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Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

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Camilo Acero: My Family is My Trophy

Camilo Acero is a communications and graphic design guru with a zest for life that is rare and infectious. In his busy life consisting of a job he loves and plenty of social events, his favourite and most important role is dad to an energetic, adventurous and compassionate six year old.

Injured in his home country of Colombia at the age of 18, Camilo sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident. The life changing event marked the start of using a wheelchair to navigate day to day life, but even in the early moments of trauma, his optimism was remarkable.

“A few hours after the accident, the doctor told me I would never walk again and I just remember saying ‘Okay, that’s fine. I still have my mind, I will be okay,'” he shares.

After a month in hospital, Camilo was determined to find solutions to his new challenges, thinking about ways he would dance, drive, date and go to the beach.

“It’s interesting,” he says, “I kept asking these questions about how I would do certain activities, and in 10-12 years, life just kept providing the answers to the questions; this is how you’ll date, this how you’ll work, and so forth.”

One question that remained up in the air was how he would become a parent. While he had nieces and nephews that he enjoyed babysitting and hanging out with at parks,he wasn’t yet sure whether he himself would become a parent.

“The concerns were very real,” he shares, “Because I thought about the things that would be challenging. How would I teach my child to ride a bike? We all know how children learn to ride bikes – it’s usually the dad running behind them, out of breath for a few blocks. That wasn’t going to be the case for me.”

After moving to Atlanta, a new chapter began for Camilo. He fell in love and married his wife – both were comfortable with the idea of not having kids at the time. “We never prioritized having kids. We had our own goals and were building a great life together, but eight years ago, we decided to give it a shot and saw a fertility doctor.”

Following apprehension and fear, the couple paused their efforts for two years, but tried again, noting that time was of the essence. Camilo shares that attending fertility clinics with an SCI can be a little bit uncomfortable, but his lively and humorous personality helped things a great deal. “It’s no secret that with an SCI, you need assistance from doctors and nurses, and the fertility team was very upfront with us and told us it was a difficult case.”

A difficult case indeed – out of ten attempts at fertilization, nothing lasted, but determined to give it one more go, the couple leaned on their faith, resting assured that what was meant to be would unfold as it should.

“We tried again, and out of eight attempts, one was successful,” says Camilo. “The second part of course, was seeing if the pregnancy would be successful for my wife. I was making peace with myself, accepting the outcome either way. But it worked. I asked for the opportunity to be a father and God gave it to us. I have always wanted a little girl. In the words of my wife, ‘we asked for one miracle and we got one.'”

Today, Camilo is a proud father to a vibrant six year old who loves to play with dolls and castles, and like dad, is creative, curious and highly optimistic.

“I want to teach her to be resilient and to enjoy life, because our outcomes in life come down to us. I think that being a girl or woman in our world is tough. We can’t always protect our daughters from being disrespected. But we can teach them to turn weaknesses into opportunities for their lives. I want to teach my daughter to be independent – to find her inner strength and stand up for herself,” he shares, “But most importantly, I want to teach her to be compassionate toward others.”

Camilo’s advice to others with disabilities who are thinking about parenting?

“Guard your heart, because lots of things are outside of your control. If you are meant to be a parent, you will be, but do your part. Freezing sperm (or eggs) is a good idea, because maybe at 18 you are not thinking about parenting. But next thing you know, you’re 37 and your reproductive system may not be as strong anymore.”

He also emphasizes, “We all have different goals in life. If you end up having kids, that’s awesome. If not, that’s awesome too. There is so much you can do to live a fulfilling life.”

Reflecting on fatherhood and disability, Camilo shares that though there is no handbook for how to be a dad, let alone a perfect one, he tries his best each day.

“There are challenges sometimes,” he says, “I can’t always access the playground swings she wants to play on. But she knows the chair is there, and for her, it’s normal. She finds ways to figure it out. We overcome challenges day by day.”

Together, they enjoy rolling along Humber Bay shores, enjoying fresh air and nature while bonding and sharing memories, Camilo in his wheelchair, his daughter on her scooter.

As for those bike lessons? There is a summer camp dedicated to just that, and come autumn, the father daughter duo might be cruising by the lake with a shiny new bicycle in place of that little scooter.

“My family is my trophy,” Camilo proudly smiles.

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