Adam Scaturro, a Colorado native, has a vigor for life many people don’t possess. He plays on a nationally ranked rugby team, coaches youth football, has travelled to Mount Everest and cares for his 4-year-old son. Except Scaturro does it differently than most single dads — he does it all in a wheelchair.
Scaturro was in a high school wrestling accident that resulted in a dislocation of his C6 and C7, the vertebrae part of the spinal column responsible for
muscle functions in the
lower body. On Dec. 14, 1995, the 17-year-old high school athlete was surprised by a fellow classmate when he was flipped across and slammed down on a wrestling mat.
Although there was hope for recovery — a blind test for an experimental drug and physical therapy — the injury left Scaturro a quadriplegic.
But when many quadriplegics would give up on life, Scaturro only got started. He found the same energy of high school sports and activities in a quadriplegic rugby team, the Denver Harlequins, which won a national championship three years ago.
Above all, though, Scaturro is a caring father who adores his son, Sebastian.
While many people with a disability like Scaturro’s are unable to have children of their own, he and his ex-girlfriend were overjoyed when a surprising small heartbeat appeared on an ultrasound.
“It was one of my biggest fears after getting hurt; not knowing if I could ever have a family,” Scaturro said.
Nearly four years later, Sebastian inherited the same energy and love for life as his father has today.
Scaturro said Sebastian is a high-energy kid, and he gets restless sitting behind a desk. Although he worries Sebastian doesn’t always perform well in school, Scaturro showers his son with endless affection.
“He’s exceeded all my expectations,” Scaturro said. “Having a disability with a child can be extremely difficult sometimes, but I find some of the great qualities that he has, come from having a parent with a disability, only because he had to learn patience. He had to learn how to start helping out with the family at an earlier age. I think it’s really benefited us both.”
Pasquale Scaturro, his father and an avid outdoorsman with his own plethora of achievements, was rocked by his son’s accident.
“The next couple of months, it slowly kicked in that he was never going to move again,” Scaturro said.
By using bells, Scaturro led the first blind man to the base camp of Mount Everest and, in 1999, with the help of three Sherpas, led the first quadriplegic — his son — up to base camp as if to convey “anything is possible,” and “you’re not giving up if I have anything to do with it.”
While Scaturro was still in the hospital, friends, family members and teachers helped him graduate from Lakewood High School on schedule with his senior class. With a competitor’s stamina and desire for victory, he slowly regained his independence.
After city council members heard of his injury, they approved a grant for Crown Hill Park, where Scaturro exercises, allowing for wheelchair-specific stretching stations to be built. Recreation centers reformatted their accessibility and the diner several blocks away from his house made a wheelchair ramp especially for Scaturro.
When medical professionals presented obstacles to his adamant independence, Scaturro became stubborn. Doctors said he would never get behind the wheel; today, Scaturro drives his pick-up truck by using a hand pedal to break and accelerate.
“Having a disability with a child can be extremely difficult sometimes, but I find some of the great qualities that he has, come from having a parent with a disability, only because he had to learn patience.
“Stubbornness was actually what has made him as strong as he is today and endure what he has,” said Jody Dertina, Scaturro’s mother. “I called it persistence, though, I thought it was a positive term.”
The injury didn’t prevent Scaturro from growing up as a regular teenager.
“[His friends] snuck him out of the house in a wheelchair, and I caught them coming back inside,” Dertina said.
Meanwhile, Scaturro developed a friendship with a young football coach at Lakewood High School, Mark Robinson, which continues to flourish today. Robinson helped the entire Scaturro family heal and recover.
“He had such a heartfelt compassion and concern that was really amazing,” Dertina said. “He would be there … he would check on me to see how I was doing.”
In 2005 when Adam began coaching a youth football league, the Lakewood Tigers, Robinson entrusted his own son in the teaching hands of Scaturro.
Scaturro said when “life gets in the way,” he turns to something he’s passionate about — like sports. Because Scaturro is and always has been an extreme and extraordinary athlete, he will often find release by substituting a typical wheelchair for a metal-spoke, grunge-like thrill ride.
Every swift turn of the wheels requires the strength it takes to do one push-up and, with limited use of his hands, Scaturro uses his wrists to rotate the wheels.
For the past 11 years, Scaturro has played quad rugby every Wednesday night at Craig Hospital in Englewood, the same rehabilitation facility that helped him recover. The practices has led Scaturro to compete internationally on the U.S. National Team with 11 other men across the country — two of which are also a fellow Harlequin team members.
Playing on the team is an incredible release of freedom for Scaturro; the chair is swift, light and allows for a much more broad range of movement.
And all the while Sebastian, whom Scaturro calls his “ball of energy,” has been at his side. Even after he has achieved historical noteriety and competes as a leading champion on a national level, he calls his greatest achievement the baby boy that brings joy and humor into his world.
“I have a great life. I am very fortunate,” Scaturro said when Sebastian interrupted, “And he’s rough!” Scaturro laughed and replied, “And I’m pretty rough.”
A curious, sensitive and patient child, Sebastian loves jumping into his dad’s lap as he wheels around the house.
Sebastian often pulls Scaturro’s head closer to him and whispers into his dad’s ear. Sometimes, he’ll whisper a question he doesn’t want anyone else to hear. Sometimes he’s more straightforward: “I love you, dad.”
In fact, Dertina sees them as each other’s mirrors – the same dimples, smile and a hint of a mischievous nature. Parenthood doesn’t come with instructions, Dertina said, but Scaturro has the patience and nurture that makes him an amazing father.
“As big as all of the mistakes you make, I don’t think you can make the mistake when you love with all your heart,” Dertina said.
Scaturro helps to care for Sebastian with the help of a settlement with an insurance company for $3 million, which also helped him design and build the home the two enjoy together.
With time on his side, Scaturro plans to finish the 15 credits he needs for a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from University of Colorado and wants to teach history.
“I’ve been blessed,” Scaturro said. “I mean, even with a disability, I’ve been blessed with so much that if I were to take for granted anything I have in life, it’d be an injustice to the universe, you know, for what it’s provided me.”