After crash took his legs, South Dade principal speaks exclusively with 7News

WEST MIAMI-DADE, FLA. (WSVN) - A South Florida principal who was on the brink of death after a devastating accident took his legs is speaking out for the first time about the ordeal.

South Dade Principal, Javier Perez, lost his legs and nearly his life, but he’s on a mission to turn his pain into purpose. “Since I woke up, there hasn’t been a moment I’ve thought of the past or felt sorry for myself,” he said.

Perez is showing the true meaning of “Javi Strong,” and that he’s a fighter. “I’m not a victim,” he said. “This was maybe a gift from God because He knew I could handle it and the beautiful things that we’re gonna be able to do together.”

According to police, 51-year-old Marilyn Aguilera was driving drunk when she slammed her SUV into Perez as he watched his son play at a little league game at the West Miami-Dade Park, late April.

Doctors had to amputate both of Perez’s legs. However, he has not lost his spirit. “At first, you still feel that you have limbs, and obviously I was covered up, so, to a certain point, for a couple of days, I still felt that I had them,” he said.

“I had to tell him,” said Perez’s wife Maytee. “I was the one that told him that he had no legs.”

Throughout his ordeal, Maytee has remained by Perez’s side. “I prayed for a miracle,” she said. “And that’s all I prayed for the first 10 hours, just for a miracle, and I have my miracle. Javi is here, and my kids will see him grow.”

Maytee recalled the moments when she spoke to her husband after the collision. “I know he would. He promised. When he was on the ground, he promised. I told him, ‘Don’t leave me.’ And he said, ‘I’m not.’ And he didn’t,” she said. “I knew he wouldn’t.”

The suspect’s own son told investigators that his mother was drunk before the crash. He even said that he tried to take her car keys from her before she got into her SUV. He did not succeed, and that’s when she pinned Perez underneath her vehicle, off of 117th Avenue. “That hasn’t been our focus at all,” Perez said. “That’s something for the law to handle.”

Perez said that he and his wife are not focusing on the suspect, but that their prayers were answered and that he survived. “I needed him, I need him. He’s my whole world,” Maytee said.

“Waking up and hearing her tell me parts of the story, my kids, coming to visit me everyday at the hospital, it’s given me a new meaning to life,” Perez said.

He has a message to everyone who has supported him in the Miami-Dade County School District and at his school. “It’s an amazing place, and I can’t wait to be back there,” he said.

As a lover of baseball, Perez used the game as an analogy to his situation. “As a baseball player, especially as a hitter, when you’re successful 30 percent of the time, you’re usually a Hall of Famer,” he said. “So realistically, this is what life threw my way, but I want to be successful a lot more than 30 percent.”

Perez still needs the community’s help. His prosthetic legs need to be replaced every five years and each pair costs more than $100,000. He’s still in daily rehabilitation, but through it all, he looks forward to the day he’ll be back at the school he loves.

“God knew that we would be able to handle it,” Maytee said.

Her husband agrees. “Absolutely, He knew we would be able to handle it and make something good out of the situation,” Perez said.

If you would like to help the Perez family with medical expenses, go to gofundme.com/JaviPerez.

Perez will also be throwing the first pitch at the Marlins game in several weeks. If you would like to get your tickets to that game, go to marlins.com/JaviStrong. Part of the proceeds will go to Perez’s family.

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