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SAN DIEGO — Nate Marroquin loves to ride all around San Diego, even though his bike almost cost him his life.

“That was one of my goals to get back on the bike,” Marroquin said. “I didn’t want to be defeated. It almost took my precious life from me.”

The 28 year-old especially treasures those moments now because of a crash he suffered in March of 2018 while riding near Poway.

“I go over the bars and I land on top of my head,” Marroquin said. “It compresses my spinal cord and shattered my C-7 and broke my back and upon impact, I was paralyzed.”

Marroquin spent the next week in the hospital recovering from surgery to fuse two vertebrae in his neck. When he left the hospital, he started another slow road to recovery with the help of his wife Nicole. At one point, he broke down completely.

“I just sit there and I start to cry,” he said. “The hardest I’ve ever cried in my whole life. She said, ‘what’s wrong?’ I said, ‘this is my new normal. I apologize for you to have to take care of me for the rest of my life.’ She sprayed me with the shower head and said, ‘you need to cut that out. This isn’t going to be your new normal. If you think like that, it’s gonna be.’ She got me through the recovery. Without her, I might not be walking today.”

Marroquin battled every day, using the mental strength he learned as an engineman and surface rescue diver in the Navy. Not only does he walk today, he rides mountain bikes again, although with some limitations. He says he doesn’t take nearly as many risks and still has no feeling in the left side of his body.

But he says the biggest accomplishment comes from the satisfaction of knowing his bike didn’t take him down for good.

“It felt good to get back on the bike and say, you didn’t take my legs away from me,” he said.

The UCSD graduate with a degree in bio-chemistry and cell biology also says he believes that everything happens for a reason. And he wonders if his accident helped him get into medical school, which he will start next summer at Rocky Vista University.

“While I was recovering, my main talking point in all my interviews is my accident,” he said. “And how I recovered from it and from it and the adversity and to get into medical school and become a doctor and be the hope that my doctor was for me.

“I have the relation of laying in that bed, being hopeless and not knowing if I will ever walk again. That something I don’t wish on anybody, And if I can relate with someone and give them a little bit of hope, that’s all you need to get better.”

Marroquin also earned the opportunity to spread the word about mountain biking – becoming an ambassador for Giant bicycles.

“With my accident and still riding again and showing how passionate I am to be back on a bike,” he said. “Most people may not be back on a bike after breaking their neck and be paralyzed. I get to share that. That’s one of the things I love about mountain biking is that you can be in a group and be in a big comradery.”