were Denise’s time for a long run,” said her husband, Benjamin Toderico. “It was something she loved to do and helped rejuvenate her physically, mentally and emotionally for our family. I knew the route; I knew how long it should take her to complete it.”

This time, though, she had been gone for far too long. 

Benjamin began to grow increasingly concerned. 

“She was struck from behind by an SUV that had crossed the double yellow line and was traveling at over 60 miles per hour,” he said. “The impact flung her body over 50 yards into a local farmer’s field where she was left to die for over an hour. Thankfully, a passing cyclist saw Denise and called for help.”

Paramedics immediately classified Denise’s injuries as a priority 1 trauma. She had a broken neck, broken back, broken ribs, a lacerated spleen and open fractures in her right leg. After being med-flighted to the hospital, Denise spent the next 40 days there recovering. 

“The recovery and rehabilitation was grueling,” Benjamin said. “But I never gave up. And Denise never gave up. I was there every day, talking to her and working on multiple strategies from positive thinking, visualization, constant exercise, nootropics and other supplements. Staff at the VCU Hospital were phenomenal. She is continuing to recover from several strokes, traumatic brain injury, severe brachial plexus injury and other orthopedic traumas including vertebral fractures.” 

One of the hardest things for Denise about her accident and subsequent recovery period was not being physically able or strong enough to hold her sons. 

“We’d work every day in the gym and I’d ask her to carry dumbbells until she was able to hold one that weighed just as much as our son,” Benjamin said. “It took a while, and she worked so hard. When she was finally able to, I told her she just carried our son across the gym. That was a huge day and a proud moment for both of us.”

In spite of so much going wrong on that fateful day almost three years ago, Benjamin and Denise say that there were also many things that went right. Starting with the cyclist who saw her, the field being able to support a helicopter landing, the community support, the specialists at VCU Hospital and his wife’s ironclad will. 

Benjamin and Denise immediately identified with the APEMAN mindset of inspiring and empowering people to overcome their mental, emotional and physical obstacles that limit their potential for greatness.

In fact, they personify APEMAN’s mission perfectly.

“Like APEMAN, we hope to inspire others,” Benjamin said. “We want to create a facility that has a general fitness population alongside a program that serves victims of polytrauma – ranging from accidents, war, crimes and age or injury related deconditioning. Physical therapy and rehab can only take a person so far. Either insurance runs out or the therapist has addressed the ‘problem’ or injury. During the rehab time, or because of the injury or previous lifestyle, the patient may not have the capacity to live the life they want or deserve. That would be where we come in. We would guide them to increase their capacity on their path from Recovery to Thriving.”

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