FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA. (WSVN) - A man who was never expected to walk again due to polio and later became the subject of a Netflix documentary now has his sights set on outer space, and a South Florida clinic is helping turn that dream into a reality.
Jean Maggi showed off his Knee Ankle Foot Orthosis, or KAFO braces, outside of the Hanger Clinic in Fort Lauderdale, Monday.
“These are constructed out of a carbon fiber material, so it’s very, very lightweight,” said Matthew Klein, a licensed prosthetist and orthotist.
They need to be lightweight, because as Maggi puts it, “I’m going to go to space.”
The 58-year-old wants to be the first man with a disability to travel to space.
Maggi is already training at NASTAR, the National Aerospace Training and Research Center in Pennsylvania.
“About a year or so ago, Juan called me and said, ‘I want to go to space, and I need a set of braces that will allow me to go to space that are lightweight'” said Klein, “‘ that will give me a framework with some structure in my lower extremities, to make sure that I could take the G-forces.'”
Maggi contracted polio when he was a 1 year old. He lost all ability to walk without crutches or a wheelchair.
He said he lived that way until he had a heart attack at 37.
“I felt like I was going to die,” he said in Spanish.
Speaking in English outside the Hanger Clinic, he said the medical emergency caused a massive change in perspective.
“When I had the heart attack, my head changed. I started to change my life,” he said.
In 2013, Maggi traveled from his home in Argentina to the Hanger Clinic, where he was fit with leg braces that allowed him to finally walk.
“All my life, I dreamt of walking, and the day I stood up, I felt like I had been on my feet my whole life,” he said.
Since then, Maggi has gone skydiving, crossed the Andes on horseback, completed the Iron Man competition and several marathons.
“One day I said, ‘I want to go on top of the world,” he said.
He even hand-cycled through the Himalayas and competed in the Vancouver Paralympics.
His life story caught the attention of filmmaker Juan José Campanella, who made a Netflix documentary about him called “El Límite Infinito” (“The Infinite Limit”).
Now he’s got his mind and heart set on space.
When asked whether he’s afraid, Maggi replied, “Yes, but I’m not paralyzed by it.”
Nor was he paralyzed by polio or circumstances. For him, the sky is literally the limit.
“The word ‘no’ is not in his vocabulary, so if there was going to be the first person — civilian, disabled — who’s going to be going to space, no doubt it would be this guy right here,” said Klein.
If someone sees his story and is motivated to get up, get moving and get living, Maggi said, then he has done his job.
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