Justin Skeesuck’s dream was to trek 500 miles across the Camino de Santiago trail located in Spain, and he wasn’t going to let anything, including being in a wheelchair, cheat him out of it. Fortunately for him, he had a lifelong friend who was willing to help.
Skeesuck has Multifocal Acquired Motor Axonopathy, a neuromuscular disease that is similar to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, which has confined him to a wheelchair. He was reportedly inspired by a travel show about the Spanish trail.
“I knew instantly my heart was just telling me, ‘You need to do this,’” he explained to TODAY.
That said, his dream would not be easy to achieve in his condition.
His lifelong friend, Patrick Gray, was fortunately there to give a helping hand — by offering to push him across in his wheelchair.
According to Gray, “We’ve done everything together so far. Why not have one more adventure? So there was just no other response in my head than yeah, I’ll push you.”
Both men didn’t anticipate just how much of a task it would be, both physically and emotionally, to move across the trail, which entailed mountain ranges, rivers, and deserts.
“I’ve never been that depleted physically in my entire life,” Gray said.
Fortunately, they had the help of various local people, which they said helped restore their faith in humanity. “We have people that surround us that carried us up these mountains, they have given so much,” Gray said.
“And I want that to be a testament to how we’re supposed to live our lives, is that whoever we come in contact with, whatever their walk is, the greatest gift we can give them is to love them.”
In addition, the trip taught them the importance of perseverance. “The pilgrimage has taught me for sure that when you do step out in faith, watch out because amazing things can really happen,” Skeesuck explained.
As with all good stories, the logical conclusion is for someone to write a book about it, and this story is no exception. Released earlier this month and co-authored by both men, the book is titled, “I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends and One Wheelchair.”
In addition, the two are also planning on a children’s picture book retelling their story, complete with original artwork by Skeesuck himself. Their adventure was also the subject of a documentary, that is expected to come out sometime this Fall 2017.
“You don’t have to be defined by your limitations,” Skeesuck concluded. “It’s what you do in spite of those limitations that defines you.”